Clocking in at less than 37 minutes from first frame to last, “Trust” might be the shortest episodes of Justified ever. The quick runtime is surprising, given how FX shows have a tendency to expand rather than contract in their final hours, and it’s even more of a surprise considering just how much plot “Trust” gets through. At first blush, it looks like a vegetables episode of Justified, the necessary, plot-moving roughage required after last week’s terrific pizza party. Justified with too much on its plate is never optimal Justified, and considering just how knotty the plot has become, it’s hard not to think about Tim’s assessment of Boyd (“he’s so smart he’s stupid”) when watching the first 90% of “Trust.”
With so much to get through in so little time, the busyness of “Trust” makes itself known from the get-go, as information crisscrosses from Harlan to Lexington, and back all evening. Seemingly half, if not more of all scenes tonight require use of a phone to get the word out (what’s become a bigger visual motif at this point: a glass of liquor or a smartphone?). “Trust” is an hour so focused on putting gears in motion that slower scenes (usually Justified’s bread and butter), like Boon’s adventure in second-hand hat shopping, feel almost out of place.
But then we get to those last two minutes, and the game that the episode has been playing finally reveals itself. “Burned” ended with Boyd half-dead and reckless, and Raylan frustrated and impatient. In this respect, it makes sense that Benjamin Cavell would write “Trust” like a headlong sprint to the finish line, just with a flying tackle waiting to demolish anyone who doesn’t check their blind spot before the ticker tape. Just about everyone falls victim to the temptation of running when they should walk tonight…everyone, that is, except for Ava, last seen driving off into the darkness with a fake I.D. in one hand, and $10 million cash in the other.
The rule on Justified is that the moment someone thinks they’ve got their feet planted, that’s when the rug is going to get yanked out from under them. It’s only fair that Raylan and Boyd should be no exception. They’re so caught up in the little story they’re writing about themselves, of lawman and outlaw, they can’t even fathom things going any other way. Two weeks ago, Raylan saw things playing out like a classic Western, while Boyd likened it more to Moby Dick. We were given only two options of how things were going to end, and boy, if I didn’t buy that belief hook, line, and sinker. After all, Justified was always going to end with Raylan vs. Boyd, right? (See above for answer).
It’s a marvelous, ballsy reversal that “Trust” pulls off in its final minutes, a title that takes on new significance when you think about how boldly the hour may have diverged the series’ end game from where most thought it was heading. On a lesser show, Ava shooting Boyd, and becoming Raylan’s new quarry, would be a twist for twist’s sake, but I’m convinced this is just the preamble to a more elaborate finale to come. First off: I don’t think Boyd is dead, despite the ambiguity of the scene. Granted, how the show will get him back in the action anytime soon is a big question mark (perhaps…a time jump?).
More importantly, “Trust” doesn’t upend the board Justified has been carefully laying out for years: it just changed the rules. I criticized Seabass last week for being so easily fooled by a Leonard woman, so I guess it’s shame on me for doing the same with regard to Ava. Through the whole season, she’s had a target on her back reading, “Shoot Here to Increase Drama Between Leading Men to Maximum.” It’s an obvious, but common trope, the sacrifice of the feminine corner of a love (if we can call it that) triangle to spur the male counterparts into action, but it’s where I thought things were going.
Where I don’t think I’m wrong is in calling this Joelle Carter’s season. Those last two minutes, dramatic as they might be on paper, aren’t worth a damn if Ava doesn’t lure the viewer into the same false sense of security shared by Raylan and Boyd. With her C.I. clemency out the window, you need to believe that Ava’s playing a long shot when she suggests to Raylan that she can get Boyd to confess to Dewey’s murder. Even for her, this is a Hail Mary, but like Raylan, we want to give her at least a chance at staying out of prison. We’ve spent so long watching Ava desperately play losing hand after losing hand that it never crosses your mind that, finally, she’s got an ace up her sleeve – or rather, a gun down Boyd’s pants.