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The most consistently great show currently on TV.
on April 6, 2012
Since I watcheed the very first episode of JUSTIFIED, I've been fanatical about this show. It's never failed to satisfy, and it just keeps getting smarter. It didn't hurt that Timothy Olyphant, a widely underappreciated actor, was playing Marshal Raylan Givens, who is probably the most unique and entertaining characters on TV since before Hugh Laurie out-lasted his stay as Gregory House. It also didn't hurt that we were getting all these great character actors like Nick Searcy as Art, Natalie Zea as ex-wife Winona, and most especially Walton Goggins as Raylan's best "frienemy", Boyd.
But where the show really seems to shine is with the casting of its villains. In Season Two, we had the extraordinary Margo Martindale as Mags Bennett, and the terrifically quirky Jeremy Davies as her son Dickie. Now in this season, we have another tremendously underappreciated actor, Neal McDonough as the eerie Robert Quarles and the great Mykelti Williamson as the quiet yet menacing Elstin Limehouse.
The season begins in the aftermath of Season Two's finale, with Raylan wounded from not only the beating he got from Dickie, but the bullet he got from another member of the Bennett clan. With Dickie the only surviving member of the Bennett family, he intends to claim his birthright of the over $3 million his mother got from selling out to Black Pike Mining. Unfortunately, after the beating of Givens, and his attempted murder of Ava Crowder, he's in prison. Boyd, Ava's current lover (post Raylan), has sworn vengeance on Dickie and intends to kill him no matter what. Meanwhile Raylan has rekindled things with Winona, and we soon discover she's pregnant with Raylan's child; a relationship and a pregnancy made even more complicated by Raylan's constant run-ins with the Dixie Mafia (represented previously by another terrific character actor Jere Burns as Wynn Duffy until Quarles comes to town in exile from the main business organization in Detroit) and the various schemes and plans of Dickie, the Crowders, and all the other colorful characters that inhabit his world.
From the season's very first episode involving a hitman who always gets the drop on his victims to Quarles' entrance as the smooth-talking, creepily charming and lethally efficient "carpet-bagger" and his eventual descent into addiction and madness to the endless machinations of Limehouse, as well as Boyd and Dickie in their pursuit of the hidden the $3 million will culminate in something explosive and life-changing (and probably life-ending) for the characters involved, JUSTIFIED keeps on delivering and delivering without fail.
Also a very special character is the strangely-lovable Dewey Crowe (played with such incredulity and skill by Damon Herriman), certainly the winner of Harlan County's "Criminal With The Least Guile" award.
With a crack creative team of talented writers and directors and an ever-expansive pool of great actors, Showrunner Graham Yost has put together the best show on FX right now. It never feels forced or manufactured. The plot points all seem to grow very organically as opposed to a series of chance occurences or deus ex machinas that a lesser show might employ. Despite all of the talent constantly surrounding him, it's a real shame that Olyphant himself hasn't gotten the attention or accolades he deserves. He may get out-shone by some other actors when he's not part of the scene, but when he's together with any one of them, he can match them moment for moment. The success of the show rests solely on how Olyphant's portrayal of Givens continues to be something of greatness, and he's owed more due than he gets.
However, that's not to say that the people he's surrounded with aren't great. I'd really like to see Art more personally involved in more episodes, because Searcy's portrayal of him is so keen-eyed. McDonough is currently in the running alongside THE WALKING DEAD's Jon Bernthal for the Emmy for Best Supporting Actor (obviously at this point, it's just a prediction), and it's also a race for Goggins and Williamson as well.
Since the finale is next week, and it's already been picked up for a fourth season, I guess those "long, hard times" will keep on coming for one of Elmore Leonard's best characters, and I'm beyond thrilled to continue to keep taking that ride alongside him.