Justified- season 1 (a DVD review)

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I love his hat. You don’t see too many hats on TV anymore, ten gallon or otherwise, so a character who is never without his enormous hat in a contemporary TV show is going to engender certain expectations.  U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens, as portrayed by the exceptional Timothy Olyphant (fresh from playing another Western character on Deadwood) meets them. It takes a certain flair of attitude to carry off such a hat and Raylan has it in spades.

As our story begins, Florida-based marshall  Raylan is meeting a fugitive poolside. He had given the man, a killer with mob ties, 24 hours to get out of town. The fugitive draws on Raylan and Raylan kills him. As the shooting was so public, despite being “justified,” Raylan is shipped against his own wishes back to the area in which he grew up, rural Eastern Kentucky.

Raylan is not a chatterer, never draws his gun except when he intends to use it, always shoots to kill- “it’s how I was taught,” and may even start a bar fight in which he is trounced, but he also would never dream of entering someone’s house without an invitation (or a warrant).

Based on the short story “Fire in the Hole” by crime writer Elmore Leonard (LA Confidential, The Black Dahlia) who is also an executive producer, characters  in Justified are well-drawn and flawed, not just Raylan. From Raylan’s quippy and exasperated boss Art Mullen (Nick Searcy) to his take-no-crap ex-wife Winona, (Natalie Zea) for whom Raylan still carries something of a torch, to current flame and crime witness/suspect   Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter), these are all believable people, people you feel you know.

The one character I don’t feel I know is still very well drawn. It’s just that I’ve never known any Bible- quoting psychopathic white supremacists. Boyd Crowder, played by Walton Goggen, is fascinating to watch, dangerous, polite, and completely unpredictable ; he seems to like Raylan despite being on opposite sides of the law.

That is my favorite thing about this series. All of the so-called villains are three-dimensional characters, people with loyalties and opinions. Oh sure, some are still fairly heinous human beings, but most are just people who once did something very stupid. Raylan treats them all like people, making small talk with forgers, kidnappers, and murderers.

This is not a police procedural. One of the producers makes a point of saying in an interview on the special features that this show is not a cop show but a crime show. Marshalls do not solve crimes. They enforce the law.

Special features include some less than stellar episode commentaries and several featurettes, including one entitled “What Would Elmore Do?” Justified season 1 is available for purchase and on Netflix.

by Heather Craig

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