For those who have been watching FX’s electrifying series JUSTIFIED, the transformation of bad-boy Boyd Crowder over the past season and a half has been riveting. Played by the equally fascinating Walton Goggins, the dichotomy of such a strong actor immersed in such a complex, yet compelling character has enthralled viewers. Essentially, the show has grasped a rattlesnake by the tail and is allowing us to see how it plays out.
Make no bones about it, any way you look at it, Boyd Crowder is a cold-blooded killer. When we were first introduced to Boyd in the pilot episode, he blew up a church and ended up shot after squaring off with U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens. Boyd and Raylan, having grown up together, are like opposite sides to the same coin — best friends who chose different sides of the law and yet whose fates are inexplicably tied together. Throughout the first season, it became less clear whether Raylan or Boyd were really all that different; particularly as they both believed fervently that their viewpoint was the right one and would do anything to back it up. Raylan just happens to have the law on his side having the protection of the U.S. Marshal service to back him up.
So as Raylan continues to walk the path of righteous justice, behind the power of the badge, Boyd has embarked on a thornier and murkier path.
Painted as a free-spirited, sociopathic killer within the first few minutes of the series, ever since that point Boyd has had to claw his way back to some semblance of humanity. Yet where Boyd stands now, he appears to be a white knight hiding under a black hat. Is there a heart of gold and a good man cloaked beneath his misdeeds and dark past?
In season one, after being shot by his best friend, Boyd’s recovery was not only a physical one, but a spiritual one as well. Lying in that prison hospital bed, Boyd saw the light. It may not be the true “light” of spiritual salvation, but he embraced it for a time. He understood from the depths of his soul that some changes needed to be made and he consciously chose to alter his life-path. Yet it felt contrived and disingenuous to hear him proclaim his sudden fervor for Christian doctrine and espousing the virtues of a godly life. Yet, in spite of it all, Boyd genuinely seemed to endeavor to make a dramatic change in his life.
But, like any man who strays too far from his known roots, it is hard for anyone to fully believe that a man can change. Boyd’s father, Bo Crowder, certainly never believed that his son had turned his back on his wayward and criminal ways. In his dying breath, Bo never doubted that his son was a killer – it was only too heartbreaking that Bo’s belief was proved true. Boyd intended to kill his father to make him pay for killing Boyd’s congregation and to save his, Raylan and Ava Crowder’s lives in a nasty stand-off at the end of the first season. Like the series title, the killing would have been justified. Forced to nearly kill his own father to save his own life and the lives of others, Boyd had no choice but to shed his new religious skin.
Then as the second season opened, Boyd seemed a bit lost – caught between two worlds. In one world, Boyd is the thief, killer and criminal to the core; in another, Boyd is a man forgiven of his transgressions and preaching the gospel to followers who share his belief of redemption – no matter how grievous the sin. But because, in season one, Bo Crowder killed all of Boyd’s faithful followers, and, with nowhere to turn, this season, Boyd turned to one of his kin also torn in the direction her life has gone: Ava Crowder, Boyd’s sister-in-law who had married Boyd’s brother, Bowman, only to kill him at the dinner table one night in order to escape a life of relentless beatings. Like Boyd, Ava is caught up in a world where violence is the norm; one must fight or forever be a victim. But neither Boyd, nor Ava is willing to be the victim. They are fighters and they do not hesitate to kill when necessary.
It made sense, in an odd sort of way, that Boyd would turn to Ava and that she would take him in. Yet, when Raylan found Boyd had taken up residence in Ava’s house – albeit in a spare room – we were equally shocked. After all, Boyd was the one who had tried to kill Ava in retaliation for her killing his brother. But it showed how far Boyd had come. He is not the reckless, devil-may-care man who would shoot-first and ask-questions-later guy that Raylan was forced to shoot in the first season. Boyd’s dark journey has brought him to the point where even Ava can see that he is not the same man – or better yet, he is the same man with a better heart.
Boyd appears intent on being a better man; whether for himself, or perhaps to win an unattainable woman, Boyd is determined to stick to the path where he can live on the right side of the law. With such strong incentives keeping him on the straight-and-narrow, it was therefore shocking; yet not entirely surprising that Boyd was willing to do anything to protect his new life. He had warned Kyle Easterly and his cronies about the instability of the battery used in their heist, yet their intent to kill Boyd back-fired as they only triggered their own death. Thus, later when Ava confronted Boyd about involving her in the heist deaths by leaving the note instructing her to call a number at a specific time, making Ave an unknowing alibi, she wanted to know why Boyd had done it. Normally, this situation would enrage the average person and they would not agree to protect Boyd. But Ava understood that Boyd was only protecting himself, and perhaps her – she gets why Boyd opted for frontier-justice in lieu of asking for Raylan’s help. It is a matter of pride. The need to stand up for oneself.
In addition, Kyle’s gang is not the sort of people that would forget Boyd’s betrayal and they would seek retribution; and for some kinds of evil, you can only kill it. In the JUSTIFIED world, killing is how you deal with evil – and a philosophy Raylan and Ava both innately understand. For Raylan never hesitates to shoot and kill. He may have to withstand an I.A. investigation because of it, but he does not hesitate to put a mad-dog down. Nor did Ava when she shot her husband rather than just leave him. And nor did Boyd when confronted with a gang of criminals intent on raining down havoc and hell on all who stand in their path.
Boyd knows from a lifetime of bad pursuits the temptation of evil. He fights it every day in order to be worthy of Raylan’s friendship and Ava’s love. The struggle and sacrifice he makes is noble, and we cheer his effort. Boyd may not yet be a butterfly, but his fight within the cocoon to transform is admirable – and captivating.
JUSTIFIED airs Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. on FX.
Tiffany Vogt is a contributing writer to TheTVAddict. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at Tiffany_Vogt_2000@yahoo.com or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower).