This isn’t the Wild Wild West as depicted in those legendary cowboy flicks. New FX series Justified centers on a US Marshal who fancies himself a lone cowboy in a modern-day world, even if it is rural Kentucky. US Marshal Raylan Givens, played by Timothy Olyphant, seems to have been born in the wrong century. Raylan has his own interpretation of the law whereby bad guys have 2 options: 1. Get out of town and never return 2. I (as in Givens) will shoot you dead before you can even blink.
He makes a point of telling the bad guys who threaten him that if he draws his weapon he shoots to kill. Inevitably, this approach lands him in many a pseudo-duel situation. He seems to have some kind of death wish as he constantly dares criminals to shoot him. But of course, they are either too scared or too slow because he draws his weapon and shoots before they can even pull the trigger on the gun they already have aimed at him. At the beginning of the episode, this rule of his gets him reassigned from Miami to his native Kentucky. Apparently, shooting a criminal on site has been banned for over 100 years, so like I said – wrong century.
Once in Kentucky, he gets assigned to the case of a white supremacist that they believe is responsible for a string of bombings and robberies, but they can’t find evidence to convict him of anything…that is of course, until Raylan comes along. The man in question, Boyd Crowder, happens to be Raylan’s coal-mining buddy from back in the day when they were teenagers. The guy is a miserable human being but he is smart (he makes up some brilliant and unexpected game plans) and speaks eloquently so as to be able to lead a team of thugs. Boyd, played by The Shield’s Walton Goggins, leads a group of neo-Nazi skinheads who do bombings and bank robberies, usually one after the other so that the police are too busy tending to the explosion when they rob the bank. It goes to show you how two men with a similar past can end up at completely opposite sides of the law.
Boyd is a very worthy adversary for Raylan, using Raylan’s own shtick against him—he threatened Raylan to get out of town in 24 hours or he’d shoot him. Blah blah blah, really cool stuff happens, then Boyd re-enacts the duel from the beginning of the episode. But he didn’t except his sister-in-law, who just killed her abusive husband the day before, to point a rifle at him so now we have a 3-way duel. Raylan is the only one with his weapon still in his holster but of course this is no sweat for him and he gets the first shot in anyway, because he’s just that good. Fortunately Raylan purposely misses shooting Boyd in the heart. I was relieved Boyd didn’t die, he is extreme and evil but he is an awesome villain, too intriguing a character to kill off so soon. If the writers and director keep Boyd as a recurring character, he is going to be the villain we love to hate.
Raylan’s style is so laid-back and calm that it makes the show seem rather slow-paced but keep yourself from trying to multi-task as you watch because there is a lot of great acting, dialogue, and plot, all of which you can’t pick up on if you aren’t paying close attention. The dark and twisted Raylan Givens is very much the main character but the supporting characters we have seen seem very promising, I’m looking forward to see how the writers develop them.
As far as modern-day westerns go, this is as good as it gets. Plus, Olyphant is super-fine! Even male writers everywhere have a man-crush on him!
JUSTIFIED airs on Tuesdays at 10pm on FX