Category Archives: recaps/Justified

Justified, “Blind Spot”: You shot somebody else?

There are no more tomorrows, Mr. Givens. The premature death of Tommy Bucks has stuck in the craw of the Miami cartel long enough and they’re finally coming after you. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. You know they’ve been keeping tabs on you, so you had to have seen this coming.

But Raylan didn’t see it coming. When a masked man with a sawed-off shotgun broke into Ava’s house and started shooting, he assumed it was one of the Crowder boys, come to pay Ava back for what she did to her husband. Never did it occur to him that anyone may be looking for him. And as long as we’re talking about blind spots, Raylan’s seems to be pretty big. Now that he’s added another kill to his list and was found sleeping with Ava, a whole mess of new problems have cropped up. Like the Miami business, Raylan should have seen this coming. For all his tough talk, he’s not bulletproof, and all of these things were going to come to a head sooner or later.

There are some other interesting bits here. When Raylan goes back to see Boyd — who he’s developing a real Clarice Starling/Hannibal Lecter relationship with, don’t you thin? — Boyd mentions how hard it must have been on Raylan growing up in his father’s house, watching him beat up on his mom all those years. He suggests that Raylan became a marshal as some sort of knee-jerk reaction to the whole experience. This made me think of the phrase, “all the best cowboys have daddy issues.” If Raylan had never had to deal with Arlo, would he still have become a marshal? Given their relationship, I doubt if Raylan sees the world in terms of people he needs to protect, but people he needs to stop.

Speaking of the Crowders, things don’t look as rosy for Boyd as one might have assumed. Sure, he’s in prison. But he seems to be making the best of a bad situation. He’s turned to God (or so he says). He’s busy converting heathens, turning them toward Christ, and that can’t be all bad, right? Well, ask the folks he’s serving time with. They’re not ignorant to the fact that Boyd’s taken a few calls from Raylan, and they’re beginning to think he’s a rat. Just when things look like they’re going South for him, his dad steps out and saves the day. And listen, I think we’ve all seen enough television to know that when a criminal son says to his criminal dad, “hi, dad,” they’re not just going to high five and go back to selling cigarettes in the cafeteria. Something’s going down, and I look forward to it with great relish.

Stuff I liked:

  • M.C. Gainey. Enough said.
  • Just to beat the serialized vs. procedural thing again, you see how much better the show is when
  • Ava vs. Winona. [kramer]Ahhgagaga-catfight![/kramer]

Justified, “The Collection”: Nobody likes rich people.

Raylan really wasn’t kidding when he told his dad at the end of last week’s episode that if he got him out of jail, the least he could do was put him back in. This week saw him back in the Lexington Federal Detention Center to see Boyd Crowder, who’s finally got some color back in his cheeks. Raylan wasn’t making a courtesy call, he was asking Boyd for dirt on any unseemly activities his dad may be involved in. Boyd is still riding the Jesus Train, and agreed to help him out as long as Raylan would give some long, hard thought to the way he’s lived his life and how he expects to account for his misdeeds on Judgment Day. Well, sure. I guess.

This week’s supporting characters were noticeably less engaging than they have been in previous episodes, and that’s because the focus this week wasn’t on the case the marshals were working so much as it was on illuminating Raylan’s lingering feelings for Winona, who popped up again this in an interesting turn of events. She showed up in Raylan’s office asking for information on a short list of people who I’m guessing are in some way involved with Gary, a man Raylan is already inclined to not like because, you know, he’s sleeping with his ex-wife. Raylan ran checks on the names and apparently found something he didn’t like much, because he paid Gary a visit later and told him that if he thought he was going to drag Winona into any bullshit with him, he was going to end up just like Tommy Bucks.

Raylan’s the kind of person who would deliver this sort of message on general principle. Sure, he and Winona are divorced, but they’re still on friendly terms. But the subtext of the entire episode really opened the door to deeper feelings he’s never let go of. While he, Art and Karl are at the Owen Carnes’ house, he has a chance to talk to Mrs. Carnes, who didn’t do too good a job hiding the fact that what she found most attractive about her husband was his money. It’s a feeling that Raylan could relate to. Later, he tells a story about working a detail protecting a guy who had his own private plane. Whenever they had to go anywhere, they’d drive right up, get in and leave. Raylan tried convincing himself that that wasn’t his life, but the next time he had to go to the airport and stand in line with all the other poor schmucks, he missed it. Like he said, everybody gives a shit about money. Apply that to his situation now. Raylan, the simple living, good old country boy, now has to watch his ex-wife move in with Gary, the fancy-pants realtor (or is that realTER?) who’s got money to burn.

