TV Club

Justified speculation: The bodies are piling up in Harlan County. What next?

What happens after we meet Drew Thompson next week? The season’s not close to over.

Justified, Season 4, Episode 8
Can you really see Raylan taking over for Art when he retires?   

Photo by Prashant Gupta/FX

Even by Justified’s action-packed standards, “Outlaw” was a busy episode. Arlo died. Boyd climbed on Wynn Duffy’s shoulders and then kicked him in the head on the way up the criminal kingpin career ladder. Then Raylan took out an assassin and saved Boyd’s life. Oh, and five or six other people died. In fact, it felt more like the penultimate episode of a season, not something from the middle.

You know how it is with dramas that have season-long arcs. So often the episode before the finale takes care of extraneous side plots and characters, leaving the season-ender its one big moment, some resolution, and time to lay the groundwork for next season.

It’s obvious from the previews that we will meet Drew Thompson next week—somehow Sheriff Hunter ends up out of prison and in Raylan’s car and he greets an unseen person, asking “So what now, Drew?” (I hope it’s not Shelby. I hope it’s not Shelby. I hope it’s not Shelby.) And yet, that will be just the ninth of Season 4’s 13 episodes.

All of which raises the question (and yes, I, too, was disappointed by Boyd’s improper use of “begs the question” in his conversation with Nick Augustine), what is going to happen for the rest of the season?

Some wild guesses:

The marshals bring in Drew Thompson and in the course of his questioning, we flash back to 1983 and see Arlo and Bo Crowder in their prime, and see young Raylan and Boyd shaped by their fathers’ choices. Who wouldn’t love to see this?

Colt dies. This is almost a no-brainer. He’s been, to borrow a phrase from Raylan, “circling the drain” ever since he lost Ellen May. Now he’s gone and killed Tim’s friend.

Raylan. What will happen to Raylan? He told both Hunter and a nearly comatose Arlo that he wants Art’s job. This is indeed a better option in terms of his pending fatherhood than taking side jobs from bounty hunters, but it’s impossible to imagine that he’ll spend next season behind a desk.

Boyd is going to have his hands full. He starts his working relationship with Theo Tonin in his debt. That can’t bode well. Already this season, he’s rid himself of Preacher Billy and the Harlan County Legion of Doom. How much else can he do? And is he overconfident? Seems like it. Combine his cockiness with his recent engagement, and I’d give even odds that either Ava or Boyd or both don’t survive the season. If Boyd dies, what will Ava do next? Get engaged to Cousin Johnny? All I can ask is: Give us as many scenes with Boyd and Raylan together as possible, please, just in case these next five episodes are Boyd’s last.