Justified has just started its final season on FX, so I attempt to go back and cover the previous five seasons of the US Marshall/cowboy crime series with the rich backdrop of Harlan, Kentucky, starring Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter, and more. This review covers the thirteen episode long first season of the series.
I love Justified. It’s one of my favourite shows on television right now and even though I only started getting caught up towards the end of last year in time for Season 6, it’s going to be something that I’ll miss a lot when it’s gone. It’s on FX, so you know that 90% of the time a show from that network will be awesome, because The Strain has only been the one disappointment so far. Each of their series offers a different, original and entertaining premise that keeps the network feeling incredibly fresh – be it the crime drama of Justified – that’s basically a western in the present day, the biker/family drama of Sons of Anarchy, or the cold war period thriller present in The Americans. FX knows how to create some good shows, and Justified is certainly among that list.
The series centres around the main protagonist, Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) who is an old-school US Marshall who shoots first and asks questions later. Boasting a cowboy hat, he finds himself forced to return to his old hometown of Kentucky following the shooting of a criminal who failed to heed his warnings of getting out of town in 24 hours. Raylan finds himself reunited with old friends, and old family – Art Mullen (Nick Searcy) is the Chief Deputy, Boyd Crowder, his oldest friend, (Walton Goggins) is now a member of a white supremacist group, and the girl who used to have a crush on him, Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter) has just shot her husband, Boyd’s brother, for abusing her. Raylan also has to deal with family troubles – his ex, Winona Hawkins (Natalie Zea) has moved on, and his father, Arlo (Raymond J. Barry) and step mother Helen (Linda Gehringer), are still around. So there’s plenty of characters to keep track of in this show but Justified finds a way of handling them very well, giving them great storylines to follow with some fantastic development going on. You’ll grow to become invested in not just Raylan’s story, but also that of Ava and Boyd, who are the three main principal characters of this show, who are portrayed by some fantastic actors.
Timothy Olyphant knocks it out of the park as the wisecracking US Marshall Raylan Givens with some great dialogue to work with. Seriously, this show’s dialogue and monologue is among the best that I’ve ever seen on a TV series. With some well crafted lines and witty one liners that earn a few laughs. The show even knows how to make the best use of characters who would be in other shows just nothing more than comic relief, with Dewey Crowe (Damon Herriman) getting his own mini-storyline that really works. Walton Goggins is also a standout on this show as well, delivering an incredible performance as Boyd Crowder, who was initially meant to be killed off in the first episode but the writers changed their mind upon the reception, and he’s easily one of the best things to happen to Justified as Goggins really steals every scene that he’s in. Joelle Carter further adds to the show’s incredible cast, knocking it out of the park as Ava as we follow her characters’ storyline as it weaves in and out of the ones with Raylan’s and Boyd’s.
The first episode is one of the stronger ones that I’ve seen and one of my favourites of the show. It establishes the world exceptionally well and creates a great cast of characters that you’ll follow through the series’ six, thirteen episode long seasons. The cast is entertaining and likeable, and even though the plots for the episodes may eventually fall into ‘case of the week’ format for the majority of the season, there are still some good moments to be had in these episodes and they’re always kept feeling fun and entertaining so that you never grow tired of them. The cases of the week never feel repetitive either, with a fresh new one to be had each week.
So whilst the first season of Justified may not be perfect, it’s still a great start and one of the stronger first seasons that I’ve seen for a crime show. It’s not a normal cop show – for one, Raylan Givens isn’t a cop, he’s a US Marshall, and the rich backdrop of Kentucky makes for some interesting storytelling. It also allows the great use of the song You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive, which you’ll want to pay attention to in the season’s finale.
If you haven’t got on board Justified yet, then there’s still time to get caught up so you can be ready for the last few episodes of the show. Like with The Americans though, you’re going to have to do it pretty quickly.