But Raylan’s over Winona, right? I thought he and Ava were the next hot thing. We probably shouldn’t make any assumptions. In the beginning of the episode, as the two of them were lounging around in their unmentionables, Raylan tells her that he heard through the grapevine that Boyd Crowder’s said it might not be a bad idea for Ava to get out of Kentucky. This may be one of worst comparisons to make, but think of Karen Filippelli’s hurt feelings when Jim told her she’d be crazy to move down to Scranton to work for Dunder Mifflin. Ava may be good for a fling, but it looks like Raylan’s looking for something more.

By the end of the episode, Raylan finds that Karl the art collector has been buying Hitler paintings and burning them as a way of getting back at his dad who worked for Hitler during World War II. The hate Karl has for his father isn’t lost on Raylan, and he goes back to tell Boyd to call his dogs off of Arlo. Alls well that ends well, amirite? Not so fast. Boyd tells Raylan that he’s made the right decision, but if he could tell him that he had found something out that would Arlo away for good, would he still want to know. Raylan doesn’t know what to say to that, but it’s obvious he’s not going to be able to shut the door on his father so quickly, or his relationship with Winona for that matter.

Stuff I liked:

  • “I was close to bringing a sinner to Jesus but now his soul is consigned to eternal damnation, so I hope you’re happy.”
  • I’m sorry, but Tony Hale will always be Buster Bluth. “I’m a MONSTER!!”
  • “Honestly, I think I’d rather stick my dick in a blender.” “Well that might solve a few problems.”
  • Did anyone else notice the weird cuts the episode kept making between scenes? I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of deleted material show up on the DVD. Well, it probably won’t. But I bet it’s out there somewhere.
  • We also saw the return of Danny Vasquez this week, so it looks like Raylan’s going to be taking some heat for all those bodies he’s been leaving behind.

Justified, “The Lord of War and Thunder”: I almost got that pecker with a knife!

We knew it was coming. This week’s episode of Justified finally introduced us to Raylan’s dad, Arlo Givens. And thanks to actor Raymond J. Barry, the reunion was every bit as satisfying as we had hoped it would be, when it could have been so, so disappointing. All we can say is, after seeing how Arlo treats his son, well, Raylan’s a real champ for keeping his cool.

I guess with these types of stories, you’re always waiting for things to resolve themselves in the end. Now that Raylan is back in Kentucky, maybe he’ll learn to live with his dad, forgive him for all the shit he pulled in the past. And maybe Arlo will realize the error of his ways and work at being the dad he always should have been. Maybe they’ll both find the time to go get some rootbeer floats, talk things out. But no, we’re getting none of that, at least not anytime soon. And with the chemistry these two actors have with each other, putting their relationship on a slow burn will much more satisfying to watch. It’s obvious that Arlo is a pretty unrepentant guy, so any sudden change of heart in regards to his son is going to be asking for too much.

This is really one of the best performances we’ve seen out of Olyphant in the show so far. Raylan is obviously an angry, but he’s always seemed to have found constructive outlets for that anger. That is to say, he blasts bad guys who get up in his bidness. But it seemed like he was keeping even that side of himself in check this week. I think it may be an unconscious reflex for him. Raylan sees his father as something he absolutely does not want to become. While Arlo is a semi-criminal and has spent time in jail, Raylan became a U.S. marshal. So whenever Raylan finds himself with his dad, he keeps an even tighter leash on his darker side. In the end, it’s a whole lot of fun to watch.

Tonight, we also saw a little more of Raylan’s ongoing relationship with Ava. I thought it was a little out of character for him to seek her out last week only to tell her this week, “We CAN’T do this.” I guess I understand why they can’t have a relationship, but at the same time I don’t really buy them giving into to their BASE SEXUAL DESIRES and doing it anyway. She’s beautiful and obviously crazy about him. He’s a good lookin’ man and once shot a man just to watch him die. I say go with God. We also saw Ava in a short scene with Winona, Raylan’s ex-wife, while she was being questioned by the U.S. Attorney. I had kind of forgotten about her Winona, and am wondering how big a role she’s supposed to play in the show. Natalie Zea is a good actress and there’s chemistry in the few scenes she’s had so far with Olyphant, but if she only shows up every three or four episodes in a 13-episode season, it might be tough advancing her story.

