The third season of Graham Yost's stellar, Emmy-winning crime drama Justified
trumps any concerns about besting the high-water mark of its second season with a pair of stellar new villains who neatly bookend the central conflict between the show's opposing leads and lethal frenemies, Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and loose cannon Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). Season three also shrewdly extends the storyline that not only anchored the previous season but boosted the series' popularity by retaining Dickie Bennett (Emmy winner Jeremy Davies), sole survivor of the murderous, drug-dealing clan that served as Givens's primary antagonists in season two; here, Dickie provides the pathway to season three's twin engines of mayhem, money launderer Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson), who holds the Bennett family fortune, and Quarles (Neal McDonough), a psychotic Detroit mob enforcer who upends the Dixie Mafia upon his arrival in the show's Harlan, Kentucky, setting. As in previous seasons, Boyd Crowder is the match that sets the whole powder keg to burning, ping-ponging between Limehouse and Quarles in his pursuit of the Bennett clan's money and laying out a trail of death and destruction that proves the greatest challenge to date for Givens, who's not only still recovering from a gunshot wound received in the conclusion of season two, but also experiencing renewed conflict with his ex-wife, Winona (Natalie Zea), who is understandably reluctant to reconnect with Givens while under such potential danger.
Season three of Justified continues its tradition of upholding the principles of author Elmore Leonard, who created the character of Raylan Givens, and whose taut, detailed examinations of lives on both sides of the criminal fence receive some of their best screen depictions in the series. Scripting and directing (by Michael Dinner, John Dahl, Jon Avnet, Tony Goldwyn, and Adam Arkin, who also turns up as a crime boss in episode 11) remain feature-quality, and the rock-solid lead turns by Olyphant and Goggins are well matched by the regular supporting cast, including Zea, Nick Searcy, and Joelle Carter as Boyd's livewire girlfriend turned crime partner Ava, and recurring players Davies, Jere Burns, Raymond J. Barry (as Givens's addled but still dangerous father), and William Ragsdale. Guest turns by Carla Gugino, who essentially reprises her turn as Leonard's tough deputy marshal Karen Sisco from the short-lived ABC series of the same name, as well as Michael Ironside and Jim Beaver are also fine, but it's Williamson and especially McDonough who deliver the biggest fireworks in season three, with the latter providing a compelling and repellant villain on par with Margo Martindale's Emmy-winning turn as Mags Bennett in season two. Extras on the three-disc DVD set are also top-notch and include commentary by Yost, Olyphant, and other key cast and production members on nine episodes, as well as a making-of featurette that rises above the usual encapsulation/electronic press kit approach to discuss the challenges of transitioning from season two and introducing the new antagonists; a tour of Limehouse's home turf and a look at a car explosion stunt, as well as a brief collection of deleted scenes (both of which improve the versions in the broadcast cut) and outtakes, round out the set. --Paul Gaita
In the nonstop, gunslinging third season of the highly acclaimed hit series, Deputy US Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) must wield his brand of renegade justice against modern crime like never before. Surrounded by dirty politicians, drug cartels, murder frames, hidden fortunes and multiple criminal forces warring for control - including archenemies Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins, "The Shield") and Dickie Bennett (Jeremy Davies in his Emmy®-winning role), a mystery man named "Limehouse," a lethal mob enforcer newly arrived from the Motor City and in a final shocking showdown, his own father - Givens finds himself in everyone's cross hairs.