Justified, Season 4, Episode 12: “Peace of Mind”
Written by Taylor Elmore and Leonard Chang
Directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton
Airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET on FX
Boyd Crowder is not a good person. Yes, he’s capable of deep, abiding love, as demonstrated by his many earnest scenes of devotion with Ava. Yes, he’s remarkably witty, to the point of citing his own words as timeless folk wisdom without a trace of irony. But let’s not forget that this is the same man who spent the Justified pilot as an apparently earnest white supremacist with a penchant for blowing up churches with rocket launchers. (Admittedly, he only did it once, but in this case we can probably accept a single instance as a “penchant.”) The difficulty of playing Boyd Crowder is that he’s undergone more dramatic transformations than anyone else in the world of Justified – at the end of the day, who is he, really? We get a clue in “Peace of Mind,” a very good but not mindblowing episode (as last week’s “Decoy” was), when Boyd plots to seize Ellen May from Noble’s Holler with the help of explosives and ruthless cunning. “He doesn’t give us Ellen May, I’ma have Jimmy here push a button, come Thanksgiving he can serve all the dark meat he wants.” Those are not the words of a decent man.
“Peace of Mind” wraps up a few of the season’s pressing issues, while setting up a potentially momentous finale, depending on how Yost and company envision the rest of the series. On one hand, with Drew Thompson and now Ellen May securely in US Marshals custody (with the possible caveat of Detroit’s apparent inside source), Raylan has secured a significant career coup and kept Detroit at bay with minimal actual violence. Actually, the closure-via-gun-violence scene comes courtesy Marshal Tim, whose nearly-season-long relationship with Colt finally comes to a head in one of the tensest standoffs in Justified history, helped greatly by the fact that, unlike Raylan, Tim is not our protagonist.
The aforementioned reminder of Boyd’s less-than-saintly track record helps to frame the true conflict of this season, that of Raylan and Boyd’s ultimately conflicting needs in life. Raylan may have won the day, but “Peace of Mind” still ends with a truly disquieting scene, in which it’s made clear that Winona is very much on Detroit’s radar. That prompts an obvious question: just how much does Justified intend on making Raylan’s life difficult? Yes, Natalie Zea is a regular on The Following, which means her departure makes a lot of sense from a production standpoint. (It’s easy to imagine just her brief appearances in this season being a scheduling nightmare.) It seems inevitable that, whatever the outcome, Winona will not be a major part of the show ever again. At the end of the day, though, is Justified the short of series with the stones to kill off its protagonist’s wife and unborn daughter? I don’t think so. That feels like the province of a darker, more pessimistic series, like FX-mate Sons of Anarchy.
What “Peace of Mind” sets us up for instead is, I suspect, nothing quite so drastic. This season has already seen Raylan lose his (admittedly horrible) father. Now, it seems more than likely that circumstances – most of which have something to do with decisions he’s made in work and life – will conspire against his desire to be the kind of father the Givens family has likely never seen. While there’s a glimmer of hope that the cycle may have already been broken, in a sense – after all, it’s a girl! – there’s still the lingering feeling that a Raylan who gets everything he wants, precisely how he would prefer it, is not the Raylan we know. We’re headed for a finale that feels much more akinto Season 2’s than Season 3’s; one less determined by chaos and more by the inextricable pull of fate and harsh morality. But I’ve been wrong before.