This Second Season is Completely ‘Justified’

Justified: The Complete Second Season (Sony) confirms the FX original series as one of the best shows on TV.

U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) is still stuck in the Kentucky county he fled years before, this season reconnecting with his ex-wife (Natalie Zea) as he gets pulled into a complicated stand-off involving a family syndicate running the dope trade, meth, moonshine and other interests in Kentucky coal country. Margo Martindale won a well-deserved Emmy Award as the wily matriarch of the backwoods mafia taking on a corporate mining concern while her less disciplined sons (notably Jeremy Davies as a schemer with a grudge against Raylon) stir up trouble around the fringes of the business. What’s a mother to do?

The series, adapted from an Elmore Leonard short story, is an exceedingly smart piece of pulp fiction with the rough edges of fascinating characters and storylines with dramatic blowback. Case in point: the journey of Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), Raylon’s old friend turned criminal nemesis who begins the season trying to go straight with a job in the mines and finds himself drawn back to his strengths as the balance of power in the rural crime world shifts. Goggins’ measured performance and controlled intensity makes Crowder the most dangerous character in the series, and the conviction of his principles and loyalties makes him a marvelous complement to Raylon, whose own loyalties and ideas of justice continue to get him in trouble. Timothy Olyphant’s Raylon may be equal parts pulp cowboy and maverick TV cop, but he’s the real deal with lived in flaws that tell us as much about the past he’s trying to outrun as the man it turned him into.

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Justified: Welcome to Harlan County

Justified: The Complete First Season (Sony)

My vote for the best new series of 2010 opens as an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s short story “Fire in the Hole,” starring Timothy Olyphant as a U.S. Marshall with a frontier approach to justice (the film opens with him giving a drug lord a day to get out of town and pushing the meeting into a shoot-out—the other guy draws first so the shooting is “justified”), and then uses it as the source to extend and expand the character’s story.

Timothy Olyphant: Cowboy justice in the modern world

Olyphant’s Raylan Givens is the cowboy of a lawman who gets demoted from his Miami posting and sent back to Kentucky, the home he thought he’d escaped once and for all, in the fall-out of cowboy justice. His new boss (Nick Searcy, a sharp leader with a laid-back manner) isn’t exactly thrilled with his arrival—Raylan’s daddy (Raymond J. Barry) is a local hood and his old buddy Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins of The Shield fame), a former coal miner turned explosive expert and gun runner, is currently masterminding a reign of terror in town (no wonder he left home)—but he has a wary affection for Raylan. Even when he ends up blowing a major case by dating the chief witness, the adorable, honey-smoked local beauty (and widow of a crime family figure) Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter). Just to complicate matters, Raylan’s ex-wife Winona (Natalie Zea) works for the D.A.

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