A U.S. marshal walks into a Florida bar to confront a gun thug. The marshal gives the thug 24 hours to leave town or he will kill him. The miscreant refuses and attempts to shoot the marshal, who fortunately draws quickly and shoots him first. This tense scene is surprisingly resolved within minutes and serves to set the tone of the pilot episode of “Justified.”
“Justified” follows U.S. marshal, Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), who is reassigned to his hometown in Kentucky, following the shooting. Even though the shooting was ruled to be justified — cue title drop — Givens is moved to avoid bad publicity and due to his familiarity with Kentucky.
Givens’ primary task upon his arrival is investigating the activities of an old friend Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). Crowder is a white supremacist who has taken to robbing banks and blowing up buildings with a rocket launcher to distract from the robbery.
The concept of using a cumbersome, heavy rocket launcher for any sort of realistic criminal activity should be absurd, but somehow, the show makes it work. The excellent writing and pacing of each “Justified” episode serves to hypnotize the viewer into not noticing the passage of time — much akin to critical darling “Breaking Bad.”
“Justified” stands out in a crowded TV playing field because it is weird in a unique way. The show appeals to those who enjoy sarcasm with perfect comedic delivery by Olyphant and Goggins. If it were not for the excellent acting, one would suspect that the actors were chosen for their ability to rock certain accessories. Olyphant is the only one that could possibly not look ridiculous in Givens’ trademark cowboy hat and Goggins looks downright menacing in a black sweater.
Each episode of “Justified” is a beautiful coalescence of mystery, western and comedy. The majority of the time, Givens spends each episode investigating peculiar Marshal-related crimes that seem to plague Harlan County — such as the rocket launcher related bank robberies. The use of a marshal for a main character differentiates “Justified” from the overcrowded crime field that is littered with every “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “Law and Order” variation imaginable. Simultaneously, fans of both mystery shows will be enticed by a new spin on often overdone format.
As the Western-style shootout that opened season one demonstrated, Givens is fond of dispensing his own style of justice. The show’s tense action sequences are filled with Western shootouts that serve to move the plot and add stakes to Givens’ actions. One cannot help but wonder, though, how the high body count at the end of each season hasn’t attracted national attention.
Each season focuses on a central opposing character whose actions serve to drive the cascade of violent conflict that characterizes the Harlan area. The writing of “Justified” flexes its muscles in that the actions of each character serve to connect in a complicated plot arc that pays off in future seasons, which is something that many shows cannot deliver on.
Sadly, “Justified” is nearing a close with the sixth season premiering in January 2015. Luckily, the early seasons — including season one — are available for free for Amazon Prime users. For those of you looking to fill the “Breaking Bad” sized hole in your heart, “Justified” is worth a shot.
Aleya Ericson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org