Justified Finale: And the Emmy Nods Go To...?

I expected many things from the Season 2 finale of FX’s outstanding Justified, but tears welling up in my eyes weren’t on the short list. Yet once the dust settled on a rather inevitable chain of events, there I was, overcome with empathy for several characters at crossroads as well as by the emotion of watching top-shelf acting take place before me.

That Dickie got spring from the clink last week, after all that Raylan (played by Timothy Olyphant) endured to jam him there, was almost a non-plot point as the finale got underway. Instead, we got a helluva frisson of a face-to-face with Boyd (Walton Goggins) and Mags (Margo Martindale), who needed to rework the terms of the deal they arrived at weeks ago. Almost Godfather-style, as they traded firm words, units from the Bennett army descended upon Boyd’s cousin Johnny and Ava’s house. Mags’ soldiers would lose the first war wholesale, while Dickie got off a shot at Ava, though we have been left to wonder if it ultimately was fatal. (Cast member Joelle Carter‘s Twitter feed seems to hint at one outcome, be advised.)

But even the tension of the Boyd/Mags meeting was overshadowed by the pint-sized domino that truly set the finale’s final moments in motion: Young Loretta, packing a pistol, hitched a ride to the Bennett farm, where she was resolved — as much as a teen girl could be — to exact her pound of flesh for her Daddy’s most unceremonious offing.

Raylan met his share of obstacles on the way to interrupting Loretta’s campaign, at one point being subject to a bat-swinging Dickie as he hung upside-down from a tree. Boyd saved his frenemy’s bacon there, while Raylan’s marshal buddies would shoo away the reaper a second time by popping Doyle in the noggin.

In the end, though, it wasn’t Raylan’s well-used firearm in play but Loretta’s pistol, trained on her onetime guardian, Mags. This is where actresses Martindale and Kaitlyn Dever slayed me, as Mags acknowledged the lass’ grievance but urged her to not step down a dark, doomed path by tugging at the trigger. When Raylan echoed Mags’ argument, Loretta’s innocent inner self prevailed. (Now I know precisely what moment Martindale was describing to me last month, when she revealed she had to keep from crying during a scene with Dever, who she lauds as an “incredible” ingenue.)

That in turn set up a gripping finale scene between Olyphant and Martindale, as Mags — sucker-punched by the loss of two sons, her near-ruination of Loretta, and her own bleak future — availed herself of a most bitter bite of “apple pie.” As Justified viewers, it’s hard to see Martindale’s powerful Season 2 arc come to an end, but oh, what an arc it was.

Who blew you away in the Justified finale?