Sharp wit, villians back on 'Justified'


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FX's modern-day western, "Justified," returns for its second season and once again reminds viewers of the value in investing in guest characters.

This story of slow-burn deputy U.S. marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) makes an effort to explore the lives of its one-episode-and-out bad guys. While most TV shows offer up straw men, "Justified" gives its colorful villains more shades, more depth.

The season premiere is a little clunky as it cleans up the mess left after the show's first-season finale -- the sooner the show moves beyond that, the better -- but then gets on to introducing a new Harlan County crime family with a particularly ruthless matriarch, Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale, cast wonderfully against type). The Bennetts appear to be around for the long haul and the family includes three sons of varying degrees of stupidity, all full of criminal intent.

Last season's quasi-nemesis, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins, "The Shield"), continues to lurk in the shadows while proclaiming his innocence: "Just because I've shot the occasional person doesn't mean I'm a thief."

But the show's true star is the language inspired by the prose of author Elmore Leonard, who created the Givens character in his novels. Whether it's Raylan's father wishing ill on another or Raylan himself trying to talk down a child molester, "Justified" is at its most engrossing when the spare dialogue erupts with dark comedic force.

"Now, look, normally I would have shot you myself the second you pulled [your gun]," Raylan tells a lawbreaker, "but I am doing my level best to avoid the paperwork and self-recrimination that comes with it. Lord knows you're the kind who makes it worth it more."

And Lord knows that kind of sharp writing makes "Justified" worth watching.


First Published February 6, 2011 5:00 AM


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