Justified has long been rambling toward—if not dragging its s—kickers on—the final showdown between pissy U.S. marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and his underworld soul bro Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). But the neo-Western’s end is here at last, and the guns are mostly blazing. The storytelling immediately recharges the Raylan vs. Boyd conflict. Both chase one last score—Boyd wants cash, Raylan wants Boyd—intent on escaping into happily-ever-afters far from Harlan County. Call it Hillbilly Heat. Goggins in particular rises to the occasion by sinking deeper than ever into his romantic spiky-haired devil. Their first meeting of the season happens in the second episode, and the tension is electric. Yet Ava (Joelle Carter) might be more interesting than either: The early eps, which force her to play an informant for Raylan stuck in a love-hate relationship with Boyd, do well to make her want and sweat her liberation.
This riveting triangle is complicated by some well-cast antagonists. Garret Dillahunt, echoing his Deadwood days, is terrific as a loquacious menace linked to Sam Elliott’s equally charismatic mobster. A mumbly associate named Choo-Choo (Duke Davis Roberts) steals every scene he’s in. My biggest quibble is with the hero. Keeping Raylan’s true love (Natalie Zea) off screen keeps his heart hidden and limits the dimensions Olyphant can play; so far, he’s only ever a lawman, servicing the story. Load Raylan with more emotional ammo and the High Noon of Justified could be an exhilarating, dramatic shoot-out. B+