An ode to Ava Crowder, the real star of TV's Justified

Over six seasons, the FX drama has pivoted the onetime supporting character to the center of its narrative

Ava Crowder
(Image credit: (Prashant Gupta/FX))

In its gripping final season, FX's Justified has reasserted itself as the best cop show on television. With a team of U.S. marshals led by Raylan Givens mounting an elaborate case against Boyd Crowder, the series is doubling back to the conflict that began it. But for all the things that are coming full circle, one character has become the unlikely pivot point on which the entire series rests: Ava Crowder, the woman railroaded by the marshals into providing information on her criminal fiancée Boyd.

For all the bluster of its macho main characters, Justified has always harbored a barely concealed feminist streak. Longtime Harlan County crime lord Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale) was a more intimidating and unflappable figure than any of the men who rose to challenge her. Teenaged drug-dealing prodigy Loretta McReady (Kaitlyn Dever) has routinely outmaneuvered anyone who has attempted to challenge her — including the show's own lawman protagonist. This season, Katherine Hale (Mary Steenburgen) is the frontrunner in a slew of competing villains as she works her own angle on Avery Markham (Sam Elliott), the man who thinks he's in control. And over the course of the entire series, the doggedly professional Rachel Brooks (Erica Tazel) has climbed the ranks of Lexington's U.S. Marshal Office, finally taking over as interim chief deputy in Art Mullen's absence.

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Scott Meslow

Scott Meslow is the entertainment editor for He has written about film and television at publications including The Atlantic, POLITICO Magazine, and Vulture.