This whole season was a waste. Okay, not a complete waste. Justified is still Justified and it still has some of the best characters and dialogue on television.
And yet, as I finished the season 5 finale, I realized this season was a trending water kind of season, one where producers couldn't even be bothered to have an epic finish to this season's "big bad." Instead, this is the season that sets up the final season. And that season? It's likely going to be awesome.
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Daryl is Killed by What He Values Most -- Family
"You and me, Raylan ... that's a goddamn promise," Daryl tells Raylan at the beginning of the episode, after the marshal decides to have his sister Wendy placed under arrest for basically no reason other than to piss off Daryl.
All the marshals wait for Daryl to explode. They know he shot Art, they just can't prove it. So Tim starts by following him in his car, waiting for him to make a mistake.
Raylan, meanwhile, tries to get Kendal to un-confess, once he realizes he's facing 40 years in prison. The two bond, as they did earlier in the season, over their first kills. (Animal kill, that is.) But Kendal refuses and is adamant he shot Art.
Raylan then tries to convince Wendy to wear a wire and trap Daryl into a confession, but she refuses. Tim, at the same time, also loses track of Daryl, who is able to escape his tail.
At some point, off-screen, Wendy changes her mind. While alone with Daryl, she talks with him and tells him she knows he was just trying to keep the family safe. "I'm here for you, Daryl," she tells him. "I understand."
He confesses. And in the first dumb moment of the episode, she confesses she was recording him!
Now what's unclear is if Raylan was waiting for the right moment to come in because he was in on it, or he just happened to walk in as Daryl was close to killing Wendy. Perhaps you should have just -- oh, I don't know -- walked out of the house with the recording, Wendy?
Either way, sounds like it might have been the latter, as when Raylan enters, he says, "Jesus. What did I miss?"
Wendy and Daryl continue to fight and she shoots Daryl's balls! No, really! And then Raylan stands there as she gets in a second shot -- the kill shot -- right in the neck. He lets her do it. That's pretty clear.
Just as he couldn't be bothered to intervene, it's clear the producers couldn't be bothered. Daryl had to die so we could set things up for the end game. With his season-long enemy vanquished, and justice done (in his eyes), Raylan heads to check on Art in the hospital. He's awake and informs Raylan that he has a new job in Florida -- near Winona and his daughter.
Before he gets the chance to tell Winona, Raylan is told by Vazquez and Rachel that they want Raylan's help to finally nail Boyd for all the wrong-doing he's done. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what the final season will be about.
But first, Boyd has his own problems to deal with.
Boyd is Safe ... For Now
Boyd loses another trusted member of his crew this season when Jimmy is killed in the opening 10 minutes by Alberto. Since Boyd failed on his promise not to leave bodies in Mexico, Mr. Yoon, Alberto and their goons have decided that the bodies of those responsible will be found in the US.
Alberto does promise Boyd, however, that if he delivers Daryl quickly, Boyd will die quickly. But since he's an inept bad guy, he allows Boyd to change the phone number for Raylan in his cell phone to Daryl so he can pretend to "text" Daryl. Seriously, Alberto? Why didn't you just do the texting? That's lazy writing, folks, and the second dumb thing to happen in this episode.
Alberto then winds up leaving Boyd alone for a bit and Boyd tries to convince his men to turn on Alberto. It doesn't work and Alberto tells Boyd his time is up. Luckily, "Daryl" has written back and suggests they meet at Ava's house in the country.
At the house a bit later, a car pulls up. But it's not Raylan. Instead, Tim and Rachel arrive with their guns drawn. Alberto exits the house to talk to them and try to convince them to leave. A firefight breaks out with Tim killing two of the men (including Alberto) and Boyd managing to get a hold of a gun, with his hands tied behind his back. He kills the third and final bad guy.
Boyd goes to see Katherine and Wynn later to officially tell them, "I'm done with heroin." Katherine says that's okay. They want to work with Boyd on what he's really good at: robbing banks.
Oh, it will be way more fun to see that next season than this season's incredibly boring heroin plotline.
Ava Takes Up a New Partnership
Also boring this season? Ava's time in prison. But what we learn in this week's finale is that Ava needed to realize she was out of options to inform what she does in the final minutes.
Ava has no friends left in prison. That's made clear in her first scene of the episode. I kept waiting for her to be murdered all episode long.
Her nurse/drug partner gets some alone time with her and warns her that she'll need to be prepared to fight every day of the rest of her prison term.
And then ... Ava is released. Wait, What?! Her former cellmate and Albert the guard have recanted.
Ava heads home to find bullet holes in her home thanks to the shoot-out between the marshals and Alberto and his men. She and Boyd seem to have an understanding, and while there's no kiss or formal reconciliation, that's probably in the cards for the final season.
And then when Ava heads to a bridge, we find out how she got out of prison: Raylan sprang her. She's going to be his partner in taking down Boyd in the final season.
"I'm scared, Raylan," she says.
Me? I'm excited for a new season of Justified for the first time in a long time.