“Justified” Season One is a darn good show. It has all the best elements of an Elmore Leonard story: a cool protagonist, plenty of oddball characters, a believable world, and slick dialog. Its pilot contains a fantastic story that gets U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) dragged back home to Harlan County. Then for too many episodes it felt like it was stalling to jump into its larger story of feuding families on the brink of bloodshed.
Then the stand-alone episodes were pushed to the side and it became a great show. With the way cable series work, the audience has grown to expect that in a show’s 13 episodes, each one will move the plot forward. Season Two realized that and made an even better show.
Part of their success is recognizing the strengths of their world. Sure Olphant’s charisma and his outrageous cowboy hat are the obvious draw. Yet he can’t match up the power of Walton Goggins (“The Shield”) as Boyd Crowder, the villain of the first season. Understated and menacing, Boyd feels more dangerous when it looks like he’s actually on the path towards the good side of the law because it’s harder to tell what he’s thinking.
They could have easily put Boyd back in the position of the “Big Bad”, but instead they brought in a new family. The pot dealing Bennetts are lead by Margo Martindale and her two sons Jeremy Davies (“LOST”) and Brad William Henke (“LOST”). Boyd was threatening because he was the sort of guy who will use a bazooka on a church because it was the right thing to do. Martindale as Mags Bennett is way smarter and more ruthless. For once the Emmys actually rewarded one of the best performances of the year because this is a career changer for Martindale.
Drama builds with perfect pacing and subplots that are as engaging as the rest of the series. Raylan dealing with his ex-wife stealing government money was one of the highlights of the season. There have been a number of adaptations from Elmore Leonard, most of them are forgettable messes. This surpasses all of them as the quintessential interpretation of his world. Season Three has a lot to live up to, but rewatching some of these makes me more than ready to return to Kentucky.
The bonus features include some outtakes and deleted scenes as well as a few good feaurettes. The best one is a Blu-Ray exclusive of a roundtable discussion led by showrunner Graham Yost.
Season: 4.5 Yaps
Extras: 4 Yaps