Timothy Olyphant is a movie star, but only on television. Sadly, between Deadwood and Justified, he’s also one of the only actors today who’s a credible cowboy, having spent three years playing an old west lawman on Deadwood, and now the modern variant in Justified. Here Timothy Olyphant is Raylan Givens, a U.S. Marshall who’s moved from Florida – after shooting a man – to Kentucky, where he grew up. There, he’s surrounded by the life he left behind and tries to arrest Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), who may have blown up a church and killed a man or two. Based on the works of Elmore Leonard, this Graham Yost produced TV show is easily one of the most entertaining action/mystery serials in a good long while. My review of Justified Season One on Blu-ray follows after the jump.
Raylan is relocated to Kentucky near Harlan County, his homstead. He works under Chief Deputy Art Muller (Nick Searcy), and near his ex-wife Winona Hawkins (Natalie Zea), who now works as a court stenographer. When he comes back to town Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter) kills her husband for trying to beat her, which pisses off her brother-in-law Boyd (Goggins). Boyd is working with some racist rednecks to run the town and the town’s meth – and is already suspected of blowing up a church – when Raylan comes across him in Ava’s house. Raylan draws and shoots him through the chest, but doesn’t kill him. It’s Boyd’s father Bo (M.C. Gainey) whose long run the town and he’s a bigger threat to the town, to Ava and to Raylan. While gone, Bo left control of the town to Raylan’s dad Arlo (Raymond J. Barry), who has an ornery relationship with his son. Also, Ava’s long had a crush on Raylan, and so when she’s free of her husband, she makes it plain as day she wants him. Raylan is sucked into that, but also still has feelings for his ex-wife.
One of the best things about the show is that it straddles the lines of intention. It’s kind of a cop show, kind of a mystery show, but Raylan is about half cowboy and half detective. And as such, he acts a lot like Sam Spade, tracking down leads, but also entering a room and having women acts as though sex just walked in the door. Considering that Timothy Olyphant is an exceptionally attractive man, it works, and it adds to the fun of the show. He’s a good looking guy, but he’s also a great talker (credit to the writers).
Though the show has a continued arc through the season, as a first season (and we may see this change as the series goes on – the second season starts February 8th check your local listing for details! Or Not!) there are a number of stand-alone episodes, with a great one being a classic “bottle” episode where Raylan confronts a prisoner (W. Earl Brown, Olyphant’s co-star on Deadwood) who’s kidnapped a guard. It’s a stand-off in the office, and Raylan knows the guy just needs something resembling respect to not get himself killed, and it’s a great battle of wills between two guys who are both smarter than they look. There’s also another great guest cameo form Alan Ruck playing Roland Pike – a dentist who used to be a crime boss’s accountant – who is now on the lam but is obviously not a bad person. And then there’s an episode where Raylan is asked to check on a number of original Adolf Hitler artworks, where the owner (Peter Jason, another Deadwood vet) is under investigation. But it turns out the work leads to a murder. There are great cameos by both Tony Hale and Robert Picardo as art dealers in the episode.
If the show has a weak spot is that it tries to do a couple of more standard issue cliché-s throughout, and one is that there’s the classic snitch, here Arnold Pinter (David Eigenberg) a New Yorker trying to desperately get out of town who gets caught up with a guy who’s blown his family fortune. After Police Squad, I feel that this sort of character needs to be dressed down, but here he’s dressed up. There’s also a subplot involving Winona’s husband, that’s fun but modest. The show takes some good sidetracks, and I like a number of these reworks of the genre, but the show works best when it focuses on the town.
The best thing about Justified is the tone. Everyone is having fun writing dialogue that owes as much as debt to Leonard as it does to Quentin Tarantino. The entire cast has great sharp dilgoue, and even the day-players gets off great one-liners. The show is very clever, and each episode offers great beats or moments. It’s a smooth thirteen episodes, and watching it again was almost as pleasureable as the first time.
But in watching it again, it’s interesting how much of the middle of the season stays away from the Boyd versus Raylan stuff. In the supplements it’s revealed Walton Goggins was off shooting Predators and wasn’t available, but so much of the season rests on the conflict between the two characters and the brilliant line Goggins walks after he gets shot and finds God. This is one of the great arcs of the show, and when Boyd gets out of jail you have no idea if he honestly has found Christ or is just saying this stuff and organizing his men just to fuck with Raylan. This doesn’t get paid off until the last episode, but much of the series keeps the two apart – aside from a scene or two in the middle. But then it comes home as Raylan, his father, and Boyd and his father come to face each other. There’s some great tension there, and Goggins steals the show for with the razor’s edge he walks. He brings a great energy against Olyphant; their scenes together sing. This is an excellent fun-to-watch show, and Olyphant is given one of the best roles of his career.
Sony’s Blu-ray set offers the show’s thirteen episodes in Season One over three discs, with each episode in widescreen (1.78:1) and in DTS 5.1 HD surround. There are five episodes on the first disc, and no supplements but the commentary on the pilot by producer Graham Yost, actor Nick Searcy, Elmore Leonard collaborator Gregg Sutter, and director Michael Dinner. Disc two offers commentary on episode eight with Yost and writer Ben Cavill, and episode Nine with performers Tim Olyphant, Natalie Zea, and Writer Dave Andron, while disc three has commentary on the series finale with Yost, and writer/producer Fred Golan. These are loose tracks, and everyone enjoys doing them, so it’s engaging, and they talk about the tone they were trying to set, and the series in general.
Disc Two offers the start of the featurettes, kicking off with “What Would Elmore Do?” (19 Min.), which gets Elmore Leonard, Graham Yost, writer Benjamin Cavell, co-executive producer Fred Golan, producer Gary Lennon, and executive story editors Wendy Calhoun and Chris Provenzano to talk about how they’ve tried to stay faithful, and how excited they are that Leonard is going to write more about the character. “The Story of Justified” (5 min.) talks about the Leonard story “Fire in the Hole,” which was the basis for pilot, with comments from Leonard, Yost, Olyphant, and some of the rest of the cast. “Justified: Meet the Characters” (5 min.), gets Leonard, Yost and the primary cast to talk about their characters. Kinda fluffy. Disc three offers previews, “Shooting for Kentucky” (16 min.) on trying to fake the south in California, “Meet the Marshals” (13 min.), an interview with Charlie Almanza, a retired deputy Chief Marshall, a music video, and a look ahead at Season Two (2 min.).