Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens in the 'Justified: City Primeval' finale.
Chuck Hodes/FX

'Justified: City Primeval' Finale Recap: A Call From Kentucky Makes It All Worth It

Breaking down those glorious final scenes.

That's a wrap on Justified: City Primeval, for now at least. What was initially labeled a limited series is now being called "Season 1," with hopes for a renewal. Whatever the fate of the show, it's been a mixed bag of brilliant writing, stale pacing, self-seriousness and off-beat humor — and all of it wrapped in a maddening blue haze. It makes sense, then, that the series finale (for now) would sputter out and then rev back to life in spectacular fashion.

Written by showrunners Dave Andron and Michael Dinner, with Dinner in the director's chair, Episode 8, "The Question," delivers the best and worst of Justified: City Primeval. On one end, the episode makes it painfully clear that we never really cared so much about Detroit's supporting players; on the other, it offers a compelling finish to the arc of Timothy Olyphant's Raylan Givens, then totally, purposely, obliterates it. A bold move, no matter how you slice it. The final moments of the show prove that Justified: City Primeval was never going to scratch that itch for Justified fans. But, then, maybe that was the point.

Read on for a rundown of all the plot points and character reveals in the Justified: City Primeval finale, followed by a discussion of how it all makes sense thematically.

Warning: Major spoilers ahead for Justified: City Primeval, Episode 8.

Raylan Locks Mansell In the Panic Room

Boyd Holbrook as Clement Mansell in the 'Justified: City Primeval' series finale.

Chuck Hodes/FX

The Albanians lead Raylan and Mansell (Boyd Holbrook) to Skender's panic room, where Carolyn (Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard) awaits the fruits of her deal. Toma Costia (Terry Kinney, Billions) takes Judge Guy's little black book from Mansell; Raylan does the honors and lowers the vault door with Mansell trapped inside — partly out of necessity, and partly out of choice. It's unspoken, but the Albanians need to trust that Raylan won't rat. Call it shared collateral. Besides, entombment and eventual starvation might be the only way to stop Mansell. In Episode 4, Raylan said he wanted the Oklahoma Wildman to have "a long period of reflection in a tiny cell." This is kinda like that. Toma gives Raylan the book as a peace offering.

The next day, Carolyn and Raylan use the judge's book to clean house. Carolyn interviews for the judge's seat. She's "not good at playing the game," which makes her the ideal (read: least-corrupt) candidate. Then, she changes her tune and all but threatens to release dirt on the governor's first-choice candidates, including Diane, who's "dirtier than the Playboy Mansion jacuzzi." 

For his part, Raylan enlists Bryl (Norbert Leo Butz, The Girl From Plainville) and Robinson (Victor Williams, The Good Lord Bird) in taking down Maureen (Marin Ireland, Hell or High Water). Her name is in the judge's book, and it's clear she received payouts in exchange for helping to convict defendants. She laughs but doesn't deny the charges: "Every one of you does more dirt every day before I'm even out of bed making lunches for my kids, and you want to sit here and accuse me?" Internal Affairs is investigating Maureen, and Bryl and Robinson plan to release Darryl Woods. But they still need Mansell.

Also, where's Sandy (Adelaide Clemens)? Evidently, Raylan let her off scot-free after she ratted on Mansell. She's probably on her way to the Bahamas with his $22,000 as we speak. How about Trennell (Joseph Anthony Byrd, Boardwalk Empire)? Last week, Sweety's partner said he was starting fresh in New Mexico.

Raylan Kills Mansell

Boyd Holbrook as Clement Mansell in the 'Justified: City Primeval' series finale.

Chuck Hodes/FX

Conflicted and probably guilt-ridden about his own dirty dealings, Raylan heads to the panic room to cleanly bring Mansell to justice. Once there, he finds the vault door open and Skender (Alexander Pobutsky, Daisy Jones & The Six) dead on the floor. We see it play out in a flashback to two hours before: Desperate for payback, Skender (on crutches, no less) goes to the vault to kill Mansell. Predictably, Mansell beats him to death with his own gun. Then, he heads to the Venus and kills Toma Costia and the rest of the Albanians. 

Back in the present, Raylan warns Carolyn to leave her house now that Mansell is at large. When the Oklahoma Wildman finally does break in, he finds Raylan sitting at the table waiting for him. (It's reminiscent of the Justified quick-draw scenes with both Tommy Bucks and Boyd Crowder.) But Mansell isn't rushing the quick-draw: He goes to the kitchen to grab a beer and talks about his father, a musician he never met. "I got to get going. Before I do, I got you something to remember ole Clement by. I think you're really gonna like this," he says, reaching into his pocket. Raylan shoots him three times, and Mansell pulls a cassette tape from his pocket. (Mansell also had a pistol strapped to his back, and this viewer isn't clear on whether he was reaching for the tape or the gun.) "I can't believe it, chicken fat," he says. "What'd you kill me for?"

Winona Returns (!)

