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The Best Episodes Of Justified According To IMDb

Considered one of the best TV dramas of its era, "Justified" was also author Elmore Leonard's pick for the best adaptation of his own work. The celebrated crime writer once even said that star Timothy Olyphant was the best actor to play any of his characters on screen (via Christian Science Monitor), and that roster includes such Hollywood icons as George Clooney, Christian Bale, Burt Lancaster, Paul Newman, and Robert De Niro. Receiving rave reviews since the day it launched, "Justified" ran for six electric seasons on FX beginning in 2010, and turned Olyphant into a legendary modern-day cowboy. As U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, Olyphant brought his own brand of old-school justice to Harlan County, Kentucky, battling everyone from drug dealers and small-time thugs to dangerous fugitives and criminal kingpins. 

Flanked by a diverse array of allies and facing down a dastardly lot of Southern outlaws, "Justified" also boasted one of the best villains in television history according to Rolling StoneWalton Goggins as the infamous Boyd Crowder. A former miner who sparred with Raylan throughout the series, he came from a family with a long and complicated criminal history in the region. The rich cast of villains on the series also included recurring guest stars Michael Rapaport, Sam Elliott, Margo Martindale, Neal McDonough, and Mary Steenburgen. 

Though it started out as more of a neo-western procedural, "Justified" quickly embraced season-length story arcs, with twisting plotlines that spanned the series. Our top pick for best modern TV western, it's recently been announced that "Justified" will be returning for a follow-up miniseries. While fans wait, we're counting down the best episodes of the six-season series, as ranked by IMDb.

Fugitive Number One

We'll kick off our list with the third-to-last episode of the final season. Art Mullen (Nick Searcy) is back in the saddle at the office after recovering from a gunshot wound, stepping in to take the heat now that Rachel's in trouble for letting Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter) — their untrustworthy former C.I. — get away with $10 million. Now the manhunt continues in "Fugitive Number One," but Art has concerns that if he doesn't act fast the entire office could face serious consequences. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Vasquez (Rick Gomez) accuses Raylan of colluding with Ava, forcing Art to call Raylan off the case.

But Raylan isn't quite ready to let things go — especially when word comes down that Boyd Crowder has escaped his hospital confines. Meanwhile, Avery Markham's (Sam Elliott) trust in Katherine Hale (Mary Steenburgen) begins to erode, and sidekick Mikey (John Kowalsky) has second thoughts about turning on psychotic boss bad Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) after the revelation that he was the man who snitched on Grady Hale all those years ago. Markham's hired gun Boon (Johnathan Tucker) tries to recruit Loretta, setting herself up for a dangerous confrontation. After a shocking death nobody could see coming, the episode ends on one doozy of a cliffhanger as Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens defies orders to return to Lexington, tosses his badge, and heads off to get Boyd Crowder once and for all — on his own, with no backup and no authority to protect him.

The Gunfighter

In the thrilling Season 3 premiere "The Gunfighter," Raylan is still healing from the gunshot wound he sustained in a shootout with Doyle Bennett (Joseph Lyle Taylor) in the previous season's finale. But he's back on duty when he is greeted by his ex-wife Winona (Natalie Zea), who's now pregnant with his baby. Working his first new case in some time, Raylan joins fellow Deputy Marshal Tim Gutterson (Jacob Pitts) on his hunt for Fletcher "The Ice Pick" Nix (Desmond Harrington), a ruthless killer known for playing games with his victims. But during the investigation, Nix realizes Raylan is just the man to test his skills against, and uses Winona as bait to lure him into a duel. In what might just be one of the most tense moments in any episode of the series, Nix and Raylan play chicken with a handgun placed at the center of a table, in a deadly game with Winona's life hanging in the balance.

