Justified is the story of Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), a true-blue hero and something of a throwback, given to wearing a Stetson and cowboy boots, carrying his sidearm in a hip holster – a weapon he only draws when he has to, and when he does, he shoots to kill, because, as he sees it, that’s the purpose of a gun. The character of Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens was created by America’s pre-eminent crime novelist Elmore Leonard (Get Shorty, Out of Sight) and is played by Timothy Olyphant (Deadwood, Live Free or Die Hard). The Chief Deputy of the Lexington USMS office is Art Mullen, played by Nick Searcy (Cast Away, From the Earth to the Moon). Working alongside Raylan are fellow deputies Tim Gutterson – played by Jacob Pitts (The Pacific) – and Rachel Brooks – played by Erica Tazel (Life, The Office). Raylan, Art and the other deputies do what all U.S. Marshals do – chase down fugitives, protect witnesses, transport prisoners.
Prolific and much-respected author Elmore Leonard's novels have fared poorly when they've been adapted to the small screen--remember Maximum Bob? Karen Sisco?--but the Western-cum-police-drama Justified breaks the losing streak thanks to the tightly wound performance of star Timothy Olyphant (Deadwood) and solid scripting and direction. Olyphant's Marshal Raylan Givens, whom readers met in the novels Pronto and Riding the Rap (as well as the short "Fire in the Hole," which serves as the basis for the pilot episode), is a man of few words and deadly aim who is sent back to his hometown of Harlan County, Kentucky, after shooting first and asking questions later with an oily gangster. Once ensconced in the coal belt, Givens runs afoul of childhood friend Boyd Crowder (the terrific Walton Goggins from The Shield), who's gone from mining to white supremacy and murder. Also competing for Givens's attention are local girl Ava (Joelle Carter), whose crush on the marshal doesn't quite obscure the fact that she's just murdered her husband, and his father, Arlo (the always-solid character actor Raymond J. Barry), whose criminal career is a millstone around Givens's neck. Justified is most compelling when it focuses on Crowder, who grows more dangerous as the series unfolds; when it sends Givens to pursue less complex criminals like dentist Roland Pike (Alan Ruck in "Long in the Tooth") or play hostage negotiator ("Blowback"), the results are fine but hew closer to standard TV police drama fare. What keeps the show out of that particular ditch is Olyphant's performance, as tightly wound as his turn on Deadwood but with a hint of grim humor; he's well supported by the cast, including Nick Searcy as his boss and M.C. Gainey (Lost) as Crowder's equally hot-wired father. An array of fine directors, including John Dahl (Red Rock West), actor Tony Goldwyn (Conviction), Rod Holcomb (The Good Wife), and Jon Avnet (Fried Green Tomatoes), also lends a cinematic quality to the episodes.
Extras include commentary by the cast and crew on four episodes, including the always-wry Olyphant on "Hatless" and executive producer Graham Yost (The Pacific) and director Michael Dinner on "Fire in the Hole." Leonard's influence on the series is explored in a 20-minute feature called "What Would Elmore Do?," which served as a mantra for the production team whenever they found themselves in a creative bind. Short, EPK-style featurettes covering the show's inception, Kentucky locations, and its marshal advisers round out the set. --Paul Gaita