Thursday, May 10, 2012
Down in ol’ Kentucky
Sunday Tribune (South Africa)
BYLINE: Tim Goodman
Elmore Leonard doesn’t endorse the FX series Justified (Tuesdays on |M-Net Series at 8.30pm) because it’s based on one of his characters.
He’s had a long while to think about how many times Hollywood has messed up his books. Nope, he loves Justified because it gets him. And it gets him right.
As Justified has headed into its third season, there’s still an open door there for newcomers.
Now, that door doesn’t exist for a lot of shows well into their run, but consider this a screen door in Harlan County, Kentucky, propped open with a jug of illegal liquor, beckoning you in with Southern hospitality.
As one of the top-tier dramas in all of television, Justified doesn’t need much of an introduction. Timothy Olyphant, pictured left, plays US Marshal Raylan Givens like he was born for the role - as in born to play it as he did so superbly on Deadwood.
And Walton Goggins plays the devilishly dangerous rattlesnake known as Boyd Crowder, who opened Season 3 making plans to be El Jefe, or whatever they might call the equivalent down in Kentucky. Add a great cast and fantastic writing, and you’ve got all you really need to know moving forward.
Raylan’s a perfectly created Leonard character. Troubled. Haunted. Smart. Funny. He has a way with words and can draw a |gun faster than most of the people on the other end of it ever imagined.
He’s both lawman and local. And there’s a history (which intersects with Boyd through their families and goes back generations) that infuses Justified with something not seen on TV before.
One of the beauties of Justified is that Season 1 was very good but a mixed bag, as the writers - headed up by executive producer Graham Yost - tried to get the formula just right. They wore wrist bands that prompted a very good notion: “What would Elmore do?”
Well, he’d make it great for starters. And real. Which is precisely what happened with about four episodes left in that first season and then magnificently outed itself in Season 2, when Justified jumped with gusto from very good to great.
The first few episodes of Season 3 indicated there has been no slippage at all, but rather a digging in of the philosophy at hand: keep the characters unique and vibrant and keep them in their native habitat - rural Kentucky, a backdrop like no other.
With those objectives met - and we shall see if the wonderful Neal McDonough and Mykelti Williamson can carry the guest star weight that Margo Martindale exuded last season when she won an Emmy - the story picks up right from where Season 2 left off.
Raylan was shot and his wounds were healing slowly. Raylan’s ex and now current, Winona (Natalie Zea), is pregnant. Boyd’s girlfriend Ava (Joelle Carter) also is nursing a gunshot wound.
But new forces are moving |into Harlan to seize on opportunity, just as Boyd begins to form his empire.
Will forces clash? You bet.
Again, what separates Justified from so many series is the wonderful writing, overwhelmingly praised by Leonard and delivered with pitch-perfect precision by |the cast.
If you’re already invested in this series, there’s no need to tout its greatness any more.
If you’re new, just walk through that open door and find out for yourself. - THR.com