It’s difficult to discuss this past week’s episode of Justified without revealing key plot points, so, if you haven’t seen the last couple of weeks, be aware that spoilers follow.
As has been the case for much of this season, the plots of various episodes put Raylan in a position to make a decision about an action. Is it “justified” to cross the line from the strictly legal? Do you act to cover up a crime that your wife has committed? Do you fire your gun when there’s still a possibility of resolving a situation peacefully? Much of this season has shown Raylan holding back from the “old west” violence that marked his character during the first season.
In “Reckoning,” we discover that Raylan’s aunt Helen (who is really his stepmother more than an aunt) was indeed murdered in her kitchen by Dickie Bennett—reprisal for being robbed by the combined forces of Boyd Crowder and Arlo Givens. At the key moment in the episode, Raylan arrests Dickie, but then, instead of taking him back to the station, marches him out to the woods, and the decision Raylan has to make is whether personal vengeance should take precedent over objective justice. As he realizes, though, it’s not possible for him to avenge his aunt’s death by killing Dickie and still be true to the sacrifices Helen made to save him from the violent lawlessness of “old west” Harlan. Killing Dickie would mean that Helen’s sacrifices would have been in vain.
So Raylan does the right thing and takes Dickie in. Mags Bennett, however, works to suborn the sole witness against Dickie, and gets him released. I’m not sure that Mags is doing Dickie any favors, as Dickie was much safer from Arlo and Boyd while in prison—and I can’t imagine that either Arlo or Boyd will have any moral dilemmas when it comes to killing Dickie.
That next week’s season ending episode is titled “Bloody Harlan” suggests that the Givens, the Bennetts, and the Crowders will be settling their differences outside of the courtroom.