At some point this season, Justified was going to have to move away from what Raylan is chasing and start to question what he’s running from. Raylan has spent this season, and really every other season, doing what he can to hang a charge on Boyd Crowder. The two have a long history, both friendly and adversarial, and Boyd has always been that elusive criminal that Raylan needs to lock down before he can move on from Harlan. He’s already buried his father; all that’s left is to bury Boyd.
At least that’s what Raylan would have us believe, but perhaps there’s more to his pursuit of Boyd than just an old grudge and his duty as a Marshal. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Winona around Raylan—choppy video calls don’t count—and increasingly this season, there’s been a suggestion that he is not only addicted to the job, but also scared for what a domestic life might mean for him.
What’s interesting about this final season of Justified is that Raylan’s storyline is the least interesting of the bunch. Television has no shortage of cops who love their jobs more than their families, who have no problem taking control in their work environments but just make a mess of their personal lives. It’s a story line that’s been played out plenty of times, and in this episode, the beats feel very familiar.
When Winona comes to town for a visit—which, we later learn, also involves a visit to a trusted doctor because their daughter might have a heart murmur—we see Raylan remove himself from the job in order to focus on his family. Brooks is captaining a huge manhunt for Walker, but Raylan has to go see his family. As nice as that is, the decision feels false, not because we understand him as an uncaring guy or anything, but because the show has done little to make us care about Raylan’s eventual reunion with his family.
Winona has not only been physically absent this season; she’s hardly been mentioned across all seven episodes, and we therefore have no understanding of how she’s dealing with the absence of Raylan. Thus, when she suddenly shows up in Harlan, any potential emotional strain feels contrived because the show hasn’t spent any time exploring the deeper issues between Raylan and Winona.
Certainly, Winona’s presence does present one storytelling option: Winona and the baby could be threatened in some way. But that seems an unlikely path for the show to follow, given that we’ve seen it before. Putting Winona in danger once again wouldn’t do much to further the narrative, which means that her presence here is largely meaningless. Then again, Avery Markham did get a look at Raylan’s baby when he walked into the office.
If Winona’s presence in Harlan does have a purpose it’s to act as a catalyst for the reconciliation of her relationship with Raylan. The whole episode’s storyline, which mostly involves an endlessly crying baby and Raylan looking grossed out by diapers, boils down to the fact that Winona wants to give their relationship another go.
She tells Raylan that she accepts him for who he is, and that he can be both the dedicated lawman who works crazy hours, and still be a husband and a father. Like I said above, this is all well trodden territory on television, and represents the least compelling part of an otherwise well-constructed final season.
NEXT: Boyd takes Ava on a not-so-friendly hunting trip