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Justified, Ep. 6.01: “Fate’s Right Hand” portends a back-to-basics final season

Justified, Ep. 6.01: “Fate’s Right Hand” portends a back-to-basics final season

Justified 601

Justified, Season 6, Episode 1: “Fate’s Right Hand”
Written by Michael Dinner, Fred Golan and Chris Provenzano
Directed by Michael Dinner
Airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET on FX

Justified has looked and felt a little different with each new season, so it should perhaps be less surprising in retrospect that its fifth season was, once again, something new: a letdown. The series’ incredible writing team has been articulating variations on a narrow set of very old themes so gracefully for so long that, if anything, they deserve immense credit for their unlikely four-season streak of greatness. It wasn’t that the Crowe-family-centric fifth season was bad, per se – one could easily stitch together a potent highlight reel – it was more that it finally felt like the series was simply spinning its wheels for the first time.  It’s the job of the series’ sixth and final season, then, to right the course and get us re-invested in Justified’s vision of Harlan County and its assortment of charismatically gifted heroes and villains. “Fate’s Right Hand” has a lot of work to do, but for the most part, it’s a smoothly paced and assured premiere, one that portends a back-to-basics approach, albeit a ruthless one.

The episode’s most important sequence comes very near its end, and is likely meant to serve as a blueprint for the season as a whole: the death of Dewey Crowe. Dewey is one of a very small number of non-principal characters to have survived the entire run of the series to date, and his demise at the hands of Boyd Crowder functions on a few levels. First, it works a sort of show of good faith on the part of the series’ writing team: hey, remember how things got out of hand last season with all of those Crowes running around? Blam. It also works as a solid piece of dramatic irony: “Fate’s Right Hand” spends a lot of time with Dewey, who leaves jail with a renewed sense of purpose and a profound (for Dewey) sense that he is destined for greater things, and it’s not until his Of Mice and Men-style execution that he’s finally and decisively proven wrong, given that he has survived so many seemingly impossible scrapes before. Lastly, it makes clear that Boyd is playing for keeps, with no intention of humoring anyone or anything that might stand in the way of his ultimate goal of crushing his enemies and making a score big enough to leave the game behind entirely.

So season six is poised to finally position Boyd as the season’s Big Bad – but where does this leave Raylan? Last season lost track of his inner life somewhat amidst so many plot threads, and “Fate’s Right Hand” doesn’t do a lot to course-correct on this score just yet, though there’s reason for hope. The episode’s opening shot features Natalie Zea’s Winona, who wonders aloud why Raylan won’t just hightail it out to settle down with her and Raylan’s newborn daughter. The notion of Raylan embracing a new life as a family man, far away from bloody Harlan, is floated throughout the episode; it percolates in most memorably through the debut appearance of an impressively bearded Garrett Dillahunt as Ty Walker, a shady operator who turns up at the Raylan estate with a suitcase full of dough, looking to take the property off his hands. Walker is just another in a long line of Justified crooks, but Raylan still allows that it is time to sell – just not to an obvious shyster like Walker.

“Fate’s Right Hand” is a perfectly solid hour of set-up, but it’s not until Dewey Crowe’s brains paint the wall that it provides any real assurance that season six won’t repeat the mistakes of its predecessor. Armed with a sense of purpose that only the end can bring, Justified has a real chance to find a conclusion worthy of its considerable pedigree, and its willingness to streamline and focus in on its key conflicts is a very good sign.

Other thoughts:

  • There are many fantastic guest and recurring players still to come, but I won’t spoil those for anyone not in the know. But you should probably get excited.
  • The ever-neglected Rachel runs the marshals office now. There’s not really any more to it than that for now, but here’s hoping she and Tim finally get a chance to consistently kick some ass this time around. Or, you know, get some character moments.
  • “Stolen? I am offended, sir!” Watching Dillahunt and Olyphant share screentime should give any Deadwood fan chills of joy, even if Walker feels like a familiar character.
  • Ava’s one note for this episode is “it’s hard to be an informant.” We can expect more later, I trust.
  • This will be my fourth season of Justified reviews.