There was a certain inevitability of sadness and heartache coming to some of our beloved characters going into tonight's season 4 finale of Justified. Plus, odds were a lot of bodies were going to drop amidst all the stand-offs -- and there were plenty of them.
But the season finale succeeded in telling a gripping story, and the producers did so while successfully wrapping up everything set up this season and even in seasons past.
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In other words, we got a thrilling conclusion to an extraordinarily well-plotted season.
Two Rocking Chairs, One Confrontation
We open with Winona calling Raylan -- off-screen -- to say there's two rocking chairs at the house and she's quite confused by it. Of course, one of them was brought last week by Picker and we know we're heading to a confrontation.
That confrontation comes way earlier than you might expect, however. The three men sent by Nicky Augustine demand that Raylan help them get to Shelby's safehouse, but Raylan is able to dispatch them easily, even with one of the gunmen threatening Winona and her unborn child.
Raylan knows, however, that Augustine won't stop coming from him even if Theo Tonin has fled to Tunisia, leaving behind a power struggle between Augustine and Sammy Tonin, Theo's son. Raylan also realizes Boyd is probably his best bet to find Augustine.
Boyd Tries to Hide the Body
Boyd has his own problems though. He prepares to get Delroy's body now that Ellen May has likely told the police about it, but they're beaten to the corpse by the authorities.
Boyd decides to cash in on what he believes is an owed favor from Lee Paxton, whom he almost murdered a man for earlier this season. (That man, Frank, was killed by other means.)
Paxton, it turns out, has access to the morgue where the police store most of the bodies. That means he and his underling, an officer in the sheriff's department named Mooney, can help Boyd and the crew get in to switch Delroy's body with another's.
After Jimmy and Boyd steal another body from the cemetery, they're almost caught in the bar with it when Raylan comes in, accusing Boyd of telling Augustine where Winona could be found. Even though Art told Raylan, "If you go after Nicky ... don't bother coming back," Raylan is pushing ahead.
Meeting With Augustine
Boyd has his own issues to deal with and he is in no mood to help Raylan. But when Raylan lies (or does he?) and claims Ellen May told him what Ava has been up to, the situation gets even more tense, and Ava secretly reaches for a weapon.
We've gone from season 1, where Ava was in love with Raylan, to season 4, where she might try to kill him. It's tense, it's emotional and it's totally believable, given what's happened over the last three seasons.
Happily, everyone walks away alive, and Ava is left to deal with the fake body while Boyd takes Raylan to see Augustine.
Augustine is at the airport sitting in a limo. Raylan joins him, and orders him to confess to every bad thing he's ever done and swear he won't come after Winona. Do that, and he'll walk away alive.
Augustine of course refuses and brags that he's going to go kill Sammy, take control of the family and then come back for Raylan's family.
Turning a Blind Eye
After Raylan gets out of the limo, we realize why he wanted to meet Augustine at the airport. Sammy has just arrived in a plane. Raylan tells Sammy everything that Augustine told him in the car. Sammy asks Raylan if he's going to be a true lawman, or if he'll turn a blind eye to what's about to happen.
"I'm suspended," Raylan says. He walks away amidst automatic weapons firing on Augustine's limo -- with him still inside.
Raylan has killed many, many people on this show. But this might be the first time he's participated in an actual murder. Of course, he does so in order to save Winona's life (and the life of their unborn daughter). But it's still a mob-sanctioned murder. Hopefully, Raylan will start to agonize a bit over that next season and maybe we'll even see a return by Sammy.
Since Boyd was at the airport, Ava has to try and switch the bodies herself when Mooney shows up ... and arrests her. He wanted Boyd to be there -- which he would have been if Raylan hadn't showed up to the bar -- but he'll settle for her.
When Boyd shows up later, Paxton is telling Mooney he recognizes the missing body. They planned this all along. While Ava is in the police car, Boyd jumps on Paxton and starts to beat him until deputies pull him off.
Paxton tells Mooney to just let Boyd go instead of arresting him. It's unclear if Boyd sees the other important person on the scene: Cassie, near a pick-up truck, who likely orchestrated this whole thing.
Later that day, Raylan finally has the time to cover the hole in Arlo's house where the bags were found in the season premiere -- the bags that led to everything that happened this season. Art calls him not long after to fill him in on what Raylan of course already knows: Sammy is now in charge.
"See you in 30 days," Art says, referring to Raylan's suspension. But us viewers will not see Raylan again until next January.FX Renews Justified for Season 5 >>
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- Winona leaves and is going to her mother's. This will make it easier for her to make one-off appearances next season.
- Winona kisses Raylan goodbye. Isn't it crazy to think that just about two weeks ago -- in this show's timeline -- Raylan was dating someone else entirely?
- Boyd breaks into the house he was going to buy with Ava we saw earlier this season. But he doesn't do anything while he's there. It's a powerful scene, filled with emotions ... but it also felt a bit random given he didn't do anything, you know, destructive there.
- We spot Arlo's grave next to other Givens' graves on Raylan's property. It's a nice throwaway sight and is probably Raylan's only way of acknowledging he's moving on.