Justified: Season 2
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In the aftermath of the deadly showdown that freed Harlan County from the Crowder family crime reign, U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens must now take on even greater criminal forces looking to seize power - including hellbent nemesis Boyd Crowder and the arrival of brutal, new adversary Mags Bennett (Emmy® Winner Margo Martindale). Filled with treacherous twists at every turn... the second season of "Justified" proves "spectacularly entertaining" (TV Guide) and has established itself as a show for the ages.
The sophomore season of Graham (The Pacific) Yost's hardboiled neo-Western series Justified is a worthy companion piece to its stellar first season, and at times even surpasses its predecessor thanks to some terrific performances. Timothy Olyphant returns as author and executive producer Elmore Leonard's taciturn Marshal Raylan Givens, albeit with less of an itchy trigger finger than in the first season, in part because of a rekindled romance with his ex-wife (Natalie Zea). Walton Goggins's Boyd Crowder is also back on the scene and enjoying a tenuous truce with Givens, as well as his own love interest in his ex-sister-in-law, Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter). Peace, of a sort, has also come to Harlan County with the dispersal of Crowder's drug-dealing family at the end of season one, but the vacuum is soon filled by an even more diabolical threat: the Bennetts, a vicious clan led by matriarch Mags (an Emmy-winning turn by Margo Martindale), who rules their own marijuana business through intimidation and outright murder. The growing conflict between Givens and the Bennetts is exacerbated by the arrival of a mining concern speculating the region for possible use; their appearance drives a wedge between Givens and Boyd, whose loose-cannon tendencies once again come to the forefront. Season two continues the fine balancing act between richly detailed characterizations and visceral violence established in the debut season by the show's cast and creative team, as well as its assimilation of Leonard's trademark dialogue and plotting. Acting and direction also remain top-notch, with the returning players adding new layers to their roles, while Martindale and Jeremy Davies as her malevolent son offer two of the most memorable villains in recent memory. The three-disc DVD presentation of Justified's second season is highlighted by a pair of making-of featurettes that delve into the production design and major themes of the season, with plentiful contributions from cast and crew. Brief collections of outtakes and deleted scenes round out the set. --Paul Gaita
Clans, Feuds & Apple Pie
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This second season of Justified picks up where the first season left off cleaning up the aftermath of a shoot-out between Raylan, the Crowder crime family and Miami gun-thugs. The story then shifts introducing the new characters of the Bennett family, a ruthless pot-dealing and moonshining clan who may be trying to take over from the Crowders (and who have a deep, violent history with Raylan's family). We also follow reformed(?) outlaw Boyd Crowder, who's now a regular character and ends up getting mixed up with the Bennetts himself. As with first season things play out episodically at first, slowly building up the main plot and then letting things take off in the last five episodes. The action is well-filmed and there's still plenty of gunfights but it's really the dialogue, character development and Kentucky setting that makes Justified stand out from the rest of the crime shows on TV.
The acting was one of Justified's strong points during its' first season and it's even better this time around! Timothy Olyphant is excellent as Raylan and this time giving him much more vulnerability as a man who has more to lose than just his job. Walton Goggins is equally good as Boyd, an anti-hero whose consistantly questioning his place in life. While the series regulars have never been better it's Margo Martindale and Jeremy Davies as Mags and Dickie Bennett who hold your attention and give us understandable, yet threatening villains.
As much as I liked the overall story of this season of Justified I think it dragged itself down with repetitious subplots (involving Raylan's ex-wife Winona and a few too many stops at Mag's store) and a consistently dark tone. The first season of Justified was able to offset it's seriousness with moments of light-humor and charm (much like Elmore Leonard's stories) and while it's nice to see Raylan's NOT the invincible gunfighter he thinks he is, each episode kept getting more intense and the situations more serious. I'm sure this makes the show more interesting for the usual crime-series fan, I just hope Justified doesn't lose it's identity in the process.
While I have a few minor complaints (anyone else think Raylan let Boyd and Arlo off the hook a bit too easily?), this second season of Justified is still a must-see and establishes the show as one of the more original crime dramas currently running on TV.
Why does it have to come to an end?
Because the power of this family is based on crime: illegal cultivation of marihuana at a very high level, grand style and all, for tremendous amounts of money. Because the power of this family is reinforced by one son who is the local sheriff and has turned the local police force into a gang to enforce and reinforce the power of and the decisions of the mother. Because the other two sons are plain criminals and nothing else, killing for fun and torturing for kicks. Because some company from outside decides that the tremendous amount of coal that is hidden in these Kentucky mountains has to be taken out and the Bennett family is an obstacle to this industrial venture and has to be either bought, or even bribed, or eliminated. Since the sons are die-hard criminal minds there is no other way but to eliminate them, and get rid of the mother.
The agents of that cleansing mission will be the Deputy US Marshall Raylan Givens from the Givens family, a rival family to the Bennetts, and the Crowders, another rival family to the Bennetts. Raylan is the only one who is on the side of more or less legal means, the use of force if it is justified. The other members of these two families are on the side of justice for themselves, vengeance for their dead, revenge for their businesses and lives. So they want the Bennett empire to be split up into pieces and the viable pieces to be entrusted, or recuperated, by them.
So the brothers have to go one after another. One is shot dead by a girl he tried to molest and whose father he had killed, the second ends up in prison, the third, the local sheriff, ends up badly too and the mother has her own fate on her own hands. The chief of a tribe, or a clan, of a gang deserves some modest reward in their ends, in this case her end, face to face with Raylan.
The details you’ll have to get from the 13 episodes, but we knew from the very beginning that this second season was the end of the monstrous criminal corrupt dictatorship or a dumb mother and her three slaves of sorts, and sons by name.
There are tricky moments to eliminate secondary corrupt dummies, and some sensitive moments about the girl whose father was assassinated by the Bennetts. There are also some surprising moments concerning the two female characters, Raylan’s ex-wife who became his new girl friend, and his high school lover of sorts who is connected to one of the last surviving Crowders. Not to speak of Raylan’s step mother he calls his aunt. A very strong woman but to be strong is nearly a disadvantage when confronted to unethical criminals.
But I am sure you will enjoy the suspense. At the end, which could have been the end of the series, Raylan has applied for some promotion out of Kentucky or the Marshall service, he has just learned some good news about his ex-wife and we do not know what will happen. That’s not a cliff hanger but that will be a new start next season.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU