In its penultimate hour, Justified opens with a Harlan gone mad. Raylan’s left his badge and star behind, and is now a fugitive from his own people. Boyd’s in an officer’s uniform, which allows him to “commandeer” a truck driven by a local boy (played by Boardwalk Empire’s Shea Whigham). Before we even get to the opening credits, Raylan’s written his will, and Ava’s digging a grave. “One bad omen on top of another,” Ava says of her current predicament. “I ain’t superstitious,” Zachariah replies. Guess the guy probably doesn’t watch much TV.
If we’re looking for an oracle to divine where all this bad mojo is coming from, there’s no one better to ask than the guy who has relied on luck the most to survive Justified: Wynn Duffy. “Raylan Givens, Boyd Crowder, and Avery Markham are soon to converge, Mr. Vasquez, like the aligning of the planets – if those planets carried guns,” Duffy tells the A.D.A. before leaving the care of federal custody. What’s promised is a cataclysmic confrontation between legends, atop a mountain no less. What we get is the usual Justified two-step: one foot forward, the other kicking your feet out from under you.
There’s something comforting about knowing that, to the very end, I’ll be as successful at staying one step ahead of Justified as the burly Cope is at getting away from Raylan. We haven’t seen the hill folk heavy since back in Season 4’s “Kin,” which was the last time we watched Boyd and Raylan scale a mountain to chase a goose. They were after Drew Thompson (sadly, it looks like Jim Beaver couldn’t figure back into the final season), and had as much success finding him as they do trying to find Ava now, or her weighty ill-gotten gains.
“Collateral” would have been a hike up memory lane no matter what happened: final episodes of TV shows inevitably make one wax nostalgic for where this all began, and what brought us to this point. Memories of “Kin” only grow stronger once Boyd and Raylan finally collide on that mountainside. As lead begins to fly, it’s clear that the only people more excited about this confrontation than us are these two. Raylan and Boyd’s relationship is nothing if not passionate and mutual. Separated, the two loath, despise, and fixate on one another. Put them in a room together, though, and they couldn’t be happier. The two parted in “Kin” with Boyd tied to a tree by Raylan, letting him know with a grin, “I don’t like you.” “Never liked you much neither, Boyd,” Raylan called back with a smirk.
Director Michael Pressman imbues the moonlit slope with Shakespearean grandeur, as though no better a time or place could stage the final act of Boyd and Raylan’s little drama. The two transition from trading cheeky barbs (Boyd’s white vest pops in the night as much as Raylan’s hat, but it’s those pearly whites that give him away), to looking right into the darkness that has brought them to this place. “You’ve given up everything you are so that you could murder me,” Boyd tells him, almost regretfully. “I cross the line with my eyes wide open,” Raylan answers back.
Duffy’s earlier prophecy could use a little tweaking, as Markham hangs back for most of “Collateral.” By the end, the barn containing him, Boon, Loretta, and soon Ava looks to be the center of the solar system, with Raylan and Boyd blown (almost literally, in the latter’s case) out of orbit. But the planet analogy is fitting, as Raylan and Boyd are of two different worlds, one of the heroes and one of the outlaws. They just happen to occupy the same speck of the universe that is Harlan, and all this time spent chasing after one another has sanded off some of their original identifying features.