Justified “The Promise” Review (6×13)

15 Apr


“We dug coal together.”

Nowadays, we expect our drama series to end with characters going out in a blaze of glory, with antiheroes falling off their thrones and finally meeting their inevitable fates. We expect people to pay for all the bad things they’ve done throughout a series, and we expect the house of cards to come crumbling down at the end. Now, there are certainly shows that did this well–e.g. my pick for the best series finale of all time, The Shield‘s “Family Meeting”–but sometimes, what we need is to be entertained and satisfied. By striving for a grand, complex gesture, Justified might’ve overlooked exactly what made the show special, so thankfully, the writers recognize what the best way to end the series is. And man, it is a beautiful, rewarding, and plain brilliant way to conclude a fantastic six years.

The main question the show seems to have revolved around is stated by its title: justified. From the Tommy Bucks shooting in the pilot to the Boon shooting in the finale, the show has used its main character to tackle the question of justification: are Raylan Givens’s methods justified? How long will Raylan walk the line between cop and outlaw? What will it take to get Raylan to permanently cross the line? As the series wore on, it seemed like Raylan was inching closer and closer toward Boyd’s side of the line–whereas Boyd was starting to drift towards the middle–but in “The Promise”, it becomes clear what these two characters’ roles are. Raylan decides to lock Boyd up rather than kill him, and this is the final act in a long line of steps taken to sever himself from his county, from his past. He rises above the legacy Arlo’s left, and he’s finally able to physically leave Harlan (alive, I might add). “It takes a real man to walk away from temptation,” Boyd states later on in jail, and it’s a statement that applies to quite a few characters in this show, Raylan especially.

Speaking of leaving Harlan, it’s interesting to note that the gorgeous “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” rendition drops with about 20 minutes left in the episode. If you think about it, though, it makes sense to place this right before the Boon-Raylan showdown. It’s a scene that tackles the subject matter of the song head on, a scene that embodies the final obstacle on Raylan’s path out of town. By killing Boon and taking his hat, the show’s essentially saying that Raylan’s restoring the honor of the Old West, that he’s finally able to leave Harlan afterward. In fact, it’s also a scene that allows Ava to escape the clutches of her past, and although she’s always going to be afraid of Boyd knocking at her door, she’s also going to live happily with a child named after the “only man who never wanted anything” from her.

“I put myself in your shoes and did what I thought you would do.” The barn scene is filled to the brim with tension, and it’s one of the most important moments of the show; as expected, Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, and Joelle Carter absolutely nail it, and it’s a wonderful scene that returns the show’s focus to its roots–to its original relationships–as people like Boon and Avery Markham fade into the background. “The Promise” goes even further than that, however, when it jumps forward four years and brings Raylan and Boyd together for one last talk.

What a talk it is. Justified understands that its strengths lie in its words and its characters, and that’s exactly what it relies on to put a bow on the last six years. “The only way to get out of our town is to never have been born there,” Boyd says. “And then there’s you.” In the end, the show returns to the kinship these two characters share, to the fact that they’re each the closest thing to a best friend the other has had. In the end, the show is about Raylan and Boyd and the history they share, and in the end, Boyd realizes that Ava and Raylan were the two people he cared the most about. And so, the series ends here, focused on Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder, small smiles on both of their faces as they remember that one fact that brings them closer: they dug coal together.






-A big round of applause to Elmore Leonard, without whom this series would not be possible.

-Farewell, Justified, you and your endlessly quotable lines and unique setting and perfectly cast group of characters and witty banter, your awesome showdowns and badass villains and will they-won’t they tension between Raylan and Tim. From the first “fire in the hole” to the last “we dug coal together”, you delivered some of the most entertaining, compelling, and beautifully constructed television I’ve ever seen. May people realize in the future what they missed out these last six years, may Wynn Duffy live long and prosper in Fiji, and may Tim and Rachel save the world.

-Loved Art bringing out the glasses for one last drink with Raylan. Also, even though I would’ve liked to see much more Tim and Rachel throughout the series, I really liked the small moments Raylan shared with them at the end. In fact, Rachel and Raylan had a very similar conversation about a hat way back in “Riverbrook”.

