A week or so ago I wrote a summary of my thoughts on FX’s Sons of Anarchy. It’s a fine show, and one I highly recommend as you’ll gather if you read my review. I also noticed at the time that I was on a bit of an inadvertent FX kick, as in the last year or so I’ve discovered Always Sunny and Archer as well.
A lot of recommendations for my next show to watch came through in the comments, but one was repeated more than any other: Justified, continuing in the FX tradition.
I responded that I had tried the show. In fact, I’d watched three episodes of it a few months back. I had no particular critique of it, but it didn’t quite capture my interest enough to make me plow through all of it.
But hey, this is my job, and I’ll be damned if I can’t get through 12 episodes of a show in a weekend. I’ve since watched every episode of the series, am now caught up to the latest one, and am ready to share my thoughts.
I like it.
Simply put , it’s an enjoyable show. But that being said, I’m not putting it on my “must see” list that includes recent shows I’ve discovered like Archer and Spartacus. It’s well made and acted, but not particularly the kind of program that “hooks” you in.
Though with it’s endless parade of leggy blondes, it does certainly try.
It took me a while to start appreciating the series, as it just seemed like the type of procedural I usually avoid. Honestly, I didn’t think things started getting interesting until maybe the ninth or tenth episode. Until then, it just didn’t really seem like it was going anywhere. A US Marshall is banished to his hometown for the questionable shooting of a fugitive. Each episode it seemed like some random fire would light up that he needs to put out. Judge needs protection, convict takes a hostage, etc. And these things never seemed particularly interconnected, and none of the major plotlines really intersected until the very end of the season.
All the effort devoted to the story of Raylan’s shootings being investigated seemed pointless for the duration of season one. Did anyone really think that would ever pose a threat to him at all? Yet it kept being brought up as a dark cloud over his head through the entire first season, despite there being no actual consequences from it.
That brings me to the character of Raylan Givens, played with supreme swagger by Timothy Olyphant. He’s easy to like, and a formidable gunslinger. He’s sort of a cowboy version of Jack Bauer, if he was given a sense of humor and a good night’s sleep.
Cowboy hats and warm weather are the two main reasons I wish I lived in the South.
But my problem with Raylan is that he’s almost TOO smooth. Rarely did I ever find any sort of moment where I felt any real danger for his character. You KNOW he’s going to outshoot everyone and be just fine in each and every encounter. I guess you could say the same about Bauer, Jason Bourne and James Bond, but the way those characters are played, it at least SEEMS like they could get hurt in these dangerous encounters. More often than not Raylan’s joking with his aggressors and he always, always keeps his cool. Maybe that’s his tactic, but he never really seems like he’s taking any of it seriously.
His biggest problems aren’t the guns being shoved in his face, but the women he keeps sleeping with. First it’s a witness in a case he’s working that gets the whole thing tossed out, now it’s his ex-wife. But again he has his carefree attitude toward it all, and if the man is ever stressed about anything going on in his life, you’d never know it.
I think a far more interesting character is Boyd Crowder. For the last half of the first season, I could have sworn his plotline was building toward some kind of big reveal and a scheme he had up his sleeve masked by his religious zealotry. But alas, it appears his conversion was legitimate, and he really did go vigilante on his father with no ulterior motive other than “eradicating evil.” Now he’s lost his faith because God allowed his newformed church to be slaughtered, and his character progression is far more interesting than Raylan’s as far as I’m concerned, as Raylan has been the same since day one.
Think you need to open that flap at the end Boyd.
Season two is off to a strong start I’d say. It seems to have a clear direction, with the introduction of this new crime family (awesomely including Daniel Faraday from Lost), and hopefully we’ll see less disjointed episodes, and the season can flow a bit better. Also, what happened to Raylan’s black girl partner? Did they just write her out of the show?
So yes, I like Justified, and I’m going to keep watching it, but frankly, only because there isn’t a whole lot else on TV to watch right about now. NBC Thursday is really it, with Archer to boot, and thank God someone was smart enough to schedule Justified on a Wednesday.