The season finale of “Justified” was a cut above — and I mean that literally!
It was a cut above the elbow — with a well-aimed meat cleaver — that disarmed the season’s psychopathic villain, Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough), in the most creative demise of a TV antagonist since Giancarlo Esposito emerged from a hospital room with about a third of his head missing following a bomb blast in the season finale of “Breaking Bad” last October.
In Tuesday night’s “Justified” finale — ending the FX series’ third season — the climactic scene took place, appropriately, in a slaughterhouse, the pork emporium owned by the backwoods godfather of the show’s African-American community, Elstin Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson).
And it was Limehouse himself — the expert at dismembering pigs for his famed barbecue cuisine — who delivered the arm-severing blow with a meat cleaver that was evidently so well-sharpened that it cut through the arm of Quarles like it was cutting butter.
For once, the icy Quarles was actually surprised. And so was U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens (series star Timothy Olyphant), who stood there wide-eyed, grasping the severed arm that was lopped off while he was in the midst of grappling with it.
And the arm still held a gun, held in place by the mechanism Quarles had built that allowed him to conceal the weapon under his sleeve and then produce it by extending his arm (in the manner of Robert DeNiro’s character of Travis Bickle in the old Martin Scorsese movie, “Taxi Driver”).
"You know what they're sayin' back in the office?" Raylan said later, in the episode's remaining moments. "They're sayin' I disarmed him."
Quarles died in a pool of blood on the floor of the slaughterhouse. That means, of course, that he won’t be back. But the show’s other villain, series regular Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), will be back. Just when it looked as if Boyd was headed to prison for a couple of decades, he was set free when Raylan’s own crooked father, Arlo (Raymond J. Barry) took the fall for the crimes Boyd was accused of committing.
And yes, “Justified” has already been renewed for a fourth season.