On The Right Side Of The Law
Tripwire continues its list of its Top 30 Crime and Police shows, selected by its editor-in-chief and senior editor. Here’s its 28th entry, FX’s Justified…
Creator: Graham Yost
Stars: Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter, Jacob Pitts, Erica Tazel, Walton Goggins
Justified, which ran from 2010 to 2015, is a series with genuine pedigree. Just over five years after Timothy Olyphant appeared in HBO”s acclaimed Deadwood, Justified saw him return as the central protagonist of a high profile TV show.
Olyphant plays errant US marshal Raylan Givens who is forced to return to his childhood home of East Kentucky after committing a serious faux pas in the more salubrious environs of Miami, Florida.
Justified works partly because Givens is a creation of the master of modern crime fiction, the late Elmore Leonard. Leonard was always able to invest his stories with a likeable satirical streak and Justified is no different.
Givens sits ill at ease back in his old stomping ground, coming up against the evil chicanery of his main adversary Boyd Crowder, played with burning intensity by the excellent Walton Goggins, a malevolent figure who enjoys playing games for the highest stakes. Olyphant also manages to combine arrogance with a genuine warmth that makes the viewer connect with him throughout. Boss Art Mullen (Nick Searcy) offers a steadying hand to Givens, who has a tendency to act first and think later, while the character’s love life is complicated by his ex wife Winona Hawkins (Natalie Zea) and his current on-off squeeze Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter). His partner, Rachel Brooks, played by Erica Tazel, offers a credible counterpoint to Givens. Just to make things even more complex, Raylan’s father, Arlo, is a recidivist criminal who runs with Crowder, forcing the Marshal to constantly choose sides.
There is a lightness of touch here that Yost manages to pull off, offering us a portrayal of a place struggling to make ends meet, a place that feels a million miles away from the urban sophistication of cities like New York, Dallas, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Shooting it in Lexington, Kentucky lends it an air of verisimilitude and credibility that it would have lacked if they had chosen to film it in an anodyne studio in Los Angeles. The viewer is immersed in the “hollers” and communities of Kentucky, populated with modern-day outlaws and mavericks. A more contemporary show like Ozark touches on similar ground but Marty Byrde is a very different character, his “fish out of water” arc diametrically opposite Olyphant’s roughhewn homeboy.
Like the best TV shows, it didn’t outstay its welcome, closing strongly with a deftly handled, expertly interweaved storyline that wrapped up all the pieces without feeling like a schematic or hurriedly concluded effort.
Elmore Leonard’s legacy is vast, and Justified is a worthwhile addition to his body of work. Yost’s contribution here cannot be underestimated either as the producer and his team really brought Leonard’s creations to vivid life on the small screen.
Justified is on now on All4 in the UK and on Amazon Prime and in the US