Raylan Versus The Villains: Justified's Five Greatest Moments

Justified is returning to FX’s schedule tonight, and there’s pretty much a guarantee Raylan Givens will be slinging guns. The real question is: at whom?

Justified is a series that is big on its bad guys, and that ebbs and flows in quality with the quality of its bad guys. With Givens himself beginning to re-evaulate his morals and readjust some of his actions at the end of Season 3, it’s hard telling what Season 4 has planned for fans. What we can tell is how Givens has handled quarrels, issues, and cruxes in the past, giving warnings that the bad guys generally ignore and coming out guns blazing (sometimes getting shot himself) in the end.

Because if nothing else, Justified is about conflicts in personality. It’s about two men, or a man and a woman, testing each other’s wills and trying to exert their force on the other. It’s about Raylan trying to gain the edge on Kentucky’s greatest outlaws, businessmen, and thieves. So, without further ado, here are Raylan’s greatest match-ups in the history of Justified.

Spoiler Alert: What follows obviously contains spoilers. If you have not watched Justified in its entirety yet, please stop reading and go purchase any and all Blu-rays needed to catch you up.

5. Raylan vs. Robert Quarles and a Kidnapped Kid

Quarles was always a bit of a madman, and watching him lose his edge as we got deeper and deeper into Season 3 was a little difficult to get through. However, Raylan never seemed to be nearly as concerned about the man who was trying to find a criminal niche in Harlan County, likely because he hadn’t seen a lot of the twisted shit the audience had been privy too.

However, when Quarles made his big play, calling up Raylan when our Deputy Marshal was already in an anxious state having seen a cop he loved and trusted dead in a parking lot, of course Raylan is going to walk straight into danger, meeting up with Quarles and the kidnapped kid. It’s a pretty tenuous situation, involving money, one crazy dude just hoping to head home, and the veteran criminal Ellstin Limehouse. And while Limehouse is the butcher who eventually takes down Quarles, it’s Raylan’s relations with Ellstin and smooth navigation of the system that keep himself and the kidnapped kid alive.

4. Raylan vs. Boyd Crowder and Religion

Boyd Crowder is Raylan’s archenemy. He is the yin to Raylan’s yang and has been the main antagonist throughout the history of Justified. In another lifetime and a different sort of show, Boyd would be Raylan’s best friend. In this sort of show, he’s saved Raylan’s life and threatened Raylan’s life, always seemingly involved, somehow, in whatever criminal schemes bring the U.S. Marshal to Harlan.

During Season 1, however, this relationship was still fermenting, compounded by the fact that Boyd was on a religious train--an angle Raylan neither believed in nor appreciated. That angle helped to fuel the fire of antagonism between the two men, until an unexpected moment when they agreed to join together to defeat a common enemy. You can call it collusion or you could just call it survival of the smartest. Maybe you could even call it the desire to protect the same woman, as Ava happened to be involved. Whatever you call it, the end of Season 1 has left us with a relationship between the two men that must be confusing to navigate, but is a hell of a lot of fun to watch play out onscreen.

3. Raylan vs. Arlo Givens and their Shared Past

The shit between Raylan and his father, Arlo, is so deep, it’s impossible to even wade in, and it’s a wonder it hasn’t managed to sink one or both of the two men. There’s a lot of anger inside Raylan due to his poor bringing up by his criminal father, and there’s a lot of stubborness in Arlo, who is already set in his ways.

All of this comes to a head at the end of Season 1, when Arlo is easily talked into killing his son. Of course, Raylan is a sharp cookie, and expects betrayal from his own father, who hates Raylan for turning into the law. There’s a moment where the two men share a candid moment, looking back into the past before Raylan capably disarms his father by shooting—not to kill, of course. At one point, the two men could have re-evaluated their relationship, but now their past has caught up with their present, and antagonism is still a prominent part of that relationship.

2. Raylan vs. Wynn Duffy and a Bullet

Wynn Duffy is a man who appreciates his own hide. He also appreciates making money unlawfully, and this has put him on Raylan’s radar more than a time or two. To make his criminal demeanor a little more wild, Duffy lives in a mobile home, which means his criminal enterprise can move from place to place.

The mobile home is actually the highlight of the greatest moment between Wynn and Raylan, which has been one of the best scenes in the series thus far. In season two, Raylan gets caught up in some trouble between Duffy and his ex-wife Wynona’s new family and bounds up to that trailer, barging in and leaving behind a bullet for Duffy, stating, "As long as you understand that the next time we have this conversation it won't be a conversation.” It wasn’t, but that doesn’t change the sharp wit present in that scene.

1. Raylan vs. Mags Bennett and Poison

There’s no doubt in my mind, and probably not in anyone else’s, that Mags Bennett has been the best villain we’ve seen throughout each of the seasons of Justified. Mags was sharp-witted and she had a mind to build an empire, if it wasn’t for the meddling of her idiot sons. There are plenty of good match-ups between Mags and Raylan throughout Season 2, but the best is probably a moment between Mags, the young Loretta, and the U.S. Marshal.

Mags was already in bad shape by the time Raylan returned to see her at the end of Season 2 with Loretta shooting her in the leg to avenge her father’s death. In fact, Raylan had been shot in the stomach, so it wasn’t his best day on the job, either. Still, the two sit down to talk and the feud is settled, but Mags gets one final act of revenge, killing herself with some poison from the hills as she drank some of her famous apple pie moonshine, and thus ending an era of crime in Harlan County.

What are some of your favorite moments? Let us know in the comments, below.

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Reality TV fan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. Theme park junkie. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.