“Justified” Review-Still The Biggest, Baddest Hat on Television

Written by Spencer Sterritt January 18, 2012

A Gunfighter Returns To Town

Justified, the Peabody and Emmy Award winning neo-noir Western, had it’s season three premier last night. After two rapturously received seasons, featuring the biggest hat, the wittiest dialogue, and the most elegant pacing on television, the big question on viewer’s mind is how Justified is going to top itself this season. The answer: with a mess of villains.

Justified follows Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), a U.S. Marshall who gets re-assigned to his home state of Kentucky after a very public shooting. Once home, it doesn’t take him long to become entangled with his former friend/enemy Boyd Crowder (Walton Coggins), and ensnared by his ex-wife Winona (Natalie Zea). Season One focused on Raylan’s fight with the Crowder family, and season two focused on Raylan’s conflict against the Bennett’s, who ran marijuana.

...And There Was A Lot Of Shooting

The Smooth Cops & Criminals

Of course, this doesn’t do service to the complex plots and the great writing that sets the stage for these fights. A season will introduce the main season arc in the first episode, and then give the viewer a few procedural episodes with serialized stories in the background, to get them used to the beats and characters of the season. But then, by usually the fifth or sixth episode, the procedurals become serialized, and everything ties back into the main plot. It is absolutely elegant to watch, as the writers weave shifting alliances and fugitives into a bloody mess.

As a personality, Raylan Givens is one of the best. A quick drawing Marshall who constantly straddles the line of what is justified, he always has the best retorts and a suave presence that draws people to him. Timothy Olyphant plays him just right, not too smart to be unnatural, but not too dumb to get caught in the crossfire.

Special attention should also be paid to Walton Coggins, who plays Boyd Crowder with an ambiguous menace that takes him from bad guy, to good guy, and back again. Usually until the end of a season, Boyd’s intentions are never known, and even by that point, he is still a man shrouded in mystery. Walton Coggins has the absolutely perfect Kentucky drawl that speeds up and slows down for menacing effect.

Raylan v. Boyd

Where That Leaves Us

Onto the season three premier last night!

It is apparent from the moment go that season three is going to be much different than season two, mostly due to the lack of Margo Martindale. As the matriarch of the Bennett clan, and overseer of their marijuana business, Margo was a force to be reckoned with, lighting up every scene she was in. For reasons I won’t ruin here, Margo has moved onto other shows, leaving a vacuum in Justified’s world.

One antagonist, a hitman from Detroit (Neal McDonough), has already been introduced, and another has been hinted at, making his appearance in the second episode. It is unclear right now how complex and compelling McDonough will be, but from his introduction to his first on-screen kills at the end of the episode, it is apparent that he’s a stone cold killer who won’t take any guff or sarcastic remarks, so he should be a formidable foe for Raylan.

He Actually Has A Golden Gun. It's Fantastic

My only real gripe with the episode is that it all feels a little…rushed. Margo Martindale made such an impression that it seems like creator and co-writer of the episode Graham Yost is trying to throw as many villains into the mix as possible, in the hope that such combined villainy will make up for Martindale’s absence. This gave the episode a quick pace, but it did not back up the pace with any outstanding scenes. I don’t doubt that this will be smoothed out as the season plays out, but for right now it was slightly irksome.

Overall, Justified is back! The wit remains, the camaraderie just as deadly as ever, and three people are already dead. Excellent!

My Rating: 8.5/10

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About Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt: former Editor-In-Chief for We Eat Films, future President of the Men With Beards Club, and hopefully candidate for ruler of the world.

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