A review of tonight's "Justified" coming up just as soon as we are literally searching every dog house, hen house and outhouse...

It was going to be virtually impossible for "Justified" to top, or even equal, the enormous barrel of fun that was "Decoy," which featured every aspect of the show, and every character, operating at peak value. But if "Peace of Mind" couldn't hit that level, it did a fine job of moving the story forward, and wisely went for a different tone. "Decoy" was all smiles and joy (even when Constable Bob was being beaten half to death); "Peace of Mind" was contemplative and full of dread, and it worked quite well.

If anything, my biggest concern about "Peace of Mind" wasn't the episode itself, but what's to come. Even with certain threads dangling — notably Ava's freedom and what becomes of the Crowder gang — this felt an awful lot like a finale to me. Drew is in custody, Ellen May is safe, Tim gets justice for Mark's death, Raylan's on the verge of promotion... what's left?

Well, obviously we have to see if Boyd and Ava can get to Delroy's body in time. And now we have to see how Tonin's men will use Winona to get to Raylan, and from Raylan to Shelby.

Some or all of that could play out very interestingly. There's a high potential cheese factor for a Winona kidnapping story, though at this point, I think Yost and company have earned the benefit of the doubt. But it does feel like the story of the season is mostly done, and all that's left is an extended epilogue.

It'd be hard to ask for a better end than the one-two punch of "Decoy" and "Peace of Mind," though. In particular, the payoff to the Tim/Colton arc was far more satisfying than I could have expected when they first crossed paths. Colton was a sketchy character at times, but that moment when he takes an extra drag on his cigarette, knowing it'll be his final breath on this earth because he'd rather die than keep going, was a thing of beauty. And I loved that Tim pocketed Colt's trademark sunglasses as a measure of the unlikely respect he developed for this guy who also murdered his friend.

I also liked how Ava and Boyd's struggle to find a happy ending that they can both live with. Boyd has always been about self-preservation at all costs, but he loves and respects Ava, and she can't bring herself to kill Ellen May.(*) For all of Boyd's talk about how "you dictate the river of fate through your own actions," his future — at least, the one he had planned with Ava — is out of their control right now, unless they can get to Delroy's body with extreme haste. (Though if that was an option, why didn't they do it the moment Ellen May became a problem?)

(*) Though I thought the storytelling was a bit muddled on what exactly Ellen May was meant to do there. Obviously, it's better for Ava if Ellen May is dead, but for Theo Tonin — and for Boyd's tenuous alliance with the Tonin gang — doesn't Ellen May need to live so her fate can be used to keep Shelby quiet? Once she's dead, there's nothing to prevent him from testifying.

The one thing that the finale could definitely use is some more Raylan. He hasn't been absent these last few weeks, but other characters like Tim and Bob and Ava and Shelby have taken greater prominence. If nothing else, Winona being targeted by Nicky and his guys should put the focus back on the guy in the big hat.

Some other thoughts:

* Winona's having a daughter, which is what Raylan wanted. Assuming he doesn't have another kid, the Givens line ends with him, even if the genes continue. 


* Though this was a darker episode than last week, it was good to see Mike O'Malley continuing to enjoy himself enormously as Nicky Augustine. His delivery of "Wow, that sounded fantastic" after Johnny got off the phone with Limehouse was a thing of beauty.

* Art Mullen, not a fan of Julia Roberts: "Looks too much like Eric." 

* Bad job out of me last week in not identifying veteran character actor John Kapelos (well known to Generation X as a fixture of John Hughes movies of the mid-80s) as Picker.

* The 1997 LAPD shootout Boyd and Nicky Cush are discussing was dramatized in 2003's "44 Minutes," one of FX's few forays into the world of made-for-TV movies, starring Ron Livingston, Michael Madsen and Mario Van Peebles.

* Art's impending departure hasn't been brought up in a while. Will the events of the finale delay those plans, or will the show's timeline (remember, this season has covered only about two weeks of time for the characters) mean we can spend several seasons of Art counting down the days to retirement?

What did everybody else think? And what are you looking for in the finale?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com