-Watch out, rest of Harlan. Loretta’s here. I cheered for her when she stepped on Boon’s hand to prevent him from shooting. You go, Loretta.

-Walton Goggins better get a goddamn Emmy at some point in his career. He should’ve had a few by now for The Shield and Justified, but alas.


-Sam Elliott’s Avery Markham ended up being one of the best villains in this show. Mags still takes the cake (or rather, the apple pie), but Markham’s right on up there. Also, gotta give a shout-out to people like Dickie Bennett and Robert Quarles: damn fun sons of bitches they were, weren’t they?

-That’s a great way to see Ellen May, Limehouse, and of course, Wynn Duffy, again.

– “You better change your attitude, or I’ll tear you a new asshole that you can carry a watermelon in.” I’ll miss you, Art.

– “Art. Show ’em your tits.”

-It’s still a shame that Ian McShane never appeared on this show.

-Ice cream shows up in the finale, and the running bit is complete.

-Favorite moments/episodes/characters of the series? Share below. For favorite episode, I have to go with “Bloody Harlan”, the season two finale (“Decoy” is not far behind). As for favorite character, there is absolutely no way I can choose.

Photo credit: FX, Justified

9 Responses to “Justified “The Promise” Review (6×13)”

  1. Justin April 15, 2015 at 7:32 am #

    Great finale. Everything about it just felt right like the final pieces of a puzzle coming together. The way a finale should feel.

    I can’t quite think of any favorite characters/moments/episodes right now just after the show had ended. Maybe, once the dust has fully settled.

    • diane April 15, 2015 at 2:39 pm #

      Besides the main characters, Raylon, Boyd, and Ava, I loved Mags Bennett in season 2. That was my favorite season. Mags and her apple pie. All of the characters are awesome in their own way. Winn Duffy was a great character as was Art. I really liked Tim and Rachel too. In fact I just loved everyone. Such an awesome show. The very best part was the dialogue. So unique. There is no show out there today that matches the dialogue.

      • polarbears16 April 15, 2015 at 3:23 pm #

        Yeah, that was a brilliant character and a villain up there with the likes of Gus Fring. Margo Martindale is wonderful.

  2. Anonymous April 16, 2015 at 6:08 pm #

    I hated the actual harlan county. Good show

  3. malcolmthecynic April 17, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    Nice review, and good grade. I’d say A- episode, A season, and the overall show…is hard to do, because some seasons are clear A’s and some are slightly worse but still really good. So I guess A-, but sometimes A?

    My thoughts: https://malcolmthecynic.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/justified-season-six-retrospective/


  4. malcolmthecynic April 17, 2015 at 12:40 pm #

    Oh, overall grades:

    BEST EPISODE: Bloody Harlan

    RUNNER UP: Decoy

    BEST GUEST PERFORMANCE: Margo Martindale as Mags Bennett

    RUNNER UP: Close, but I’ll have to go with Neal McDonagh as Quarles

    BEST PERFORMANCE BY A SERIES REGULAR: It’s very close, but I’ll go with Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder

    RUNNER UP: Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens

    SEASON RANKINGS: Best to worst: 2, 4, 6, 3, 5, 1

    4 JUUUUUST beats out 6, because I think 4 reached astronomical heights in its best episodes (Decoy and Ghosts) that season 6, though it had a more consistent run, never QUITE matched. But really, you can flip a coin.

    Mags towers over season 2 like Goliath.

  5. #peggyatthemovies April 18, 2015 at 2:26 am #

    Why the – on the grade.. for overall series ..yeah I can understand..for this eps. NO WAY! Going out with ‘We dug coal together’ is probably the best most poetic ending i’ve ever seen.. couldn’t be any better. The only thing better than this ending was the fact I got to meet this amazing cast right before it did. It’s a night I will never forget..I listen to my recordings of the interviews I did all the time..ha! and just like Southland & Breaking Bad finales.. it will stay on my DVR for years to come I’m sure.. because I have to re-watch it every now & then to remember how fantastic it all was. 🙂


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