Justified for me is a star that burnt hot and fast. I picked up the series at the very start of the new year, finding the box set on Sky while on Christmas break and hurtling through it in about two weeks. Then I watched season 6 as it aired in the US (yes, I cheated) and in less than 4 months, the series is over. I found myself bereft, going from an obsession that had me thinking in a Kentucky accent to a dead stop. I felt like I was suffering some kind of whiplash.
What gets me through my grief though is the fact that the final season was so GOOD. The knowledge going in that it would be the last season enabled the writers to craft a final set of episodes that other writers should look to as an exemplar of how to finish a series with dignity.
Unlikely my watching of the rest of the seasons I actually watched this one week-by-week and am tempted to now go back for the marathon as I think it will work even better as one event. The season isn’t 13 episodes loosely held together with an arc, instead it is more like a 10ish hour film broken into bitesize chunks. That does mean that week by week episodes can be a little frustrating, slow and seemingly uneventful, but if you hold it all in your head you see how the layers are building.
When I reviewed all the previous seasons together I said that really it was the story of Raylan and Boyd, two people fundamentally the same who took different forks in the road at one point and when their paths eventually crossed again found themselves on different sides of the law. What the sixth season makes clear is that it’s not just about them, Ava is fulcrum to the characters and suddenly spending so much time with her on a seeming diversion to prison in season 5 comes back to deliver. It’s not Raylan or Boyd that drive season 5, it’s Ava. And that is a truly fascinating revelation.
The final season still doesn’t manage to address the under-use of the supporting actors completely. We once again spend more time with new ‘villains’ than we do with the background heroes of the US Marshalls office. Rachel, Art and Tim get a bit more to do, but it’s still in the background and a disappointing under-use of potential.
While season 5 was a low point for the series, season 6 is a definite high and the last episode is an absolute masterpiece in how to finish a series. I had a level of anxiety throughout the series about who would get out alive and whether the characters we’ve cared about would get the endings they deserve. Staying spoiler free… I was very satisfied. It was the right ending without playing too much to fans who want a happy ending or too much to any desire for a dramatic or unfinished conclusion.
I can’t recommend this series highly enough. The first five seasons are available on Sky Box Sets service at the moment and season 6 is coming very soon. I think it’s one of the best investments of 60 hours that you’ll make. I’m so glad I found it, and actually am quite glad I found it so late so that I could watch it at a pace and not have to wait. My grief at its ending is tempered by my satisfaction at its masterful conclusion and very very few series manage that achievement.