Following Justified Season 5 Episode 7, we are now over half way through with this spring's run - and although I have been mostly praising each individual installment, it feels at this point that the whole of the season hasn't been up to the level of year's past.
Maybe that's why Graham Yost and Timothy Olyphant announced that next season would be Justified's last. Maybe they realized that they were running out of terrific original stories to tell, and that it would be best to put all of their remaining focus onto one final run.
This season hasn't been bad. Justified has produced at such a high level for a number of years that the slightest of downticks has me questioning my overall enjoyment over the last few weeks.
And "Raw Deal" may have just been the hour that made me realize it.
Whether it were moments that felt too similar to other episodes and/or scenes from Justified's past, or those that reminded me of things a number of other series have done, this hour didn't leave me on the edge of my seat wanting more. It left me shrugging my shoulders.
The Elmore Leonardian trope of bad guys turning on each other has become so prevalent during Justified Season 5. It has either been awesome, like when featuring new or interesting characters (Johnny, Hot Rod, and Harris bros), or it's been boring.
When the big guy turns and shoots his buddy in the ear when he finds out about the $250,000, I'm sure everyone watching was thinking, when will the big dude kill the other dude? It felt very paint-by-numbers.
Similarly, when it was revealed that Boyd had Johnny's number the whole time, I wasn't fazed at all. That was a shock and awe moment that did neither for me. Boyd, Johnny, Hot Rode and everybody else had switched sides so many times that this final one didn't seem all that surprising.
After having said all that, there were obviously some things I really enjoyed about Justified Season 5 Episode 7.
The current plot that is the most intriguing has to be Raylan and Art's beef. With Art not giving his most ridiculous deputy the time of day, and Raylan all concerned about that fact, I couldn't be more interested in how it will come to a head. Art has already punched him, what could he do next?
Will he let Raylan transfer? That couldn't happen, right? What are Raylan's other options? I guess he could tell someone other than Art what happened that night with Nicky Augustine. That would likely stop this silly little fight. It might not end well for Raylan, but it would get him out of taking on walk-ins.
Although it felt too similar to other prison plots from TV and the movies, I'm enjoying Ava actually getting to do something at last. It might not have been the smartest move, but screwing up the heroin deal so that she could be in charge was interesting to watch develop. Not knowing where her head was at the whole time certainly helped.
She's suffering, she's adjusting, she's missing Boyd and she still has the energy to figure out a plan to move up the chain on the inside. It's some pretty powerful stuff to watch.
I have hopes that the back half of Justified Season 5 turns a corner and brings everything together as well as this series has done time and time again. For now I'll say that the most recent hour didn't leave me needing more immediately. That's a change.
What did you all think of "Raw Deal?" What were your favorite moments? What didn't you like? And which Fugitive reference did you prefer; the Richard Kimble reference, or TC with the missing appendage?
Dan Forcella is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.