Justified season three finale: Slaughterhouse

Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) is in a tough spot with Quarles (Neal McDonough) in the season three finale of "Justified." © FX photos by Prashant Gupta.

SPOILER ALERT: If you have not watched the April 10, 2012 episode of Justified but intend to, do not read further.

In the end, Raylan’s father was willing to shoot him, and he was willing to essentially sacrifice his life for Raylan’s No. 1 nemesis.

Season three of Justified did not end quite as artfully as its two predecessors. How are you going to top Mags taking a lethal drink of her own apple pie? This season’s numero uno bad guy, Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough) did die in the final moments of the season finale in a moment appropriate to the episode’s name, Slaughterhouse.

Tripped out on drugs and on the run, Quarles kidnapped a family camping at Christian rock festival — how far is Wilmore from Harlan in Justified geography? — and eventually lured Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) into a trap to take him back to Limehouse’s ((Mykelti Williamson) barbecue establishment to get the half-million dollars Tonin (Adam Arkin) said would be his ticket back to Detroit.

My bet is Tonin would have killed Quarles anyway, but we will never find out because is a scuffle Limehouse lopped off Quarles’ arm. With his *dying breaths, Quarles informed Raylan that he didn’t kill State Trooper Tom Bergen (Peter Murnik) the previous night at Boyd’s bar.

Arlo (Raymond Barry) with his son Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) in one of Arlo's final moments of freedom.

It was Raylan’s dad, Arlo (Raymond Barry).

For that, Arlo was  hauled into jail in Lexington where Boyd (Walton Goggins) was already cooling his heels for the murder of Devil, which happened earlier this season. It’s a murder we saw Boyd commit.

But in the interrogation room, Arlo took the rap for that murder too, saying in both cases he was trying to protect Boyd. Moments before that scene, Boyd told Raylan he considered Arlo family.

Thing is, in an earlier exchange with Raylan, Arlo said all he knew was a cop in a hat was shot — Raylan’s profile.

So, did Arlo shoot a shadow, knowing full well it could have been his own son, to protect his son’s nemesis?

The message seems to be that in some cases, vocation is thicker than blood. At heart, Arlo is a crook who prioritized protecting the crime boss who took him in over anything else, even his own blood. And Raylan is a heart a lawman, and seeing one of his own colleagues gunned down erased any qualms he had about sending his father off to probably die in prison.

It’s another twist in the bizarre Justified relationships we’ll take into season four.

Presumably, we will have two chief bad guys still on stage when Justified returns, both with sharper edges than they had before.

In a voice-over, Raylan says he asked Boyd if he was proud of having a feeble old man take the fall for him, and it didn’t seem to bother Boyd, which takes some shine off his persona. It also could add fuel to Raylan’s pursuit of Boyd, though we would have to scratch deep below Raylan’s surface to find any love left for Arlo.

And Limehouse showed how shallow his grin and smooth talk is, dispatching Errol (Demetrius Grosse), a lifelong friend so loyal he returned and took a bullet for Limehouse.

When Justified returns, we’ll have a better sense what both men are capable of, and less willingness to give them a pass as good ol’ bad guys.

We’ll also have Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns), who got a better sense of what Raylan was capable of in this episode when Raylan played a game of roulette with him trying to find Quarles’ location.

And who knows if Tonin will return, as we only saw a little of this character played by one of Justified’s higher profile guest stars. And we never saw that ear thing we were told about a few episodes ago, though if I were going to ask the Justified writers for anything in the coming season, it would be, can we cut back on the really gross stuff like dismemberments, chained up sex slaves and slaughterhouses?

Well, if Limehouse is back, I guess we’ll still have the slaughterhouse.

And don’t forget, Dickie Bennett is still alive, with a knack for getting out of jail.

Who knows what kind of new bad guy the Justified writers will cook up for next year, or do we already have enough people gunning for Raylan?

As the final scene reminded us, we also have the prospect of Raylan as dad next season, and relations between him and Winona (Natalie Zea) are still quite chilly.

And that is also what the weather will be the next time we return to Harlan with Justified.

* A good friend a loyal Justified watcher points out we never saw Quarles die, and that having a limb cut off is not necessarily a fatal injury. I replied that it probably is if no one helps you, and I don’t know who in the crowd that was there would help him, but hmmmmm.

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