The character of Raylan Givens is like nothing we’ve seen on television before, and he could not be more fittingly portrayed by Timothy Olyphant. I have to say that Justified is truly a breath of fresh air when it comes to crime dramas as it focuses more on story and the people involved than the crime itself – but what else would you expect from FX? This season in particular is far less procedural and more character-focused than the first (which I enjoy much more). While there is not near as much action as there was in the first season, it does deliver on a more satisfying note both emotionally and in a sense of storytelling. When the show first aired, it quickly became my favorite show on television and I didn’t know how they could top that season…and now I can firmly say I cannot decide on which season I enjoyed more. Justified appears to be just getting better and better.
This season begins right where the first season left off and gives us one hell of an opening episode and takes us back to Miami briefly. Now, with his new boss fed up with Raylan shooting someone on a weekly basis and his ex-wife divorcing her new husband, the second season brings us into a different territory. This season features a lot less action, but brings a lot more attitude and character this time around. We learn more about Raylan’s past and his motivations, but more focus is given to Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) and a new bunch known has the Bennett Gang, who are the leading drug runners in Harlan.
The first season was all about returning home and realizing that nothing really changes; this second season seems to be about how once you return, you can never really leave. As Raylan begins to make future plans with Winona (Natalie Zea), complications begin to arise that keep him from having the life he wants. Raylan constantly conflicts with the choices he has made, while Boyd is conflicting with settling into his new, ordinary life – even when certain opportunities come to light. These two storylines are what fill the majority of this season, especially as Raylan begins to settle back into the life in Harlan County, finding it difficult to choose what side to be on when a controversial mining company comes to town looking to buy land. Raylan and Boyd are arguably the two most interesting characters on television right now, with both of them being very unpredictable, disarmingly fragile, and relatable all at once.
Justified has a truly special way of ending it’s season finales, always doing it at a somewhat inopportune moment where you are left with more questions than you can ask, yet, you are more satisfied the more the ending sinks in. We know these questions will be answered when the third season starts, but it is a long wait for someone like me.
This second season delivered more than I expected. My father, who watches the show as religiously as I do, complains that there isn’t enough action at the end of each episode (but Fast Five featured too much action for him), but he still returns again and again for the characters and the original storytelling. He is always telling me that Boyd is one of his favorite characters because he is so unpredictable and interesting. Based on the short story by Elmore Leonard (who also produces and occasionally scribes), the dialogue and story are always something to pay attention to. This show is something that truly needs the recognition it has yet to receive. It has already been renewed for a third season, so I hope the ratings stay up so we can enjoy this show for quite a while. If you are a fan, tell your friends and family to give it a chance because it is hard not to get pulled in.
Justified Second Season Grade: A