By | April 19, 2015 7 Comments

‘Justified’ highlights the differences between killers and psychopaths


Boyd Crowder, left, and Raylan Givens face off in ‘Justified.’

One of my favorite television shows ever, Justified, just came to an end. After six seasons, the series finale of this smart, sophisticated crime drama, set in redneck Kentucky, aired on Tuesday, April 14, 2015.

That morning, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran an article by Tirdad Derakhshani previewing the grand finale.

Derakhshani wrote that the main character, U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens (played by Timothy Olyphant), had “the best lawman swagger since John Wayne.” I agree.

Here’s how Derakhshani described the marshall:

“A latter-day cowboy who inhabits a strange, surreal version of Harlan County, Ky., Raylan is a gunslinger for the ages. One who kills. Again. And again. He’s more of a sociopath than a hero.”

The author noted the shocking level of murder and mayhem in the show in the first five seasons, there were 147 violent deaths, with Raylan Givens responsible for 23 of them.

But Raylan Givens is not a sociopath.

FX’s ‘Justified’ swaggers off into the sunset, on

Articles about Justified

I did a Google search to find out if more articles were referring to the characters in Justified as sociopaths and psychopaths, and I found them.

For example, in the Los Angeles Times, Hugh Hart wrote:

‘Justified’s’ psychopaths are never at a loss for words, on

The article was about the incredible dialog in the show honestly, it was like Shakespeare with a hillbilly accent. And he described the bad guy, Boyd Crowder (played by Walton Goggins), as “the most loquacious psychopath in prime time.”

Except Boyd Crowder wasn’t a psychopath.

Then there was this story in the Michigan Daily after the premiere of Season Three:

‘Justified’ recap: Psychopaths and frying pans, on

These critics did not describe either Raylan Givens or Boyd Crowder as a psychopath, but did call one of the other bad guys, Robert Quarles, a mobster from Detroit, a psychopath. I think they got it right.

Killers and psychopaths

Here’s the bottom line: Not all killers are sociopaths / psychopaths.

Psychopathic killers take the lives of others in cold blood, without remorse, and sometimes without reason. These people will kill when other there are other ways to solve a problem, perhaps like getting a divorce. They have no empathy, no remorse and no ability to love.

Killers who are not psychopaths may include members of crime families or gangs who are willing to kill to protect their territory or business, or take out a rival, but legitimately love and protect their own families.

That’s what I saw on Justified. Yes, I would classify some of the minor bad guys as sociopaths / psychopaths, such as the last person to die in the series finale, Boon (played by Jonathan Tucker). He was a gunslinger with no redeeming qualities.

But the season’s main characters, Raylan, Boyd, Boyd’s fiancée Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter) and another bad guy, Avery Markham (Sam Elliott), were all capable of love and compassion.

Avery Markham was heartbroken at the death of his fiancée. Ava tried to protect her uncle. Raylan showed mercy to Ava. Boyd cried (real tears) at the news that Ava was dead. She wasn’t, but Raylan told Boyd that in order to protect her.

In the end, Justified was a study of the continuum between good and evil, with the characters sliding along the continuum, depending on what they needed to do, and what was truly in their hearts.



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Interesting post. I haven’t heard of the show, but since it’s fiction and a series, there are many more deaths and killings than in one real law enforcement person’s life. Once in a lifetime intense situations happen on every show. That’s the nature of entertainment – to tell an intense and interesting story every episode.

In “real life,” especially in past generations, consider the men who have gone to war and killed on the battle field for a cause they believe in, to protect their families, their homes, their country, and other nations, from some evil. Many are traumatized and suffer PTSD due to what they saw and what they did.

The way that psychopathic despot leaders manipulate their subjects into fighting morally wrong wars is by convincing them of a noble cause underlying the aggression. It is difficult to discern when it is “right/justified” to harm others; and people come to different conclusions based on how they interpret the information available to them, their religious and ethical values, etc.

I’m sure psychopaths covertly enjoy killing – they probably make good mercenary soldiers. But they never act according to the rules, and they lie – traits that are ultimately harmful to the cause and others on their side.


HI AnnettePK
I recently read “Hitler’s Willing Executioners” by Daniel Goldhagen. No surprise that Hitler used psychopaths to execute local towns people or that he had all the volunteers he needed to perpetrate a Holocaust. Humanity has not learned yet. Just look at current genocide, the Boko Harem are not short of soldiers to wipe out villages, schools, families.

I know my ex and his family have the kind of mindset to murder. If they could do it without going to prison… prison is the only reason they don’t. And that hasn’t stopped two of his cousins who were raised like brothers with him. Geesh I was stupid, thinking my ex was the exception to a nest of thugs. Nope, not the exception, just more covert and more dangerous.


Would this include Jr. Bush’s taking our whole nation to useless war in Iraq solely based on HIS personal belief that WMDs did indeed exist? How come he was never accused of treason? Are we not all culpable of mass mind control?


The WMMD were found in Syria. Why has Obama never been tired for treason? He is supporting our enemies and bringing the enemy to America.

still reeling

Hated to see Justified come to an end and am missing it already, knowing it won’t be in my future. I considered quite often that Boyd might be a socio or psychopath. And I’m not convinced that he wasn’t even though the tears for Ava were compelling. On the other hand, there was really no reason at that point for crocodile tears. As well, looking back on Ava’s tortured behavior as Boyd’s snitch, he was largely unable to distrust her, which is very non-socio behavior.

In recent years, as with ADHD, lactose intolerance, Spectrum Disorders and gluten allergies, the terms “sociopath” and “psychopath” are being bandied about a little too freely. I think this may be the reason they found themselves into reviews describing Rayland and Boyd.

I love good TV and I can say without a doubt, the series finale was the best I have *ever* seen. It was handled with extreme thoughtfulness, intelligence and sensitivity instead of the bloodbath that it could have been. In lieu of taking the easy way out, they chose to bestow a pass upon those who were capable of showing mercy, and while allowed to have the gift of life, they were also given boundaries to exactly match their levels of imperfection. Boyd-jail. Ava-a child to love, but a lifetime of hiding. Even though Raylan helped her out some, she will always live in fear. Raylan-the ability to love, but the inability to share in a healthy, lasting relationship.

Whoever crafted that season finale I dub the anti-path.


I watched Justified on Netflix so I have not seen all of it yet. It was an excellent show and I was fascinated by the way they led the audience in and out of believing the characters were psychopaths. The loyalties between old friends vs. right and wrong were really well developed. I enjoyed it and yet had a sick feeling in my stomach at the same time. They were all a bunch of sick characters but appealing and fascinating at the same time. ?I hope the final episodes get to Netflix soon.

Brigitte Knowles

Donna is educating high school girls on what a psychopath is. That is the way to spread the knowledge. Prevention means learning about the signs and behaviors of a psychopath. Imagine avoiding them at all costs all of the time. They harm even outside of romance. What amazes me is that I did not know about psychopaths until one almost killed me. Learn to listen to that sick feeling from your diaphragm.

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