Justified Season 6, Episode 8 recap. 

In the history of Justified bad guys, there’s Mags Bennett and everyone else. No one has ever matched Margo Martindale’s performance as the moonshine matriarch of Harlan County, but this season’s roster of heavies is pretty damned close. Sam Elliot as Avery Markham is the perfect combination of reptilian terror and Southern charm, Mary Steenburgen’s Katherine Hale is a twenty-first century Lady Macbeth, and Garrett Dillahunt as Ty Walker is the best gun thug ever to cross paths with Raylan. RIP, Ty. We’ll miss your big ass beard. And Wynn Duffy? He loves guac (and tanning and ladies tennis). He’s still the most entertaining of Harlan’s bad men.

Season one ended with Raylan contemplating his as yet empty grave in the plot on the family farm, but in this episode he has the plot razed, intending to re-inter his mother in the town cemetery and Arlo just wherever the hell the mortician pleases. But that final image lingers, of Raylan’s unused tombstone being torn out of the ground. The episode opened with him burning Arlo’s possessions, and it ends with Raylan literally rejecting the grave his father picked out for him. The refrain of Justified has always been “you’ll never leave Harlan alive”, but I’m kinda starting to think Raylan just might make it as he lays Arlo’s ghost to rest. Please don’t psyche me out, Justified, I don’t think I can take it.

In the fallout of last week’s shifting alliances, Ty Walker attempts to align himself with Boyd and Ava, while Raylan uses Avery to bait a trap for Boyd. I can’t imagine Avery likes being used like that, especially since it cost him a hundred grand, but I also imagine he has at least some idea of what Raylan is up to. In order to flush out Ty Walker, Raylan has Avery publicly offer a one hundred thousand dollar reward. Raylan then goes directly to Ava’s where he finds Ty holed up. Boyd and Raylan have one of their spectacular confrontations, but Raylan is fully in control of this one. He knows Ty is there, and after forcing Boyd into a corner, he gives up Ty.

Raylan adds a tally to his body count, but even more importantly, he figures out Boyd’s plan to rob Avery’s pizza vault by tunneling in. He also realizes that Ava is compromised and no longer a trustworthy source. For now, Raylan is ahead of Boyd, having a lead on his plan and knowing not to trust Ava. And Boyd is a step behind, because even though he knows Raylan is trying to take him down, he cannot resist robbing the pizza vault. Raylan engineered events so that Boyd could get a peek inside the pizza vault, and Boyd took the bait. This all started with Boyd robbing banks and blowing sh*t up, and it’s going to end that way, too.

But for all that we move forward, the two best scenes in the episode look back. Wynn Duffy and Katherine Hale suspect Avery sold out Grady Hale and got him killed in prison fifteen years ago. Katherine turns the information Wynn provided over to Art to see how far the Marshals can get in proving it, creating another unlikely alliance. This is a stellar episode—season six is not slacking—and the scene between Art and Katherine is outstanding. They’re both aware of their own world-weariness, and of what time has taken from them, but they haven’t lost their desire for revenge or justice.

The other great scene is at the end, when Raylan unlocks a shack in the woods outside his house with a key he found in Arlo’s belongings. Raylan confronts Arlo’s ghost, revealing that he always imagined Arlo kept something terrible inside. But it was just a quiet place for Arlo to hide. This episode is directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton—who really ought to make a Marvel movie—and one of her trademarks is unusual framing and composition. This scene is a prime example—Raylan is almost completely shadowed, but his eyes shine brightly in the darkness. He’s a hunter and here Horder-Payton reveals him to be especially raptor-like. It’s an eerie, unsettling view of our hero. Raylan is seeing three moves ahead—will it be enough to keep him alive?

Raylan’s body county so far: 2/21