Thinking more about “Full Commitment,” the most recent episode of Justified, it strikes me that throughout his season, Raylan has, as often as not, been unjustified in his actions—at least not justified in the legal sense. Although he has certainly shot fewer lawbreakers this time around, and has emphasized other means than a shootout for resolving conflicts, he has also been more willing to step outside the law to address problems that are ultimately purely personal—particularly as those problems have involved Winona.
In “Blaze of Glory” earlier in the season, Boyd explained to Raylan that he did what he did (his extralegal approach to foiling the mine robbery) to protect the woman he cares for (Ava), and he observes, “I seem to recall you being in the same situation with the same woman.” Earlier this season, the doubling of Raylan and Boyd involved Boyd’s attempts to step onto the right side of the law (or at least the righter side). However, the doubling goes the other way as well. Raylan, to protect the woman he cares for (Winona), has acted illegally to keep her out of trouble—returning the money she had stolen from the Marshal’s evidence lockers being the major example, an action that has left Raylan in the Chief Marshal’s doghouse. Similarly, his resolution to the problem with Winona’s oily second husband Gary, while not involving violent action on Raylan’s part, took place only after he slipped away from his protection (Tim) and took care of the problem out of sight of the legal system. The result of that action, as it was in his earlier efforts to protect Winona, is further estrangement from the law—in the form of what could be a developing conflict between Raylan and Tim, who, like Raylan’s boss, is seriously annoyed with Raylan.
Throughout the series, Raylan has been positioned between the legal and the illegal, between the professional and the personal, as his ties to Kentucky are both familial (his crime boss father) and professional (the Marshal service). Finding a way to negotiate between these opposing positions has been increasingly difficult this season—especially when his law-abiding associates (Winona) step outside the law themselves. If Raylan is increasingly isolated from those around him, that is in large part an effect of the difficult place he finds himself in. Being “justified” legally and being “justified” ethically aren’t necessarily the same thing, and doing justice to one’s allegiance to the law as well as doing justice to one’s allegiance to family and friends, well, those aren’t necessarily the same thing either. As Raylan rejects personal relationships for the cause of justice (arresting his father, etc.), as he rejects pure justice for the sake of personal relationships (covering up Winona’s crime), he finds himself in a difficult position as the season moves toward a conclusion, in danger of losing the support of both groups that he tries to serve. That Mags Bennett at the moment seems to be Raylan’s strongest supporter says a lot about how much of an outsider he has become in his home state and in his chosen profession.