This week’s baddy, who you may have recognized as Livingston Dell from the Ocean’s movies, wasn’t as engaging as the characters we’ve seen in previous episodes. I don’t think he was ever intended to be, as everything in the episode was meant to play second fiddle to Arlo and his relationship with Raylan. It’s understandable but at the same time a little disappointing. Eddie Jemison is a great comedic actor, and it was a shame to see some of that talent wasted.

Although Justified has definitely proven itself as a case-of-the-week show, it was nice to see it switch track and give us a deeper look into Raylan’s backstory. Hopefully the show will be able to strike a good balance between these sorts of stories in the future.

Stuff I liked:

  • Arlo’s got the family’s burial plots just off the side of the house.
  • Speaking of that U.S. Attorney scene, if you’re smarter than I am, and I’m betting you are (but then again, you’re spending your time reading my blog), you’ll know that the actor playing David Vazquez IS NOT Sam Rockwell. I lost a bet to my wife over that one.
  • “I almost got that pecker with a knife!” We don’t hear the word “pecker” enough these days. Is there anyone I can talk to about that?

Justified, “Long in the Tooth”: I’m gonna take back what’s mine.

With the exception of the pilot, this week’s episode of Justified was the best yet. With a grand total of four episodes having aired, that isn’t exactly saying a whole lot, but for me it shows that in only a few weeks the show seems to have hit its stride and settled into a good rhythm, presenting strong, compelling characters — both good and bad guys — and good storytelling, despite seeming to have dispensed with the more serialized aspects of the show that, from the commercials at least, looked like they would be making up a bigger part of things.

Now, the serialized vs. procedural argument is something that’s come up just about every week with this show, and from now on I’ll try not to mention it too much. But for now I will point you toward a good article by Miles McNutt over at Cultural Learnings, which makes the argument that procedural storytelling is going to be important to the show’s long-term future. Take some time and give it a read.

In “Long in the Tooth,” our intrepid hero is sent to L.A. to track down Roland Pike, a former mob accountant who’s been laying low after escaping Raylan’s custody several years before in Texas. Roland and his girlfriend/receptionist, wise to the fact that the Federales are now on their trail, head south to try and cross into Mexico. Raylan’s got to get him back into custody before his former employers do.

Justified has already done some really good work making the men Raylan is chasing just as interesting as Raylan himself. And this week they showed that the good guys or the bad guys they’re chasing aren’t necessarily the most colorful in the show. Mr. Jones, played by Clarence Williams III, provided some of the best moments of the entire episode, and in many ways has outshined the baddies we see Raylan chasing every week. I don’t know if it’s just a byproduct of having such well-written supporting characters, but the show may need to pay attention to the time it spends with each. As good as this week’s episode was, it seemed like we weren’t spending as much time with Raylan as we should have.

And speaking of Raylan, it was hinted at tonight that not everyone in the Kentucky office may be as thrilled as you might expect to be working with him. And when you think about it, it’s not that surprising. This guy shows up out of nowhere. He bows to authority and convention only when it suits him and, for the most part, gets away with it. Raylan’s forced to confront this when he’s sent to L.A. with Rachel and she’s given point on the case. From the way things played out in the episode, I don’t expect to see a big change in Raylan’s behavior, but at least he’s aware of things now. That’s good…right?

Despite the fact that this episode was so strong, I was a little disappointed to see Raylan make the trip to L.A. so early in the series. After having filmed the pilot in Pennsylvania, the rest of the season has been shot in California, and having Raylan head back to the big city was bound to happen sometime, it’s just something I hope they don’t keep finding excuses to do. With having things set in Kentucky, the show is setting a unique tone for itself, and I’d rather see that built upon. At least for right now.

Stuff I liked:

  • I guess Pike may have been a bad man, with the whole mob accountant thing and all, but you couldn’t help cheering for him while he was pulling Ferguson’s teeth out of his mouth in his car. It’s nice to see the little guy win one every now and then.
  • “You don’t seem like the kind of guy who gets flown places to do wet-work. You seem like the kind of guy this guy’s gotta put up with because you happen to know the area.”
  • “Thank you for your service to our nation.” “I lost the leg to diabetes, but you’re welcome.”

