FX’s Justified has been a shining light in television since NBC’s Life came on the air (and cancelled 2 years later). The series’ pilot was based on Elmore Leonard’s short story, “Fire in the Hole,” with the rest of the series carrying out the story following Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant). Leonard has written many stories that have been adapted to the big screen including Get Shorty, 3:10 to Yuma, Killshot, Rum Punch (Jackie Brown), and Out of Sight. His characters always seem to jump right off the screen and there is a certain originality to his dialogue. These qualities shine in this series as one of his most intriguing characters, Raylan Givens, is brought to life through Timothy Olyphant.
The pilot to the series is arguably the best pilot I have seen to date. Olyphant is fantastic as Raylan, hopefully earning him some much delayed recognition, and Walton Goggins makes the character of Boyd Crowder more sympathetic as a villain through his relationship with Raylan. The story follows Raylan as he is transferred back to his hometown in Kentucky after shooting an arms dealer in Miami. Upon his return, he clashes with his criminal father (Raymond Barry), childhood friend (now turned criminal) Boyd, and his ex-wife Winona (Natalie Zea). Every character seems to be so well thought out and real, that you become invested in what happens to each of them, good guy or not.
One of the most interesting things about the character of Raylan Givens is how direct he is in a very old fashioned way. If he pulls his gun he intends to use it, but he will not enter someone’s home unless he’s invited. There is almost a Clint Eastwood aspect to the character as in he is very to-the-point and quick to the draw. Olyphant is simply terrific in this role, you can always tell what he is thinking without saying a word. Since Charlie Crews was forced to step down in NBC’s Life, Givens is a more than qualified replacement. He’s respectable, old fashioned, relatable, and good with a gun.
The series bookends with a pair of episodes that are truly remarkable. The pilot delivers on character, action, and story without missing a beat. The finale, entitled “Bulletville,” gives us a look at some long awaited confrontations between characters, nicely wraps up some storylines, giving us one more fantastic action sequence, and leaves us wishing Season 2 started next week. This show is easily my favorite on television and I hope it gathers the audience it deserves. Justified plays like a modern day western, so if you like a good crime drama that delivers on action without sacrificing character or story, this is the show for you.
Justified Season 1: A+