Updated 4/15 at 8:50am PDT.
Justified, Episode 613: "The Promise"
Original airdate: April 14, 2015 on FX
Spoiler warning: This page contains descriptions of events in this and previous episodes.
FX's neo-western Justified wrapped up its sixth and final season last night with an hour filled with showdowns, climaxes, and an unexpected time jump, all combining to wrap up loose ends for many of the characters while rewarding longtime viewers with numerous references to the show's very first episode. Below is a sampling of critics' morning-after reactions to the finale and to the last season as a whole. Individual review scores are displayed only for those publications that explicitly assigned a grade to the episode. Click on any publication name to read the full review.
Extremely positive reviews
That’s the kind of storytelling decision a series finale should have, one that is simultaneously unexpected and inevitable.
Justified departs as that rare series that succeeds as saga, as a cohesive, thematically clear whole. ... Going into the finale, I worried that Justified had left way too many story lines for the show to wrap up in satisfying fashion. And yet, Yost, his fellow writers, director Adam Arkin and the cast managed to do everything they needed to do and then some, making every scene and every beat count for something, every moment of important getting exactly the amount of time it needed, no more, no less. There were curious compressions, but the quality of everything else made the clunk easy to ignore.
The Hollywood Reporter
That finale should be considered a high point of the series (along with the masterful second season), because all endings on television are difficult and more so when you’ve got a protagonist/antagonist situation where both characters are, in some way, equally beloved by the audience. ... In the end, Justified won’t sit in the pantheon of shows like The Wire, The Sopranos, Mad Men or Breaking Bad, but somewhere high on the tier below. However, Raylan and Boyd will certainly take their place with the best of any of the characters from those other shows. And that’s a mighty accomplishment.
At the end, the series ended exactly as it should have: charming, bordering sweet and bittersweet, and leaving us with a mostly resolved world. ... Elmore Leonard would be proud.
For me, they put a perfect cap on the series.
Justified was richly satisfying to the end, and that’s something many more ambitious shows haven’t been able to pull off.
It’s only a kind of Western, and what has made it great–its true legacy from late godfather Elmore Leonard–is that its choicest ammunition has always been the word. ... And Justified spends its final 20 minutes displaying its verbal firepower.
"The Promise" wasn't the finale we expected, it was the finale we didn't realize we wanted until now. Well done, Justified.
Justified, the sort of modern-day Western, may not have gone out guns blazing, but it succeeded in finding a satisfying ending that stuck true to its characters and story.
[The finale] stayed true to the program’s modern-cowboy ethos as well as the heady mixture of drama, comedy and tension that has always defined the dynamics among its key players.
Matt Zoller Seitz
What we did see was spare, concrete, and direct — basically an extended climax, a muffled detonation of a fuse that had been burning all season long. ... The end might be the best cut to black since the end of The Sopranos, though of course the artistic intent could not be more different. We saw what happened, we know what it meant, now it's all over.
The seasons felt like chapters, the entire endeavor was literate TV. No surprise, then, that the tale came full circle in the finale.
The conclusions we get to see are satisfying, and most of the ones we don’t, we can live with. More than that: They’re tantalizing, in their own passive ways. You’re free to imagine the brightest possible future for Loretta, the most sterling of careers for Rachel.
An ending where things are not so terrible ... felt awfully satisfying, and awfully true to the origins of both the show and its main character. ... It was a definitive, entertaining conclusion to the story of Raylan's time in Kentucky, and I suppose that will make the show both easier to recommend to newcomers and more enticing to revisit one day for us. It felt very much of a piece of all that came before it.
Los Angeles Times
"The Promise" is something of a muted finale for a show like "Justified," but it's the right finish, not quite excellent but certainly memorable. It hummed along, leaving me not entirely certain when it was going to end.
The New York Times
Tuesday’s episode suffered a common series-finale affliction: In order to leave room for a poignant coda, the showdowns between Raylan and Boyd and Raylan and Boon were a little rushed and anticlimactic. But the final 15 minutes were worth it — a quiet, bittersweet postscript, with no far-fetched twist or excess sentiment.
To the end, “Justified” was surprising with its twists and dialogue. Fans may have expected a fiery finale, but “Justified” delivered something else that was so satisfying.
Sound on Sight
It’s the pervasive humanism that makes “The Promise” work, and while I’m not sure it’s a perfect fit with all that came before it on a tonal and narrative level, there’s something rather beguiling about the way it pay tribute to the works and the man who spawned it, as well as the notion that there’s hope for even the stubbornest – or angriest – of people, just so long as they’re willing to accept that even if their past will haunt them forever, it doesn’t have to set the agenda.
By "Justified" standards, it's an extremely understated way to go out, and maybe not one that will fully satisfy some fans of Raylan's trigger-happy ways or those who believed he deserved a worse fate. Yet it feels fitting.
What do you think?
What did you think of last night's episode, and of the entire final season of Justified? Let us know in the comments section below.