If there’s one thing Justified is “about”, it’s that it’s mostly just a show about being really badass. This would explain why whenever I recommend the show to someone, it usually consists of me unintelligibly saying, “Uhhh it’s just like totally awesome. He’s like a cowboy and he shoots people and it’s awesome”. Which might explain why I don’t really know that many people who watch Justified. Anyways, if there’s one thing that this show is about other than being badass, it’s family. Season 5 sought to re-affirm this with the introduction of the Crowe’s into the ranks of the Crowder’s and the Bennett’s as one of the backwoods crime families that have come under the steely gaze of Marshall Raylan Givens.
There are a lot of different story elements that are juggled in this season of Justified – some of which pay off, and some of which not so much – but as I said, the main arc follows the arrival of the Crowe family in Harlan County. The Crowe’s are led by Darryl (Michael Rapaport), the cousin of Dewey Crowe — who popped up in the first few seasons of Justified as more-or-less Harlan’s local moron. However, at the beginning of this season, Dewey has stumbled into a respectable drug empire before Darryl and his cronies arrive in Harlan to help him run it (aka fuck things up for everybody). It turns out Darryl has a history with Raylan, and eventually serves as an ally for Harlan’s resident drug kingpin/criminal mastermind, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins).
Much of Boyd’s storylines this season deal with him having to maintain his status as an almost towering figure in Kentucky’s drug trade, while still somehow managing to slither his way out of every tight situation. However, this time Boyd often finds himself coming out on top just by the skin of his teeth when confronted by the other wisecracking low-life’s that there’s never any shortage of on this show. And speaking of low-life’s, I thought Darryl Crowe gave Boyd a pretty formidable ally/guy-Boyd-wants-to-eventually-murder, since he has a lot of the same manipulative qualities as Boyd, but he’s just a little too stupid to pull it off. Michael Rapaport was also a bit of a revelation, since he’s an actor who I pretty much always assumed was only capable of playing a motor-mouthed Brooklyn guy. But who knew, he can also play a motor-mouthed Southern guy as well.
As for Season 5’s weaknesses, I think it’s mostly a matter of Justified devoting too much time to storylines that don’t really go anywhere or just spend a lot of time setting up the show’s next (and supposedly final season). I like where the show ultimately lands Ava (Joelle Carter) by the end of the season, but it devotes way too much time to her stint in prison, which mostly plays out like a more generic version of Orange Is The New Black (but with more shankings!). Also, there are a lot of different characters and warring factions that come in to play when Darryl and Boyd make a turbulent trip to Mexico — which was entertaining enough, but added more fuel to this season feeling like it was overcomplicating itself when maybe it didn’t need to.
One thing I’ve always liked about Justified (and still do) is how the show handles one-off characters and storylines. Like most “serious” dramas on TV nowadays, Justified is pretty firmly entrenched in the serialized season-long arc mold. However, it occasionally delves into storylines that are limited to playing out in one episode, and never really spoken of again. I’m usually a fan of these, and there were some good ones in season 5, like a silly-but-fun storyline about Raylan going after a one-legged computer hacker who’s trollin’ him. And I don’t think I’ve ever gotten excited about Eric Roberts, but I was pretty pleased to see Eric Roberts show up as an old pro of a Marshall who briefly gets teamed up with Raylan.
I think the success of any Justified season usually comes down to how the show uses Boyd and Raylan in opposition to each other — they are after all the show’s hero and antagonist, and by far the most compelling characters to watch. So it was kind of fun to see the way Boyd eventually was able to manipulate Raylan’s home base of the Marshall’s office as a kind of shield against the many enemies zeroing in on him. It’s something we haven’t seen before, but again, it ultimately just felt like a precursor to some sort of ultimate showdown that’ll go down between Raylan and Boyd in season 6. Whether it’ll live up to the mythic stature of these two characters will remain to be seen, but I think we can all rest assured that a good deal of badassery will follow.