U.S. Marshal Raylen Givens (Timothy Olyphant, above), always at least one step ahead of the crims, has had his gun holstered for many weeks. This was not so in season one’s final episode, “Bulletville” (s1, e13), when Raylen killed at least 5, and shot at least 6. Still, he would need help from an unlikely source: childhood friend and adult enemy, reformed rocket launching bank robber, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), who has played Raylen’s foil since the Marshal’s return to Kentucky.
Boyd, who began the episode by showing up at his sister-in-law, Ava Crowder’s door, apologizing to her for his past sins down the barrel of her shot gun, and told Ava he wanted to atone. She told him he could start the process by never encountering her again. Next we see Boyd, he’s in a car with his cousin, Johnny Crowder (David Meunier), who he had agreed to steal a truckload of ephedrine for, so that the 2 could make waves in Harlan’s methamphetamine market, which Boyd had blown open, literally, by using his rocket launcher on a meth lab that he said was poisoning the community. Only Boyd was lying to his cousin, and also blew up the truck full of ephedrine to prevent the manufacture of meth in Harlan. When his cousin asks him where the truck is, Boyd essentially tells him it’s up in flames. Boyd’s cousin is even more angry when he learns that Boyd didn’t kill the drivers and sends him away asking if Boyd knows how much trouble he’s caused. Boyd, who found God in prison, responds in biblical terms, telling Johnny that he’s “ready to reap the whirlwind.”
But when Boyd’s father, the whirlwind and resident crime lord of Harlan, Bo Crowder (M.C. Gainey) arrives at Boyd’s jesus camp out in the woods, he aims a gun at his son, and then says he can’t hurt his own son. So he asks Johnny to “hurt my son.” Johnny beats Boyd (below) very badly, and then Bo tells Boyd he is exiled, and that his flock will be turned over to the authorities and will go back to jail on parole violations. But when Boyd returns to the camp, he finds all his men are executed, and in his moment of despair, asks the lord for a sign.
Meanwhile, at the Marshal’s office, Raylen learns of the blown up ephedrine shipment, quickly judges Boyd to be responsible, and then is told by Chief Art (Nick Searcy) that he has to keep his father, Arlo Givens (Raymond J. Barry), safe for a day. Arlo has become an informant, and the ephedrine shipment has complicated and perhaps compromised a meeting for later in the day with Bo Crowder, that Arlo has agreed to wear a wire to. Raylen runs into his ex, Winona (Natalie Zea), who also works in that building and who he has recently slept with, and she tells him she wants to talk and that her husband Gary (William Ragsdale) has moved out.
Since the meeting between Bo and Arlo is postponed, and with nowhere else to take him, Raylen brings his dad to his hotel room and leaves him there. Bo Crowder, fresh from executing Boyd’s men in the woods, shows up to talk to Arlo, and tells him that things would be right between them if Arlo helped deliver Raylen to Bo. Bo Crowder needs to turn Raylen over to the Miami cartel whose shipment of ephedrine was destroyed by his son. The cartel lusts for Raylen’s blood because he killed one of theirs, Tommy Bucks–the killing that prompted Raylen’s transfer to Kentucky.
Raylen, who started the season at odds with his father over long standing issues, seemed to soften toward the old man when he learned of the danger he and his step mom were in because Arlo, a career criminal, had handled collections for Bo while he was incarcerated, but had no money to turn over once Bo showed up to collect. When Raylen returns to the hotel room, his instincts tell him something’s wrong, and when Arlo turns the gun Bo provided him with on Raylen, Raylen’s already got his own gun trained on Arlo. “When did you know?” Arlo asks. “I think I always knew.” says Raylen, who then shoots his father in the shoulder. When Bo’s people hear the shot, they think it’s safe to move on Raylen, who is lying in wait, and kills them both.
Then Raylen receives a call from who he believes is Ava, but it’s Bo on the other end, who we saw take Ava captive (below) and gut shot Johnny on Ava’s porch. Bo tells Johnny it’s because Johnny went behind his back with Boyd on that ephedrine shipment, and leaves him to die in Ava’s bushes, content that the law will believe she had killed another bothersome Crowder–making his move to send a bunch of Boyd’s cousins to squat at her house while she was temporarily in hiding a few weeks back all the more ingenius. Bo tells Raylen to start driving to Bulletville, and to come alone.
It’s then that we see Boyd stumble in to Raylen’s room. “What are you doing here?” Raylen asks. But Boyd doesn’t know. Raylen catches him up on their respective fathers’ latest deeds, and Boyd tells Raylen that his daddy has a cabin in Bulletville and that he knows it well. They drive down to Bulletville together, discuss God, and Raylen figures out that Boyd has been telling the truth about finding God.
When this first season of Justified began, good television fans were probably happy that the show’s creators, Graham Yost and Elmore Leonard, had given us one good dynamic character in Raylen Givens. But upon watching the entire season, we have been treated to two more: Winona, Raylen’s complex ex who was so sure a month ago that she loved her new marriage, but who was slipping off her wedding ring last week for a tumble with Raylen at his hotel, and Boyd, who has gone from Raylen’s childhood friend to outlaw bank robber, to man of God/vigilante and Raylen’s again friend–probably his only one–a feeling we find is mutual in the end.
And that’s why Raylen didn’t shoot him when he defied his order to stop pursuing the female cartel member who killed his father, even though Boyd had gone there to help Raylen, and to kill his father himself. “I didn’t kill you when I had the chance”, said Bo to Boyd who held a gun on him, right before the cartel picked him off. But Boyd told his father right before Bo got shot that there was more than one way to kill a man, and that his father had killed his spirit.
A dispirited Boyd, or a Boyd Crowder replenished by some other ideology, will make for a compelling storyline next season for Walton Goggins, who plays Boyd Crowder to a tee. Winona and Raylen may be on a path to reconciliation, making for another compelling storyline for next season. It seems that Ava (Joelle Carter) will be back in Harlan, and probably still carrying a torch for Raylen, along with the cartel, and perhaps our favorite Assistant U.S. District Attorney, David Vasquez, played by Rick Gomez (Priest, The Life and Times of Tim), who has a slew of new Raylen Givens’ justified homicides to investigate.
But at least that nasty Crowder family is out of business and Raylen and his father know in absolute terms, where they stand with one another.