Raylan takes his first steps toward taking down Boyd Crowder, but staying within the law is more difficult than it seems.

By Kyle Fowle
Updated January 21, 2015 at 04:14 AM EST
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Prashant Gupta/FX

Justified (Music)

S6 E1
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  • Music

The fifth season of Justified was surprisingly inconsistent, an issue with storytelling that the show had never really dealt with before. There were so many storylines to focus on from one episode to the next that the larger arc of the season, and of the show more generally, often got lost in the mix. But with the season finale, the show once again found its composure by returning to the only storyline that has really mattered after all of these years: the tension and inevitable showdown between Boyd and Raylan, and the wavering loyalty of Ava to Boyd coupled with her need to survive on her own. The final scene of last season’s finale, where Ava agrees to become a criminal informant for Raylan, to relay any and all information about Boyd to Raylan in order to keep herself out of prison, puts us right back where we started. Boyd, Raylan, and Ava have been intertwined since the very first episode of this series, and by returning the focus to those characters at the end of season 5, it served as the perfect prologue to the series’ final 13-episode run.

The final season premiere, “Fate’s Right Hand,” takes the first steps toward building to that inevitable confrontation between Boyd and Raylan, and in typical Justified fashion, it’s not immediately clear how everything will go down; but the general sense of foreboding means that we have 12 more episodes of a tightly wound cat-and-mouse game to look forward to. If Justified has a central theme that drives so much of its plot, it’s that our past is hard to escape, and that those pasts are an inherent part of the towns we live in and the houses we occupy. The story of Harlan, and the story of Justified, always had to come back to Raylan and Boyd, because there’s the blood of the Crowder and Givens families in the soil; they’re forever linked together.

“Fate’s Right Hand” opens with two scenes that establish where Raylan is at right now, both physically and mentally. We see Winona back in Florida, talking to her and Raylan’s baby girl, waiting for Raylan to finally get his transfer and be with them. “What in the world is worth missing this for?” she asks, before we get a great smash cut to Raylan occupying a bar in Mexico, using his typical gruff charm (or anti-charm?) to try to find out information about who killed Johnny Crowder. It’s all part of Raylan’s plan to nail down Boyd, to find someone, besides Ava, who he can leverage for more information. Initially, the plan doesn’t go too well, as the law enforcement in Mexico, who are downing tequila, don’t seem too keen on having a Yankee around. Raylan shows tremendous patience though—and by patience, I mean that he waits until the officer leaves the bar drunk and hops in his car before smashing into him with his own car and kidnapping him.

NEXT: Is Boyd back in the game?

Back in Harlan, Boyd is settling into his new role as a bank robber for the Dixie Mafia, specifically Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) and Katherine Hale (Mary Steenburgen). In hacky crime movie speech, he cases the joint, a local bank, all while Deputy Marshal Tim Gutterson is tailing him, taking pictures as part of the Marshals Service’s investigation into Boyd. There’s a sense that the plot hasn’t moved ahead too far from last season’s finale, giving the premiere a welcome sense of continuity and mounting consequences. The episode certainly reintroduces us to each character and where they stand, but it doesn’t waste time moving the plot into action. It’s a smart move, establishing a momentum that carries throughout the episode and giving the first moments of this final season a sense of urgency.

For any movement to be made on Boyd by Raylan and the Marshals Service, Raylan needs to coerce Dewey Crowe into ratting out his old pal. Dewey, just recently released from prison, doesn’t want anything to do with Raylan though. He brings up the $300,000 lawsuit he won against the government when Raylan unnecessarily physically abused him; he feels that Raylan has never shown him any empathy or gratitude, so why would he return the favor? It’s a nice character and story touch because not only does it serve to establish that Raylan’s past actions—of which there are many reckless, harmful ones—have significant consequences, but it also allows us to sympathize with Dewey. In fact, much of the episode works to present just about every character as morally complex and, to some extent, worthy of our sympathy. Sure, Raylan is our hero, but he’s hardly a good role model. And sure, Boyd and Dewey are bad guys, but they’re also victims of circumstance, of a town that’s morally and financially bankrupt.

Rather than rat out Boyd, Dewey is desperate to get back in the game. He’s lost and without a purpose, especially since Audrey’s closed, so he goes back to the only thing that’s familiar. Boyd accepts his offer and puts him to work, telling him that he needs him to deliver a mysterious duffel bag to an undisclosed location. Raylan and Tim are watching as Dewey’s car and tow truck gets loaded up, and they decide to follow Dewey and see what happens. After he runs through a Kentucky State Police roadblock, Dewey ends up in a ditch with Raylan and Tim looking over him, telling him to open the bag. If they find drugs, they’ll use a potential sentence to convince Dewey to give up any information he has about Boyd.

NEXT: A slight misdirection

But Boyd, as usual, is two steps ahead. He’s filled the bag with clothes, using Dewey as a distraction while he robs the bank he scoped out in the first few minutes of the episode. The following robbery scene is thrilling, a beautifully shot heist that sees the camera following Boyd and the rest of the gang, focusing in on the details of their plan, which involve hooking up a hook from their pickup truck to the wall and pulling off the face of the security deposit boxes. They stash a few in a bag and head out, well ahead of Raylan and Tim.

When they get back to the bar, they open up the deposit box they were sent to get, only to find a ledger and some deeds inside; no money at all. Did they grab the wrong box? What’s the ledger for? And what could Duffy and Hale possibly want with it? These are the questions that will drive the rest of the season, and presumably drive Boyd mad as the noose tightens around his neck.

The episode doesn’t end with that mystery though. Instead, it circles back to the idea of everyone being trapped in a pattern, of being stuck in Harlan and what exactly that means. Raylan meets with Art, who’s recovering at home after being shot last season, and wants to know why he can’t just force Boyd into a corner and then shoot him. Art reminds him of his family, of Winona and his baby. This isn’t a pep talk though; it’s a clear sign that things for Raylan will get worse before they get better. It’s a harbinger of bad things to come, and that Raylan needs to be smarter and more aware than ever. It’s an elegiac and haunting scene, a tone that will most certainly pay off in future episodes.

The same can be said for Dewey, but he doesn’t get long to contemplate how to proceed with his new life outside of prison. After a heartfelt and moving speech to Boyd about how he just wants things to go back to the way they were–again, everyone is trying to return to some sort of normalcy in this episode–Boyd decides he can’t trust him anymore. He shows him a picture of his great uncle, and tells him about how they endured horrendous working conditions because they saw promise in Harlan. But Boyd knows that promise can’t be fulfilled anymore; he’s been musing on such a fact all episode. Instead, the picture and the story is a reminder of just how far gone Harlan is, and how desperate Boyd is to escape. He only has one choice then, so he kills Dewey, a man he says he could no longer trust. And with that final shot, “Fate’s Right Hand” puts all the pieces into place and hurtles them toward uncertain, but most likely devastating futures.

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Justified (Music)

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