Monday, April 18, 2011

Justified: Season One

About a year ago, I watched and commented on the pilot episode of the FX series Justified. I liked that episode, but my review wasn't exactly the rave of the century. However, I recently finished the entire first season on DVD, and now I'm ready to rave about it. Long story short, this show is the real deal: It's brilliantly funny, exciting, and well acted, and as fun as anything currently on TV.

Justified stars Timothy Olyphant as Deputy US Marshal Raylan Givens, whose gun-slinging ways get him into trouble in Miami, so they transfer him back to his hometown in rural Kentucky. Raylan is an old school law man who wears a cowboy hat and is quick on the draw, both in terms of speed and in his willingness to put somebody down if he has to. This show is basically a Western in a modern setting, which makes it stand out from the 800 other cop shows currently airing at any given moment these days.

This series also stands out because it's based on a series of stories written by Elmore Leonard, of get Shorty Fame. I've never read any of Leonard's stories featuring Raylan Givens, but I have read a mix of his crime novels and westerns, and this show does a great job of capturing the feel, excitement, and humor of both genres for which he is most famous. The action set pieces are gripping and the dialogue is laugh-out-loud funny. This is just is just a fun, cool show. I dig it.

Lead star Timothy Olyphant is no stranger to playing a gun-slinging western lawman, since he is probably best known from his role as Sheriff Seth Bullock on HBO's Deadwood. As good as he was there, I always felt he was some what wasted because that role required him to be laconic and stoic, where as he really shines when he's allowed to be charming and funny and showy. Even though the character was written years ago by Leonard, Raylan Givens still seems as though he was created to be played by Olyphant. He's just a stone cold cool guy, who is at times intimidating, at times charming, but always hilarious and fun to watch. As the season progressed and his story arc got darker and darker, he still never lost the twinkle in his eye or the quick wit.

The rest of the cast is also great, including the always dependable Nick Searcy who plays Raylan's boss, and the incredible Walton Goggins as the main villain of the season, the Neo Nazi turned Evangelist Boyd Crowder. I'm going to take great care here to not sound as though I'm being hyperbolic, but Goggins's turn as Boyd Crowder in this series is one of the best acting performances I've ever seen. I don't know how he didn't get an Emmy nomination, since he pretty much walks away with every scene he's in, creating one of the most incredible characters in TV history. For real.

Also fun are the guest stars, many of whom starred alongside Olyphant on Deadwood. The episode featuring W. Earl Brown as a convict who takes over the Marshal's office was as good and well written an episode of TV as any I've ever seen. We also got fun performances from such character actors as Robert Picardo, Raymond J. Barry, Stephen Root, Doug E. Doug, and that guy who played Tom Friendly on Lost. We also have two wonderfully sexy leading ladies played by Natalie Zea and Joelle Carter, the later of whom as the best Southern drawl I've ever heard.

So... Justified. Check it out if you like Westerns, cop shows, or just plain old good TV in general. It's one of the good ones.

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