Is anyone else having a hard time believing that we're to the end of Justified's second season already? I still vividly remember last season's finale.
While "Bloody Harlan" is no "Bulletville," it's satisfying in its own way, and I can already see the possibilities for season three playing out in my head.
We start with a familiar scene: Raylan walks into Art's office. This time, he's asking for another month off, which Art agrees is a good idea. Then Raylan adds that he wants to transfer back to Glynco and return to his former job as a firearms instructor. Art needs to think about that one. Not the answer Raylan was hoping for.
Doyle Bennett rolls up on the general store looking for his mother. He tells Mags that Boyd Crowder wants to parlay, which Dickie is vehemently against (no surprise). Mags is wary, as she knows they've all been tripped up by Boyd for various reasons. She doesn't know that Boyd is meeting with a friend of Doyle's, who is not happy about her deal with Black Pike Mining and thinks the family has "had their way far too long." In fact, he's gunning for Doyle's job.
Loretta's foster siblings are all headed off to school, but she's not feeling well. Or is she bluffing? Well, she's certainly being watched by that shady dude in the car.
Raylan finally wakes up and tells Winona that going back to Glynco is going to be harder than he thought. She takes this as him not really wanting to go. Oh, and she's pregnant. This motivates him to say that they're going to leave, even if he has to change careers. At least he has his priorities straight.
Boyd and Arlo meet Doyle and Mags at the same church that we saw in "The Spoil." Boyd wants to broker a peaceful resolution before their conflict turns into something bigger. Mags accuses him of breaking their deal, even as Boyd tells her that Dickie did that for him first. Boyd produces the money that he and Arlo stole from Dickie, which Mags calls "a step in the right direction." She says that one of these days, he'll want more and he'll take it. Obviously, she knows him pretty well.
Ava is toting her shotgun again. This makes me happy. She and Boyd's friend Devil are at her house, waiting to hear from Boyd or from his cousin Johnny. The latter is too busy blowing up his house with two of Mags' armed men inside. And Ava and Devil are soon being shot at by three more henchmen. (Poor Ava. Two season finales in a row she's been shot at.) Dickie pops up in the kitchen just long enough to shoot Ava and leave his buddies behind. I'd say that's rude, but we know from last week that he's willing to turn on anyone to save himself. Needless to say, Boyd is not happy when he gets home to find her wounded. He gets emotional before getting Dickie's name out of Devil at gunpoint.
In other bad news, Loretta's gone missing. So has the creepy guy in the car. (Poor Loretta. Twice now she's been stuck in a car with a weird guy. Though at least it's not the trunk this time.) We can connect the dots, and so can a Lexington cop that calls Raylan from Loretta's foster home. Driving Winona to work, Raylan changes course to check things out himself. The cop tells him the car pings back to a Wade Messer (also the surname of the character Timothy Olyphant's character was working with in season two of Damages, natch). Raylan instructs the cop to call Tom Bergen, before interrogating Winona's foster parents. Her foster dad admits that he's missing a gun and a few hundred dollars.
Messer asks Loretta why she's bringing a gun down to Harlan. She replies that she wants to know what happened to her father. He warns her that "there ain't enough money in the world worth crossing the Bennetts over" but she's determined, and they part ways.
In Lexington, Raylan tells Winona that he's figured out what Loretta is up to, and she replies that it's not his problem. "I can't promise you I'm going to be here when you get back," she adds, knowing that he's not going to budge no matter how tearful she gets. Instead, once she gets to work, she walks into Art's office and tells him what her ex-husband is up to. She wants the Marshals to help him, but Art is resolved to let Raylan fend for himself. I can't exactly blame him given how much Raylan has put him through over the last two seasons.
News travels fast, and Doyle informs his family that Loretta is on her way to Harlan, and Raylan is looking for her. Mags tells Dickie to "get Loretta and you bring her here...and you be damn sure no harm comes to that girl."
Raylan finds Messer and also gets knocked upside the head courtesy of a downright gleeful Dickie Bennett. Between Helen, Ava, and now Raylan, Dickie just likes seeing how many people he can knock off. Feud aside, I'm pretty sure the guy's a few crayons short of a full box. He strings Raylan up in a tree and decides to take a few swings at him like a pinata. Before Dickie can do serious harm, however, it's Boyd to the rescue. He informs Raylan about Ava's being shot, but Raylan knows they need Dickie alive to find Loretta, who turns up at the Bennett house. Mags is overjoyed to see her, but it quickly dawns on the Bennett matriarch that the young woman is there because of her late father. Loretta pulls her gun on Mags just as Raylan rolls up on the house with his own weapon pointed at the back of Dickie's head.