Justified, “Fixer”: Far be it from me to second-guess your neck hair.

After the tone set by last week’s episode — which was decidedly different from the pilot — and the jump in quality in tonight’s, I think Justified is beginning to find its own rhythm. And if that rhythm ends up being not too unlike “Fixer,” I don’t think the show would be doing too bad for itself. Tonight’s episode saw Raylan being handed one of the marshals’ “confidential” informants.

If Raylan hates Kentucky as much as Arnold Pinter does (David Eigenberg), he’s doing a real good job of hiding it. The two characters, Raylan, who’s always floating a little beneath the surface, and Pinter, who’s in your face without realizing it, stood in nice contrast to each other tonight. Obviously Raylan is a principled man, so while we see that Pinter barely holding onto his sanity, Raylan chooses instead to suffer in silence.

If “Fixer” and last week’s “Riverbrook,” are any indication, it looks like the show’s guest stars are going to be given just as much screentime as Raylan and the marshals. As long as those guest stars are as good as they were tonight, it’s fine by me. What I liked most about Pinter, Curtis and Travis Travers was that none of them came off as stereotypes. Especially with a goofy, stranger in a strange land sort of character like Pinter, they really could have screwed the pooch. But even though he definitely comes off as a little eccentric, he never felt like he was over the top, even while he’s slurping chocolate egg cremes with his laptops spread over the restaurant table. And I really enjoyed Page Kennedy, who definitely came off as the episode’s standout. You may remember Kennedy from his stint as U-Turn on Weeds.

While the bulk of the episode didn’t really do much to advance Raylan the man, we did get that one scene at the very end with finally giving in and throwing himself into Ava’s wide-stretched arms. Maybe getting shot in the chest was what finally pushed him over the edge, but Raylan seems like the kind of person who needs a reason to so blatantly fly in the face of authority like that. It’s obvious that he dispenses his own unique brand of justice, but he’s not Mel Gibson and this isn’t Lethal Weapon, so you’ve got to think there’s something else at play here.

At the beginning of tonight’s episode, we learned a little more about Raylan’s dad. He worked as both a legbreaker and a grifter, and served time for both. And I doubt it comes as a surprise that Raylan has his him to thank for his temper. Eventually the show will quit dropping hints and we’ll be able to see how father and son operate around each other.

I’ll say that Justified isn’t the show I expected it to be. If I say I mean that in a good way, then it sounds like I thought the show was going to be bad. If I say I mean that in a bad way, then it sounds like I don’t like the show now. So I’ll just say that I’m happy with how it’s shaping up. I would still like to see some storylines carried over several episodes, rather than leaving things alone to revisit later, ala Boyd and his conversion. But as a procedural the show is quickly finding its footing, and is probably more true to how Elmore Leonard originally envisioned the character, not to mention the sorts of books he writes.

Stuff I liked:

  • “I ain’t never seen a Lexington cop dressed up like the Marlboro Man.”
  • I liked the reference to Raylan Wild Bill-ing the guy down in Miami. A call-back to our dearly departed Deadwood.
  • Stuff I didn’t like. Raylan rocking the denim jacket at the end of the episode. Boo.

Justified, “Riverbrook”: You understand how I see your people?

You may have felt a little letdown by Justified’s second episode, which lacked a lot of the flavor and punch of last week’s pilot. Still, it looks like the show is shaping up to be one of the better hours on television right now, regardless of how serialized or procedural it turns out to be.

Every show takes a few episodes before it finally settles into its groove and decides what kind of show it’s going to be, and right now we’re seeing Justified go through its own paces. In the beginning of “Riverbrook,” we saw Raylan picking up Dewey Crowe at the Lexington Federal Detention Center, as well as taking some time to visit Boyd Crowder, who’s still in recovery after last week’s pilot. Boyd feeds him a line about being reborn in the eyes of the Lord and set on a new path, and it’s all thanks to Raylan shooting him in the chest. Whether he’s sincere or not — and I’m guessing he’s not (maybe I should be a cop!) — the show is definitely setting something up that will pay off further on down the road.

