In completely relative terms, the penultimate episode of Justified, “Collateral,” is a bit of a cool-down episode, the kind of episode that spends a bit more time ruminating before heading into what’s sure to be a bloody finale. With that said though, this is still Justified, which means that even the cool-down episodes are packed to the brim with high-stakes chases and the establishing of brand new consequences.
Pretty much anyone who matters to the story, be it Ava, Boyd, Raylan, or anyone else, is on the run in “Collateral.” There’s great tension throughout the episode in that everybody is on the move, but it seems like nobody is getting anywhere. Ava, Boyd, and Raylan are stuck in a pattern that’s nearly impossible to escape, unless somebody dies, and it’s a pattern that brings everyone around them into danger.
More than ever, Raylan is flirting with being on the wrong side of the law. He’s left his badge behind in his car and gone out into the woods looking for Ava, but also hoping that a recently on-the-lam Boyd will make an appearance and give him a reason to shoot him down. Raylan going rogue is an issue for the Marshals Service too, and as usual, his actions leave Art and the rest of his team hanging out to dry.
Vasquez is livid that Raylan is being given a free pass right now, and he has every right to be. As much as we know Raylan is a good guy, we can also understand how such a personal connection to the case would be cause for concern for someone like Vasquez. Raylan going rogue also continues to drive home one of this season’s predominant themes, which is that the good guys and bad guys aren’t that far removed from one another. Raylan is in this to catch Boyd, but is he doing what’s best to get him? More often than not, he’s doing what’s best for him, not what’s best for the case.
There’s a muddled morality to the show as it winds down its run, in that it’s not really made clear who we should be rooting for. Sure, Raylan is our protagonist, but don’t we want to see Ava escape too? And maybe even Boyd? Justified has done a wonderful job, over six seasons, of flipping the script on the traditional anti-hero narrative. Raylan isn’t a straight-up anti-hero, and Boyd isn’t an easily classifiable villain. They’re two men in different places socially and economically, but also cut from the same cloth; to boil them down to a moniker would be reductive. Few shows boast a true moral gray area the way this one does.
It’s only a matter of time before all of these morally corrupt (to varying degrees) people converge and create one hell of a mess. It’s not just Raylan, Boyd, and Ava in on the action though. There’s Markham, who’s using Boon to intimidate Loretta and hoping to find out where Ava and his money are hiding out. Wynn Duffy is wrapped up in this also. One would think that after last week’s close call he’d skip town as quickly as possible. What’s he doing instead? He’s telling an accomplice that he needs a modified dog grooming van in order to go after Markham’s money. That kind of greed will get you killed in Harlan.
NEXT: A prelude to the Raylan-Boyd showdown