Mags doesn't think Loretta will pull the trigger, but she does and hits Mags in the leg. This leads everyone outside to start shooting; Doyle has a wounded Raylan dead to rights but is quickly put down by (you guessed it) Tim and his trusty sniper rifle. He, Art, Rachel and a horde of unnamed reinforcements have arrived.
Moving into the house, Raylan, Tim and Rachel find Loretta holding Mags at gunpoint. She wants to know who really killed her father, and Mags finally confesses that she's the guilty party. Loretta is incensed by Mags' idea that she gave the young woman a better life, and wants to shoot her for it, but Raylan reminds her that killing someone will change her life in a severely negative way, and that gets her to hesitate. It's amusing and yet awesome to see the guy with the quick trigger finger talking someone out of becoming like him. Once Loretta is calmed down, Raylan tells Mags that Doyle is dead and Dickie has been arrested. Ignoring their respective gunshot wounds, the two share a drink and shake on the bloody end of their family feud.
But this wouldn't be Justified without a stroke of tragedy. Mags has poisoned herself, just like she did to Loretta's father Walt, and Raylan can't do anything but watch her die. We get another playing of Brad Paisley's "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive" as he regards her corpse. And really, did we expect it to end any other way?
Before I get into my analysis of the finale, I want to take a soapbox moment again this week. I was on location with the show during the filming of this episode, and I have to say it's an experience to be able to compare what I saw with the finished product. It makes me appreciate certain scenes more because I know just how many takes there were, how many different line deliveries the actors tried, and how many discussions there were amongst cast and crew about this element or that creative decision. What looks like minutes to you took hours for everyone involved. I'd hope all the fans of the show are cognizant that for this hour of television, a lot of people labored for a very long time. For my part, I truly loved spending time with each and every one of them, and am thankful that they not only invited me to be part of the experience of making Justified, but welcomed me as part of their team. Here's to hoping I see them all again someday.
Moving on, the question in my mind was always how "Bloody Harlan" would stack up to "Bulletville," which was such an amazing season one finale that it stayed on my DVR for a few months. Just because that's the case, I don't feel like this finale was as good; it's obviously very hard to match such a high-quality episode. But I'm left satisfied that the journey of season two was worth the time, and I'm curious to see what will happen in season three.
There are some things that were fairly predictable. Not even Winona believed that Raylan would leave the situation alone no matter how much she told him to. Did we really think Art and Co. were going to leave Raylan hanging? Of course not. I'm also not surprised at all that Mags chose suicide. Given how protective she was over her boys and over her homestead, it makes perfect sense that she would hold herself responsible for everything that happened because of her children and the land deal that she struck. It's disappointing at the same time, though, because I enjoyed watching Margo Martindale so much. If she doesn't get at least an Emmy nomination as Best Supporting Actress, there's no justice left in the awards-show machine.
I figured that either Doyle or Dickie would join her in the body count, but my money was on Dickie - though I think part of that was wishful thinking as he's the one that deserved it more, and because I started to get tired of him by season's end. I wouldn't be surprised if we see him back causing more havoc with his own weird justifications for doing so (like, say, holding Raylan accountable for his mother's suicide, or at least failing to prevent it).
There are some things that leave other possibilities for stories in season three as well. Winona's pregnancy is not a real surprise either; we knew once Gary got out of the picture that Winona and Raylan were going to become a couple again for the show's long haul and this is just part of that. I do wonder how the impending fatherhood and the long-term re-establishment of the relationship will change Raylan. Are we going to see him continue to be less violent? I don't want to see him lose too much of his edge, even as I understand why he would. If I knew I had a spouse and unborn child to look out for I wouldn't be quite so reckless either. We'll see, but I hope he doesn't stray too far from the Raylan we know and love. I am also automatically wary of pregnancy storylines in any way, shape or form.
And with the Bennetts reeling, one assumes that Boyd and the Crowders will once again seize control of Harlan County and its criminal enterprises. Or will somebody else make another challenge to their authority and we'll be telling another family's story in season three? It could go either way there. Certainly, Ava isn't going to be killed off (unless the writers are downright nuts), and it would be interesting to see if she would end up further involved in the Crowder business should they return to power. Raylan could end up taking her head on in season three. You never know.
Justified has always been, first and foremost, about characters - and not just about characters, but about families. In season one, it was fathers and sons. Season two saw family against family. Now, in season three, Raylan will be building a family of his own. There's a truly great story about family being told here, and I can't wait to see where it goes next.
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