You’ll never leave Harlan alive…
Justified – Episode 13 – Bloody Harlan
There are no more appropriate words to end this season than Brad Paisley’s ominous words. They’re so appropriate and capture not just the feel of the scene in which Mags dies, but also the feel of this season in general. Before I explain that, let me sum up what’s happened in the way of setting us up for next season. Consider this a sort of promissory note:
(1) Boyd and Arlo now control both Harlan and Bennett, which is not only crazy, but ups the ante with both Raylan’s relationship to his dad, but also his relationship to Boyd. We already saw a glimpse of this in the scene between Boyd and Raylan, where they were facing off Western style. I expect more of this and in more subtle ways.
(2) Ava and Boyd’s relationship is now even more complex. It will be interesting to see how both of them handle her getting shot. Indeed, we don’t even know if she will survive (I hope she will as her character is both awesome and subtle).
(3) Raylan and Winona’s relationship is either over or in serious jeopardy. In light of the fact that Raylan would be dead without the help of the marshals, all of Winona’s suspicions are–to use an appropriate word–justified.
These are all of the main lines for next season, I believe, although I am sure there will be some surprises, including, I hope, a further continuation of the Art and Raylan tension and the return of Rebecca Creskoff as Carol Johnson (it would be interesting, I suspect, to have her and Raylan begin a relationship after Winona and Raylan break-up–a break-up that I see as all but inevitable).
Now, as far as the actual finale. I want first of all to focus on the scene between Boyd and Raylan which I found to be the most interesting (in spite of all of the wonderful and amazing scenes in this episode). First, notice that Boyd is the one that gives Raylan his hat back. I find this very fascinating. I have always associated the hat with Raylan’s mission (whatever it may be: it is, of course, still left somewhat ambiguous what the mission is exactly…but we get more and more of a sense every episode)–and some episodes last season explicitly thematized this (e.g. Hatless and the episode where Rachel tries on Raylan’s hat). What is the implication in Boyd giving Raylan his hat back? Well, once again, we have the idea that Boyd rescues Raylan, which suggests that Raylan cannot work alone, as he intends. In this sense, Winona is correct…but what she misses is that even though he must work with others, there are certain things that only he can do. Hence, his hat. Only he can police (perhaps even fix or repair or at the very least help) parts of Harlan or Bennett in the ways in which he does. Second, I find it striking how Raylan deals with Boyd this time around. He tells Boyd that he can tell everyone else that Raylan asked Boyd to have Dickie. This connects to our earlier discussions of the thematics and actualization of recognition. Raylan’s move is subtly interesting here, since he acknowledges something like the phenomenon but subverts it at the same time by violence (i.e. if you don’t let me take him, Boyd, we’ll have to shoot it out). It shows that the stakes of authority are still as much in question between Boyd and Raylan as ever, and I’m sure the next season will explore this.
Next, I wanted to touch on Mags’s suicide. It’s hard to know what to make of it. On one hand, her motivation is perfectly understandable. On the other hand, it seems somehow out of character for her. But I suspect that it is meant to again highlight the theme of recognition. Even though Mags has gained wealth and riches, she has not only lost the recognition granted by the townsfolk, but also the potential recognition of her family (Dickie had already been disowned by her and so is not the sort of agent for/to her that could grant her significant recognition). In this sense, Mags’s world has shrank, merely to the possession of money, and in this sense, her life is no longer worth living. This, then, allows us to interpret her earlier actions and to make them more complex: she agrees to the Blackpike sale not solely for money (although that too is in play) nor solely for her family (since the money is also important).
Curious to hear your thoughts when you get a moment!