Warning: Major Justified spoilers lie ahead!
We’re in the fifth season of Justified, and this is possibly the darkest that we’ve seen Raylan Givens descend. The most recent episode saw him get slugged by Art Mullen, his own Chief Marshal, for his implicitness in the death of Nicky Augustine (Mike O’Malley). He’s really been walking the line of lawlessness and hiding behind his shield. On top of that, he’s been a terrible father to his recently born daughter, not even going to visit her in person, instead relying on video chat with his ex-wife Winona to see the baby on camera.
It’s a terribly complicated situation (of course, “complicated” is the word that people often use to describe him), made worse by the fact that Raylan seems to also live by a code of drawing a gun first and asking questions later. I think that’s what we call a dichotomy, folks.
The problem is that Givens has authority issues that stem from the fact that his own father, the late and unlamented Arlo Givens (Raymond J. Barry), was a real rat bastard. He was a conniving man who would have probably sold his own son into slavery if he could have. Now, the only anchor of any kind for Givens is Mullen, who is this close to retiring. In TV or movieland, mention of retirement from the field of law enforcement is pretty much foreshadowing for possible impending and grisly death. If Mullen were to die, Givens, who is not the most tethered man to begin with, might just completely become unmoored. Add the fact that Givens has been thinking about dying in Harlan for a long time… think way back to the second season when he was at his stepmother Helen’s funeral and he saw his own gravestone on the family plot of land. He’s seemingly resigned to the fact that he’ll “never leave Harlan alive.”
The whole abuse of authority is really coming a head this season. Raylan was in a showdown with Hot Rod Dunham (Mickey Jones), a Dixie Mafia head and he said that he’d shoot him and his cronies… and then to cement his threat, he held up his Marshals Star and said, “This will make it all legal.” The deputy marshal has been making his own rules for a very long time, from the first day that we met him in Miami in the first episode of the first season. Remember that? He sat across from Tommy Bucks, a drug cartel runner and a man whom Givens had given 24 hours to vacate the city, in an outdoor cafe. Obviously, Bucks had chosen to ignore that edict (and Givens made him pay… mortally) right then and there in the cafe. The Marshals office has given him as much leeway as possible, but how much rope can the man get around his neck before he actually starts gagging and choking?
Raylan hasn’t been lucky at all in the love department, having seen his wife leave him not once but twice. She also called him “the angriest man I’ve ever seen.” Add this to the fact that Ava Crowder is now engaged to his frenemy Boyd, and that another potential romantic partnerwound up being a grifter who stole a lot of his money. Now, Raylan is in a somewhat shaky relationship with a social worker named Alison Brander (Amy Smart), who has a penchant for pot and could be another case of trouble for Givens. The funny thing is that Brander is the one who summed up Givens quite well:
“You’re the bravest person I know. You’d go running into a burning building to save someone. I also think you’re the one setting the building on fire.”
We’re waiting to see how right she is.