Friday, June 11, 2010

Must Watch Friday : : Justified

Anne McAllister is already missing Justified -- and watching her DVDs of the show.

Back in January when I got my PHS assignments for the year, I started keeping an eye out for the "Must-Watch" film or television program I would write about in June.

I had a few on a list that I thought were reasonably good candidates. Then, in March, along came Justified, the new series on FX, and blew the competition out of the water.

It lasted thirteen weeks. I never missed one.

The first season ended last Tuesday. I would be counting the days until season two if I had any idea when it was going to start up again.

If you've been watching Justified, I imagine you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't -- and you like fast-paced, hard-edged, grittily realistic television with complex, compelling characters, sharp dialogue and a slow-talking, sharp-shooting, means-exactly-what-he-says-and-wonders-why-you-would-think-otherwise US Marshal who will make you forget all the others you've ever seen -- you can still see some of the episodes on FX's site or on Hulu 0r you can buy a "season pass" for $1.89 an episode on (if you're in the States, at least).

If you're in UK, season one of Justified is still showing (lucky you!). Elsewhere in the world, check your local listings. If it's there, check it out. I don't think you'll be sorry.


Well, let's start with the hero.

Raylan Givens, deputy US Marshal, opens the season by warning a Miami drug dealer out of town. Or else.

The drug dealer doesn't take him seriously. He's more interested in eating his lunch at a fancy high-rise outdoor restaurant and smirking, goading, and otherwise disrespecting Deputy Givens. Not a good idea. Even when he realizes Raylan is not going away, he doesn't do the smart thing and leave town.

No. He draws first. Givens's response is 'justified.' The drug dealer is dead. And the US Marshal's office in Miami despairs of what will happen next. So they ostracize him -- send him back to Harlan County, Kentucky from whence he came, to contemplate his tendency to shoot too many bad guys and to face the demons he left behind half a lifetime ago.

Raylan Givens is an Elmore Leonard hero. The series is based on Leonard's short story, "Fire In the Hole." It goes beyond the story, but while it explores new territory, it conforms to the "leave out the parts that people skip" approach to fiction that Leonard espouses.

The episodes feel like Elmore Leonard stories. They are harsh, they are gritty. They breathe visual life into his fictional world.

And Timothy Olyphant breathes life into Raylan Givens better than anyone I could imagine.

The role fits him like a glove. He can be cool and quiet, gentle and caring, menacing and deadly in the blink of an eye. Tim's Raylan Givens means what he says and he doesn't suffer fools, period. You can hear it in his voice, see it in his posture. At the same time he has a soft-spot for his ex-wife Winona, a weakness for the lovely Ava who is hotly pursuing him, and close to forty years of trouble with his father, Arlo.

He has, in a word, Issues.

But none is more compelling than his relationship with the series' anti-hero, Boyd Crowder. There is no better foil on television than Boyd Crowder, played masterfully by Walton Goggins, who did similarly fabulous work on an earlier FX series, The Shield.

Boyd and Raylan are flip sides of the same moral conundrum. They worked "down the mine" together when they were nineteen. Then Raylan left and Boyd stayed. Raylan, whose father was a shifty no-account petty criminal, became a marshal. Boyd, whose father Bo was the bully of the county, became a Nazi-loving cult leader. They couldn't have been more different.

And yet . . .

Things happen. Crimes are committed. People are shot. Men go to prison. Men get out. Conversions take place. Or do they?

Nothing that happens is ever a loose end. Not really. Over thirteen weeks everything is woven into an intricate web. Pull one thread and everything else moves. Raylan and Boyd's paths cross and recross. They are friends. They are enemies. They are . . . absolutely compelling.

Justified is not a series for the faint-hearted. The violence often looks all too real. It's not a series for children. The stories are gritty, not pretty. Justified's world is harsh and often unforgiving. It will make you believe that "what goes around comes around."

It will make you watch unblinking. And then watch again.

If you're a reader or a writer who is looking for compelling, believable fiction, sharp dialogue, taut storylines, memorable complex characters and a rural Kentucky setting that is uncommon in Hollywood-based film-making, you must watch Justified.

I like Burn Notice, The Mentalist, White Collar and Castle. They're fun to watch. They are, to varying degrees, slick, dashing, charming entertainment.

Justified never feels like entertainment. It's too real.

When she isn't watching her DVDs of Justified, Anne is working on a new book and celebrating the UK release of her Mills & Boon Modern, The Virgin's Proposition in which Demetrios Savas finds himself on the receiving end of a wholly unexpected offer. Should he take it? And if he does, then what?

Certainly not what Demetrios expects!

By the way, she loves the cover.


  1. Hi, Anne! Once again, we agree on how much we love our cowboys!Gimmee Timmy! I am right there with you on "Justified". I have been hooked on it since I saw the first preview! Love it, love it, love it! Did you watch the season finale! My gosh, it was something!That finale was awesome! For me the most powerful scene was when Raylan realized his father had betrayed him. He told his father not to call him "son", and he shot his father! I think everyone in the cast is fabulous! I hope we don't have to wait too long for the new season!!!

    gcwhiskas at aol dot com

  2. Hi Anne - really looking forward to your next Modern. We don't have Justified here in New Zealand but I'll keep my fingers crossed that it makes its way here sooner or later. The other show I've heard a lot of praise for is Castle - I'm also waiting on that one.

  3. Virginia, yes, it was a spectacular finale, with just enough unanswered questions to tantalize for the duration we have to wait. But at the same time it was absolutely satisfying.

    Sandra, I hope Justified makes it to NZ. It's worth the wait (if you like your drama harsh). Castle is snappy and well-written and charming. A totally different approach to story-telling. Fun to watch.

  4. I've never even heard of this so I guess it must be on pay for view. I'm beginning to feel I should be paying!

  5. Crap on a cracker, Anne! This looks RIGHT up my alley! Now I'm wondering if we can get it on demand...

    I love Tim Olyphant. I'm going to be checking this one out.

  6. I'm definitely going to track this one down, Anne. You're right about your cover too - it's lovely!

  7. Liz, It's on Sky Five as I understand it. Hope that means something to you.

    Donna, can you get US unbox sales in Canada? If so, you can get the whole season. If not, maybe catch what you can on Hulu. And be sure to get the DVDs!

    Christina, Hope you find it -- and enjoy it. Thanks re the cover. Always helps to have a good one!

  8. I agree on the amazing cover. Gorgeous. Haven't seen Justified, but I've seen a commercial so maybe it's on a station somewhere. Looks like I'll have to check it out! Darn, more TV watching? Thanks for the head's up.

  9. Megan, I'm glad to hear you like the cover, too! I hope you track down Justified. It's worth a look. But, yes, I know what you mean about 'more tv watching!' I don't like to spend time that way regularly, either. But should I wish these good shows would go away? Hard to decide!

  10. I'm with you, too. This is a really good one. I can't wait for the new season of this show. You just don't know how to take Boyd-is he good, is he bad? He's definitely a grey hat, which makes it really interesting to watch. I may have to get this one on DVD when it comes out.


  11. Linda, I'm thinking Boyd's hat is many shades of grey! Yeah, I think a boxed set might be just what I need when they finally come out. Hoping season two doesn't wait a year until they air it.