Saturday, April 2, 2011

Recommendation of the Month: Justified

What do you get when you mix a hot U.S. Marshal with a big hat and fast gun with a variety of eastern Kentucky hillbilly criminals, a boss who can't have the wool pulled over his eyes and two strong and beautiful woman that can't be intimidated by anyone?  You get Justified.

Justified is a little over half-way through its second season on FX.  Recently, a thirteen-episode third season was announced.  The series is based on two Elmore Leonard novels (Pronto, Riding the Rap) and a short story (Fire in the Hole) using the character Raylan Givens.  Leonard, one of America's finest novelists and screenwriters serves as one of the executive producers on the series.

When I first saw an advert for Justified it immediately got my attention because of Timothy Olyphant.  I loved him in Deadwood (didn't care for the show but loved Olyphant) and was excited at the thought he was back on television in another series.  I thought I'd give it a try and am I glad I did!  From the very first episode I was hooked on Justified.  The characters are brilliant as is the acting.  Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder are, hands down, two of the most vivid characters on television today, in my opinion.

U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Olyphant), made it good and got away from the rural mining community of Harlan, Kentucky where he grew up.  However, an on-the-job shooting in Miami, Florida changes everything for Raylan.  He's sent back to Kentucky and to the Lexington branch of the U.S. Marshal's service.  From there, Raylan finds himself back in Harlan county on a regular basis dealing with the good, the bad and the ugly (and sometimes the very ugly) that Kentucky has to offer.  Raylan's no-nonsense reputation precedes him and everyone knows that when they see the marshal with the hat they're in trouble!  And speaking of that hat, only two episodes have been without it.  I think the hat is almost as much of a character in Justified as is Raylan, Boyd, Art and Ava!

Boyd Crowder (Goggins) is a bad guy who says he's going good but you really don't know if that's true or not.  Boyd has an affection for blowing things up and he is quite good at it.  Boyd and his old friend Raylan Givens meet again when Boyd and his men blow up an African American church in the first season.  Throughout the course of the first season and what has aired of season two, we've seen Boyd go from terrorist, to prisoner, to "prison reformed Christian" to a man deeply conflicted.  I'm never sure if he truly has gone straight or if he's just waiting for his next big chance for that next big job.  He and Raylan have found themselves on the same side in the fight more than once and they've never let each other down.  I love the not knowing from one week to the next what to expect from Boyd because regardless of whether he is good or bad, following him on the journey to find the answer is television at its best.

Art Mullen (Searcy) is the perfect boss for Raylan.  He's got some age on the younger man and he's seen and done most all of it already.  He has an excellent sense of humor and some of the best lines come from Art.  He was given a moment to shine, in true Art Mullen comedic form, in episode 2.6, Blaze of Glory.  His top-notch capture of a wanted fugitive was perfect.  Mullen is smart and you've got to get up pretty early in the morning to put one past him.  He knows when somethings going on.  When it comes down to it, I'd want Art on my side as I think he would be a formidable adversary.

Ava Crowder (Carter) and Winona Hawkins (Zea) are the ladies in Raylan's life.  Winona, Raylan's ex-wife, moved on and married realtor Gary Hawkins (Ragsdale).  Is she happy with her new life?  I don't really think so.  Not completely, even though there might be part of her that does truly care for Gary in some small way.  If she was happy, she wouldn't end up having an affair on her current soon-to-be-ex-husband with her first ex-husband.  Ava Crowder is an old acquaintance of Raylan's who married Boyd Crowder's abusive brother.  Her marriage didn't last too long, however.  She couldn't take the abuse any longer and she ended up shooting her husband.  Over time, she and Raylan were an item, then they weren't.  She now lives with her former brother-in-law, Boyd.  It's a strictly financial agreement, of course.  Both Ava and Winona give Raylan his share of trouble.  Winona's extreme stupidity has gotten them into a situation regarding counterfeit money that it will be interesting to see how they get out of with their lives intact.

Rounding out the brilliant cast of characters is Raylan's colorful and feisty father, Arlo Giviens (Raymond J. Berry), Arlo's wife, Helen Givens (Linda Gehringer) and Raylan's fellow Marshal's Rachel Dupree (Erica Tazel) and Tim Gutterson (Jacob Pitts).  Arlo Givens is criminal through and through and his son doesn't give him a free pass just because they are blood.  He'll arrest dear old daddy in a heartbeat and not think twice about it.  Tim and Rachel have been given more screen time in season two and we're finally getting to learn a bit more about their lives which is a nice treat.  Season two has also brought in the addition of Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale) and her gang.  She's a real piece of work and you can be guaranteed that when everything hits the fan with Mags, it's going to be monumental.

The theme song for Justified is Long Hard Times to Come by Gangstagrass.  It's a unique mixture of bluegrass and rap music and, I must say, the mix works nicely.  I admit I'm not a massive fan of either musical genre but in this case, I do love them both.  The way Gangstagrass has blended the two musical styles together one compliments the other and I couldn't imagine this song being as great as it is without both elements.

Justified is a tangled web of friends, lovers, fighters, killers, criminals, good guys and bad guys, trust where you wouldn't think it could exist and every single strand in that web is packed with action and intriguing story lines that will keep you wanting to visit Harlan, Kentucky every single week.  You would be perfectly justified to fall in love with Justified.

If you would like to read a little more about each episode of Justified or need to catch up on what has happened thus far or an episode you might have missed, check out the awesome reviews done on the A Media Mindset blog.  You can also find show news there as well.

Season one of Justified is available on DVD and Blu-Ray.  Season two is available for preorder on DVD.
Season One, DVD
Season One, Blu-Ray
Season Two, DVD preorder

Timothy Olyphant:
  U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens
Walton Goggins:  Boyd Crowder
Nick Searcy:  Art Mullen
Joelle Carter:  Ava Crowder
Jacob Pitts:  Tim Gutterson
Erica Tazel:  Rachel Dupree
Natalie Zea:  Winona Hawkins
William Ragsdale:  Gary Hawkins
Raymond J. Berry:  Arlo Givens
Linda Gehringer:  Helen Givens

For more information:
Justified Official FX Website:
The Internet Movie Database:

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