Meanwhile, Nix's employer, longtime lightweight crime boss Emmitt Arnett (Steven Flynn) has a shocking confrontation with a new rival, introducing audiences to this season's new big bad Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough) and his hidden pistol. Quarles, a powerful figure in the Detroit mafia, has come to Kentucky on a mission, and recruits Duffy to help him. At the same time, Boyd Crowder and his crew try to salvage what they can from the Dickie Bennett's (Jeremy Davies) weed operation now that he's in prison, allying themselves with Memphis pot dealer Rodney "Hot Rod" Dunham (Mickey Jones).

The Hatchet Tour

In Season 4, "The Hatchet Tour" sees Raylan continuing to investigate the case of Drew Thompson, the season's ongoing mystery about a decades-old heist. As Raylan hunts for more information on the identity of the long-escaped fugitive, he picks up the man who murdered his father Arlo (Raymond Barry) in prison in an attempt to keep Thompson's secret from unraveling. But while Raylan is transporting Arlo's killer — former Harlan County sheriff and convicted felon Hunter Mosley (Brent Sexton) — he bumps into bumbling constable Bob Sweeney (Patton Oswalt), who's following up a different lead for him. At the home of Lee Paxton (Sam Anderson), Sweeney is engaged a vicious gun battle when Raylan steps in, just as the current sheriff Shelby Parlow (Jim Beaver) provides the audience with a stunning revelation about the man everyone is looking for.

Back at the Crowders', Colton Rhodes (Ron Eldard) finally cracks under the pressure and admits to Boyd that he never did kill prostitute Ellen May (Abby Miller) as he was told, instead having lost her at a gas station on his way to do the deed. With her having been revealed as alive and in the wind, Boyd becomes obsessed with finding her and finally eliminating the lost soul before she can cause him any more trouble. The search leads Colton to a tent church, and a tense standoff with fellow Iraq war veteran, Deputy U.S. Marshal and former military sniper Tim Gutterson. Can Colton make it out alive? And even if he does, can Boyd just let him walk away for lying to him?


"Reckoning" was the penultimate episode of the second season of "Justified," and found Raylan dealing with the fallout from his Aunt Helen's (Linda Gehringer) death in the episode "Full Commitment." Killed by Dickie Bennett after he'd identified Arlo during Boyd Crowder's hijacking of their weed sale, Helen's death was collateral damage, and sparks a violent battle for vengeance. Raylan, Arlo, and Crowder all want payback, and while Raylan struggles to stop his father from getting deeper into trouble, hoping to take Dickie into custody, that doesn't mean he's going to be clean or quiet about it either.

The personal vendetta forces Raylan and his father into an uncomfortable situation, and Raylan is forced to make a tough choice to keep Arlo safe and get to Dickie without turning things into an all-out gang war. Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale) must make her own choice, too, and weighs turning her own son in to protect the family, and their livelihood, from the law. But whatever happens, Dickie isn't about to take it lying down, and hatches a plan to make things right and clean up the mess he's made. Can Raylan stop him and find justice for Helen before Dickie gets more people killed? Back in foster care, orphaned teen Loretta (Kaitlyn Dever) is still having problems fitting in, and talks to her foster mother about the troubles she's had in the past, and starts to come to terms with what a normal life might look like for her.

Full Commitment

Just one episode prior to "Reckoning," the Season 2 episode "Full Commitment" begins with federal agents descending on Harlan County in response to an assassination attempt on Raylan and Winona. While the investigation suggests it's a pair of thugs with a grudge against the marshal, Raylan himself has other suspicions — namely that his ex-wife's current husband, the realtor Gary Hawkins (William Ragsdale), is behind the plot. But until the case is resolved, Chief Mullen pairs Raylan with sarcastic fellow officer Tim, whom he orders to shadow Raylan, leading to more than one uncomfortable moment as Raylan seeks to track down the assassins on his own. Ordered not to take part in the investigation, Raylan of course can't help himself, and gives Tim the slip, looking into his own gut feeling that there's more to Hawkins than meets the eye.

The Bennetts, meanwhile, have finally made their deal with the Black Pike Mining Company, but Mags has announced she's cutting Dickie out of it. Instead, she'll hand over the family's weed business to him, but leave him out in the cold from the millions the family receives from the oil corporation. Dickie's not too happy, and things get worse when Boyd Crowder and his crew intercede in a deal with Memphis marijuana dealer Rodney "Hot Rod" Dunham. Humiliated by his rivals and his own mother, Dickie wants revenge, and he knows just where to get it.

Save My Love

The Season 2 episode "Save My Love" sees the long-awaited return of the bitter, quirky Judge Reardon (Stephen Root); this time, he's presiding over the Black Pike Mining Company case. The episode also introduces Carol Johnson (Rebecca Creskoff), the shrewd corporate VP of the oil company seeking to stake a claim to Harlan County land against the objections of many in the town — including powerful figures like Mags Bennett. The episode opens with Winona and Raylan waking up together, though it's not all bliss; Winona discovers that the $100 bill Raylan retrieved for her so she could replace money she "borrowed" from the evidence room doesn't match, and once again asks him to help her avoid getting into trouble.

As the Black Pike court case is set, Johnson recruits Boyd Crowder as her own personal bodyguard, knowing her business in town has made her many dangerous enemies. Seeing it as an opportunity, Boyd accepts, and suddenly finds himself doing good for once. But just as Raylan think he's fixed Winona's missing money problem, there's a bomb threat in the courthouse, forcing an evacuation of the entire building and leading to climax that could very well decide Winona's fate.

Brother's Keeper

It's a game of corporate chess when Carol Johnson from the Black Pike Mining Co. tries to make inroads in Harlan in the Season 2 episode "Brother's Keeper." Crashing a party at the Bennett residence, Johnson and her loyal bodyguard Boyd Crowder attempt to make friends and turn the people to their side by convincing them that a buyout could be what's best for everyone. Family matriarch Mags gets the upper hand when she has a meeting of the minds with Boyd, and makes her own alliances to try to stop Black Pike from stealing her family's legacy. One step ahead of her, though, Boyd has plans of his own.

Mags is also dealing with the young Loretta, who is beginning to suspect that there was more to her father's disappearance than Mags is letting on. When she discovers evidence that he's not just away on business, and that the Bennetts actually had him killed, the dimwitted Coover Bennett (Brad William Henke) sees red and comes after her. Loretta is forced to call on the one man who's offered to help if she found herself in trouble: Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens. But can he get there in time, and if he does, can he face down the entire Bennett clan alone and get out alive?


The end of the series is quickly drawing near in "Collateral," the second-to-last episode of Season 6. Boyd Crowder is on the loose and in search of Ava, desperate to stay a step ahead of Raylan and find the former lover who's made off with $10 million in stolen money. On the other side of town, Raylan is also a fugitive of sorts, having gone against orders — and outside the law — denouncing his marshal duties to take a run at Boyd. If he can find Ava, he'll likely find Boyd, and as the clock winds down, it's clear that a final face-off is coming between Raylan and the series' most sinister villain. But first, Raylan must get past Harlan's "hill people" and find Ava hiding in the mountains with her uncle Zachariah (Jeff Fahey), and it's not going to be as easy as it sounds.

Ava's got her own problems with her uncle, though, when the two can't get on the same page about the next step in their escape plan. And it's not just Raylan on her tail; Boyd wants her money and her life, and Avery Markham wants the same. It seems like all parties are going to converge, and the outcome is sure to leave more than one person dead. But before Avery sends his men, he makes one last unexpected ally in his quest to rule Harlan: the teenaged orphan Loretta.


Raylan finally has his hands on the mysterious Drew Thompson – the longtime fugitive who's been hiding in plain sight for 30 years — in Season 4's "Decoy." But getting the wanted man out of Harlan alive is going to be no easy task, with Thompson carrying secrets that could destroy powerful people — including Detroit mob boss Theo Tonin (Adam Arkin) — and more than one gang looking to cash in on taking him out. Both Crowders — Boyd and Johnny — are being paid to put Drew in the dirt, with Boyd making a desperate deal to do the deed for Tonin's underboss Nicky Augustine, and Wynn Duffy offering Johnny Crowder (David Meunier) a payday to betray his brother and do the same. 

