“Truth always sounds like lies to a sinner.”
– Boyd Crowder
Is there a better feeling than enjoying something you’d never expect to have interest in? Whether it be a new band or singer, falling unexpectedly in love with a city, or becoming deeply invested in a TV show that focuses on a gunslinger from Kentucky.
Justified is the saga of Raylan Givens, who grew up in a family of criminals and because of that, became a U.S. Marshal. There is clearly outlaw blood in Raylan, and the beauty of the show is seeing him juggle his upholding of the law while fighting the urge to break it. His father Arlo was once one of the biggest criminals in Harlan County (as much a character in Justified as New Mexico was in Breaking Bad). Raylan and Arlo have the worst relationship I’ve ever seen between a parent and child. And this is coming from someone who has seen The Sopranos! The utter disgust Raylan shows for any and all fugitive is delicious to see, but yet intriguing at the same time because of how similar he is to them. And none more so than Boyd Crowder.
If Justified was an actual person, Boyd Crowder would be its heart (and maybe its cool hairdo). Played magnificently by Walter Goggins, Boyd has become Raylan’s ultimate adversary. They were best friends back when they worked in the coal mines together during their teens, only to take two wildly different paths. Raylan”s path has been pretty straight forward. Become a U.S. Marshal and uphold the law. Boyd has taken a much more interesting road. We meet him as a bomb loving, bank robbing neo-nazi, then witness him take up god and religion only a few episodes later. Boyd Crowder is the ultimate chameleon and you never know if what he’s preaching is genuinely him or a one over he’s trying to pull. As much as I enjoy Timothy Olyphant, it’s because of Walter Goggins and Boyd Crowder that people keep coming back.
This really is a show unlike many others in the golden age of television we seem to be living in. Each season is its own story. There’s a new “big bad” with ever new year, usually a one off storyline that get’s wrapped up nicely during the finale, and each season has its own distinct feel.
- Season 1 gave us mostly Raylan (and Boyd near the end) vs Papa Crowder and the Miami thugs. Still one of my favorite season finales of all time. Admittedly the beginning of the season was pretty weak. Justified tends to do episodes that have little side stories. A “case of the day” for Raylan and his U.S. Marshal co-workers. Normally I find these episodes to be tedious, reminding me of lesser television dramas from before HBO showed us what real television could be. But for Justified it works. Again, I would never expect to enjoy it, yet I can’t deny the appeal.
- The strongest of the show, Season 2 introduces us to the Bennet family. Mags Bennet (one of the deepest villains I’ve watched on television) and her sons were incredibly fun to watch. This season had Boyd changing once again, southern politics (absolutely loved the scenes with the mining company trying to take over the small town), and gave us the hilarious Dickie Bennet. Season 2 was also where I realized that this show was genuinely funny. Certainly the funniest drama I’ve ever seen (unless we count Louie as a drama).
- Ah. The fan favorite season. We meet two “big baddies” this season in Robert Quarles and Ellstin Limehouse. Both totally different and equally as captivating. Especially Robert Quarles. It doesn’t get much more charismatic than that guy. He wears his personality on his sleeve (insert spoiler arm pun here) and it’s a joy to watch. Quarles, the Detroit mob thug, tries to set up business in small town Harlan making enemies with every one from Raylan to Boyd to even Limehouse himself. It may not hold up to the pinnacle that is Season 2, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t fun.
- Season 4 is where I started to really respect the show. They took a major risk in changing the tone by making the whole season predicated on a mystery. You can feel the difference from the first episode. There are flashbacks, secret identities, unsolved murders from thirty years ago. It’s like they snorted a Twin Peaks drug. They may not have made perfection, but I give all the credit to the show runners for trying something different. Too many shows rehash the same ground and become stale (looking at you Sons of Anarchy).
- The latest season gave us the Crowe family. A Florida based group that moves up to Harlan because their cousin Dewey lives there. In reality, they’re just a watered down version of the Bennet clan. Unequivocally Justified’s worst season, but it all leads to what we’ve been waiting for. It sets up the sixth (and final) season to be a showdown between Raylan and Boyd.
The show certainly isn’t without its faults. There are quite a few plot holes I’ve had to roll my eyes at (why is a U.S. Marshal always in Harlan, Kentucky?!), the green screen usage is TERRIBLE, the show has trouble fleshing out side characters (specifically Tim and Rachael, Raylan’s U.S. Marshal co-workers), and as I’ve said before, the mini-story line’s in some episodes become tedious. But when it comes down to it, I don’t care. As long as Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder are on that screen, my eyes will be glued to it.
I don’t know why I took the chance on Justified. The western genre never totally appealed to me. Yes, I adored Deadwood, and that’s a huge reason why I gave this show a chance (I needed more Olyphant!), but other than that, gunslingers and outlaws never interested me. Southern culture in general disgusts me. It may be a generalization but I only think of guns and confederate flags when thinking of the southern states. As a liberal the show never appealed to me. Fortunately the show exposes the people of the south for what they are. Gun loving, simple minded, law breaking idiots. But also as caring, family oriented, community first, good people. I’ll never live south of Pennsylvania, but I’ll admit the show has softened my opinion of southern folk (while also confirming them).
It appears Season 6 will be the end of it all. I’m always in favor of shows that have an ending in mind. More importantly, we finally get the Raylan vs Boyd finish we’ve not so secretly been waiting for. Will Raylan catch (or kill) his white whale? Will fan favorite Boyd live on beyond the end of the series? Perhaps both of our main characters will meet the same, ugly fate. Of course, if we know one thing about Harlan, Kentucky it’s this…