Episode Review: Justified Series Finale

  • Publish Date: April 15, 2015
  • Comments: ↓ 6 user comments

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.

Great Extremely positive reviews


Alasdair Wilkins
A.V. Club

That’s the kind of storytelling decision a series finale should have, one that is simultaneously unexpected and inevitable.


Jeff Jensen
Entertainment Weekly

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.


Tim Goodman
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.


Seth Amitin

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.


Jack McKinney

For me, they put a perfect cap on the series.


Mitch Salem

Justified was richly satisfying to the end, and that’s something many more ambitious shows haven’t been able to pull off.


James Poniewozik

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.


Tim Surette

"The Promise" wasn't the finale we expected, it was the finale we didn't realize we wanted until now. Well done, Justified.


Sean McKenna
TV Fanatic

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.


Brian Lowry

[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.

Positive Positive reviews


Joanne Ostrow
Denver Post

The seasons felt like chapters, the entire endeavor was literate TV. No surprise, then, that the tale came full circle in the finale.


Holly Anderson

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.


Alan Sepinwall

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.


James Queally
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.


Mike Hale
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.


Hal Boedeker
Orlando Sentinel

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.


Simon Howell
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.


Rick Porter

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.

Comments (6)

  • DPtdryste  

    Excellent ending to the show. The season wasn't without some of the post-S2 flaws that plagued the rest of the show's episodes, but with shows like this, cops and robbers, there's a certain level of genius, lightheartedness, and action that kept us always coming back. I didn't always agree with you, Justified, but you were awesome.

    I loved the last minutes with our favorite characters, extremely poignant and beautiful.

  • randyduck  

    One of my favorite shows of all time. Loved the Deadwood series with Timothy Olyphant, and many of that cast appeared over the seasons on Justified. I don't know if the ending left an opening for a future spin-off series or a reunion movie/episode. Sadly, I believe not. So, I applaud the writing of the final episode, as it provides closure for the series as a whole. I would like to say that during the final episode, I kept watching the clock. So much drama and intensity built up scene after scene. I never knew when what would be the outcome for any character in any instance. Would Raylan and Markam square off? Would Raylan and Boon take each other out? Who would be left standing between the Raylan/Boyd showdown. Would Ava escape or take out Boyd and/or Raylan? Would any of the other Marshals get caught in the crossfire? etc, etc.....

    I was satisfied by the outcome and most of the results contrived by the writers put my mind at ease. As I stated, I was watching the clock. While I did not know when the climax would result, I knew exactly when the show would end. This meant that the final minute or two was a countdown for all things that could possibly happen. Even with a powerful buildup and unexpected turns, the seconds were ticking down. It leaves the unexpected epic twist and turns possibilities to be on a timer, at least for me.

    I would suggest something for any series of this magnitude, length and developed plot. Advertise the final episode to be of unknown length. Work it out with the network and allow as much time needed or not to close the story without the viewer ever knowing when it will actually end. If you need an abrupt end like the Sopranos and can cut it in 37 minutes, so be it. If it takes an hour and 17 minutes, fine. But never let the viewer know that it WILL end at a specific time. If written well, the drama, suspense and closure can all be achieved within the predetermined time frame. However, as an invested viewer, I want that extra unknown for that final episode. I believe it would be the proper way to keep us hanging on until the very, very last second.

  • robbeyman  

    What a great show! I loved it and wish it would continue. How good is Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens? What next for Tim? I would like to see him make a few westerns, he could be as great as Clint Eastwood. Anyone notice the similarities?

  • LamontRaymond  

    FX keeps rolling. Can't wait for the next thing they come up iwth. Fargo was incredible. While the rest of Hollywood is playing it safe (cop/legal/medical/comic book dramas), everything on this network reeks of originality. I'm sorry to have to say goodbye to Harlan County and its stories. What great women characters, by the way? Ava, Margo Martindale's matriarch, the new head marshal in Lexington....

  • TazMania  

    Awesome ending for an awesome show

  • MarcDoyle  

    Tim Goodman may have put it best: it may not sit in the immediate vicinity of Breaking Bad, The Wire, The Sopranos, and Mad Men, but it's VERY close, perhaps there with Friday Night Lights, BattleStar Galactica, The Shield, and a small handful of others. And yes, Raylan and Boyd will be considered among the best pair of opposing forces in TV history. I was a little put off by the extent of the hostility between the characters in this final season, but the final 20 minutes of the finale re-calibrates the relationship perfectly.

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