Using a decoy caravan, Art Mullen and Tim Gutterson take to the road where Boyd's lieutenant Colt is waiting with a roadside ambush. But Tim's experience in the war tells him it's a trap, saving their lives. Meanwhile, Boyd realizes that the only safe way for Drew to get out of town is by air, and he suspects Raylan may be holed up in the old abandoned high school that once was used as a helipad. Converging on the school, Boyd and his gunmen lie in wait as Raylan — with the help of Constable Bob Sweeney, whom he rescues in one of the series' most brutal torture scenes — hope to bide enough time until the cavalry arrives.


The Season 3 finale, "Slaughterhouse," sees the story of vicious Detroit mafia underboss Robert Quarles reach its bloody end, in a shocking and terrifying conclusion unlike anything the show has seen. After the shooting and car bomb that left beloved state trooper Tom Bergen (Peter Murnik) dead, all signs point to Robert Quarles, and after the death of one of their own, police — and Raylan — will do whatever it takes to find him as they call in a special task force to track down the psychopathic criminal. Raylan's own investigation leads him once again to the slick Wynn Duffy, and he plays a dangerous game to get a confession. But it only leads him up to Nobles Holler, where Limehouse makes him an offer he finds hard to refuse, despite the risks. 

Unfortunately, Raylan gets startling new information about Bergen's killer that could change everything for him. At the same time, Arlo is claiming his dead wife Helen has been giving him orders, disturbing Boyd and Ava, who realize he might be more of a liability than an asset. And when Quarles is told by Tonin that he's not welcome back in Detroit, he takes a family hostage and demands a confrontation with Givens at the holler, in a final showdown.

Bloody Harlan

"Bloody Harlan" sees a reckoning for the many decades of dominance by the Bennett clan, and begins with the Crowders calling for a parlay that quickly leads to a battle for control of Harlan. Betraying their momentary truce, Mags Bennett sends men to assassinate the Crowders, but Boyd's deal with one of Doyle's ambitious deputies keeps him one step ahead, and his crew manages to get the drop on the gunmen. It may be too late for Ava, though, as during an explosive firefight she's left seriously wounded by Dickie, who managed to sneak past Devil (Kevin Rankin) and plug her with a slug to the chest.

But it's not Boyd, or even Raylan, that's the biggest danger to Mags, as Loretta has run away from her foster home looking for revenge for the death of her father. Racing to stop the orphaned teen from throwing her entire future away, Raylan is caught up in the Bennetts' war with the Crowders, and before the day is done, lives will be lost and fates will be forever altered. In a fun callback, this episode also sees the introduction of a local man named Wade Messer (played by actor James Le Gros), who once played Raylan Givens in the 1997 television movie, "Pronto."

The Promise

It's rare that a beloved long-running series can deliver not just a great series capper, but a finale that ranks as the best of its entire run. "Justified" managed the impossible feat in its final episode, "The Promise." It's the culmination of everything that has come before, the ending to the season's dramatic story of Avery Markham, and features final showdowns between Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens and not one, but two diabolical villains. It all starts, however, with the shocking moment when Raylan is taken into custody by state troopers at the instruction of AUSA Vasquez. But Chief Mullen insists on remanding Raylan himself and, after one last argument, gives his favorite deputy marshal his gun and badge, and restarts the manhunt for Boyd and Ava Crowder.

Indeed, one of the best episodes of the entire series, IMDb ranks it tops above them all, perhaps for finally giving fans the last word between Boyd and Raylan, or perhaps for the climactic moment when he squares off with Boon in a classic western shoot-out between the show's best two gunslingers. It could also be for the touching conclusion that flashes forward to show him living in Miami with his daughter. Whatever the case, it's a roller-coaster episode that'll keep you on the edge of your seat.