We fast-forward to Miami six weeks later, where a slew of original Justified characters return. Raylan attends a retirement party for Miami Chief Dan Grant (Matt Craven, A Few Good Men), and Deputy Sutter (David Koechner, Anchorman) gives the toast. Later on, Dan congratulates Raylan on getting Mansell and subsequently receiving a pay bump. He offers to recommend Raylan for the chief chair, but Raylan informs him that he's quitting.

We cut to a newly retired Raylan at home, painting the siding. He receives a letter from Carolyn, who won that judge's chair after all and hopes to visit Raylan in Miami. Winona (Natalie Zea) drops off Willa (Vivian Olyphant), and Raylan shares the news of his retirement. He says he's been asking himself why he didn't retire sooner, and Winona responds, "If you couldn't do it for me, I'm glad you could do it for her [Willa]. Don't muck it up."

Boyd Crowder Returns (!!!)

We cut to the Tramble Penitentiary in Kentucky, where who but Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) is still slinging the good word to a rapt audience of inmates. He's had his swastika tattoo removed; and before he's transferred to the hospital for ill health, he wants his congregation to remember that they, too, can change. (Scroll down for a full transcript of Boyd's sermon.) We cut to his transport van, driven by the female Officer Gerret (Ahna O'Reilly, The Help) and Officer Ramirez (the incomparable Luis Guzmán), crossing the all-too-familiar bridge in Harlan County. Gerret pulls a gun on Ramirez and frees Boyd because, well, he's her boyfriend. Boyd locks Ramirez in the van and laughs. Next we see him, he's buttoning his shirt allll the way to the neck and driving off to Mexico with Gerret.

We cut back to Raylan on a boat with Willa in Miami. She wants to know why he quit the Marshals Service. He receives a notification reading, "Federal inmate escapes from Tramble Penitentiary, Kentucky." The look on his face says he hopes it doesn't mean what he thinks it means. Willa reminds him to answer her question — the question: Why did he quit? Then, he gets a call from the Marshals Office in Lexington, Kentucky. It rings a few times and we cut to black, not sure whether he'll answer the call. (Except he totally will.)

What Does It All Mean?

Aunjanue Elis as Carolyn Wilder in the 'Justified: City Primeval' series finale.

Chuck Hodes/FX

The titular question is the one Willa posed: Why did Raylan quit the Marshals Service? Well, because he broke his own code. He shot Mansell, and he doesn't know if it was justified or not. (In the Justified premiere, Raylan declared that the Tommy Bucks shooting "was justified" because Bucks drew on him first.) Did Mansell draw on him? The show takes pains to make it ambiguous: Just before Raylan fires, we get a shot of the gun strapped to Mansell's back. Was he reaching for the gun or the tape? The world may never know. 

So Mansell won? Yeah, kinda. That uncertainty will haunt Raylan. When Dan Grant praised him for nabbing Mansell in the end, Raylan looked none too pleased. He literally jumped the gun, and yet he was rewarded with a pay bump and the promise of a promotion. That's the kind of corruption that happens in Detroit, not in Raylan's world. And since Raylan always rejected the morally bankrupt status quo in D-Town, his voluntary retirement is Raylan sticking to his principles. Alternatively, it marks Raylan's realization that his principles never made any sense — that an unjustified shooting is sometimes the only option. In that case, Mansell still kinda won. 

Are we sure Raylan regrets taking Mansell out in that fashion? Yes. Why? Because it works thematically. Justified: City Primeval is about whether Raylan Givens is capable of change. (Will he bend to the corrupt but efficient Detroit system? Will he drop the cowboy stuff?) Boyd Crowder's appearance is more than just fan service here. He's preaching about how everyone — even criminals — are capable of change. Then he goes and escapes custody for the umpteenth time. Boyd hasn't changed, and neither has Raylan. His code of honor is the same, and he makes the same mistakes despite it.

So, like, this is a really sad ending for Raylan? Completely. Remember Raylan and Boyd's last conversation in the Justified series finale? Boyd had taken up preaching again in prison, and Raylan laughed at him: "You know you're repeating yourself, right?" Boyd's not the only one running in circles. Raylan is right back where he started: in the wake of a morally ambiguous shooting and getting the call to adventure from Kentucky. If Justified: City Primeval gets a second season (it's happened before with shows originally planned as limited series, such as The White Lotus), let's just hope Nick Searcy's Art Mullen is still kicking. 

And, for your reading pleasure, the full transcript of Boyd Crowder's glorious prison sermon:

"Ya'll have known me for a long time, know that my heart was once filled with hate for a people that I'd never even met, and that I still bear the scars of that hate today. [He rolls up his sleeve to show where his swastika tattoo has been removed.] Now, it is no secret that my health has been in decline as of late, and that I am, in fact, this very day being transferred to a hospital so that they may try and identify the source of my malaise. But if it's God's will that this be the last time we speak, I feel it incumbent to impart upon you the great lesson that I've learned over my many years in this place: We are all of us capable of great change, of replacing the hate that led us here with something, something infinitely more useful and powerful...love. Let me hear you say it. Say it again. Say it one more time."

Fire in the hole!

All episodes of Justified: City Primeval are available Aug. 30 on Hulu. 

READ MORE: 11 Shows Like 'Justified: City Primeval' Every Fan Should Binge For More Heroic Lawmen