Most of tonight’s episode was spent with Raylan chasing down Cooper, who’s searching for some stashed loot he got off a robbery ten years before. Overall, I thought this was a mixed bag. Now, the writers aren’t directly adapting any of Elmore Leonard’s work, so they’re left to develop Raylan’s voice and character, not to mention the tone of the entire show, on their own. So far, I think they’ve done well creating something in the same league as Leonard’s work, if not something that’s exceeded it. They’ll still need to watch themselves to make sure what they create doesn’t turn into a cheap parody, as well as be able to stand on its own, apart from what Leonard’s written. There’s that scene in the convenience store, before Cooper locks Raylan in the back. Raylan makes a joke about Cooper’s cohort, who’s just been run out of the store. “How can you tell there’s a bad drummer at your door? Knock speeds up.” I thought it was a funny beat, if a little out of place. But when Raylan made another joke at the motel that night with Ava, I have to say I groaned a little. I hope the show doesn’t sacrifice any of Raylan’s badassery by making him the one who’s always got a funny joke in his pocket. It won’t, but still, these are the things I think about.

I didn’t mind that the episode spent so much time with Cooper, his ex-stripper ex-wife, or her not-first-cousin Dupree. This is another example of the writers (more specifically Graham Yost, who’s penned the first two episodes) being able to imitate Leonard’s style. I thought the bad guys were able to hold their side of the episode. They weren’t able to hold it the way Olyphant holds his own scenes, but really, is anyone expecting them too? That may be something the show has to work on in the future. I think that in the end, the serialized portions of Justified are going to be much more interesting than the procedural portions, so the bad-guys-of-the-week are probably going to have to step up their game.

I had read Alan Sepinwall’s review, in which he said that of the first four episodes he’s seen, “Riverbrook” was the weakest. But even though there was a noticeable dip in quality, I thought tonight’s episode held up pretty well. The promo for next week’s episode looks even better than tonight’s, so we’ll see where it all takes us.

Stuff I liked:

  • “Put it like this, if you was in the first grade and you bit somebody every week, they’d start to think of you as a biter.”
  • I like the going-through-the-motions dance Raylan and Ava are going through with each other. “I can’t sleep with you.” I wonder how long that’s going to last.
  • I’m looking forward to seeing more of Jacob Pitts, who plays Tim Gutterson. I want to see the sniper in Afghanistan angle explored more.

Justified, “Fire in the Hole”: You make me pull, I put you down.

Seeing Tom Papa talk about how hilarious “The Marriage Ref” is, or watching promos for that game show with the fat chef from the Friday’s commercials makes me sad. Why is there so much bad television these days? But when TLC is greenlighting shows about midgets who fall in love, along comes a show like “Justified,” and all is right with the world.

“Justified,” which made its debut last night on FX, was adapted from a short story by Elmore Leonard and centers around US Marshal Raylan Givens, played by a slightly less brooding Timothy Olyphant. Anyone who shed a tear at the passing of our beloved “Deadwood” back in 2006 should feel right at home here. While “Justified” lacks the Shakespearean flair of that other western, it’s got all the badassery we could ask for, and — hallelujah — a story and cast that looks more than capable of delivering the goods.

Raylan is a 19th-century lawman in a 21st-century world (I’m probably the first person to say that). After shooting and killing a “gun thug” down in Miami, he’s transferred back to his hometown of Harlan County, Kentucky. As you’d expect, he’s not thrilled at the prospect of going home again. In addition to all the usual drug-dealers, white supremacists and killers, he’s now got his father, his ex-wife, and childhood friend Boyd Crowder (played by the insanely good Walton Goggins) to work with. But all of his reservations aside, this is a place better suited to his way of doing things.

Let’s be honest, lawmen/women who don’t like to [gravelyvoice]play by the rules[/gravelyvoice] is a heavily overused television trope, so a show like “Justified” could have a really hard time standing out. But having Olyphant in the lead role already gives it a huge boost. As Raylan talks to his ex-wife toward the end of the pilot, she tells him that he may do a good job hiding it, but he’s one of the angriest men she’s ever known. The look on Raylan’s face after hearing this is priceless and shows the depth Olyphant brings to the character. The “Deadwood” comparisons are unavoidable, but think a few shades lighter than Seth Bullock.

And the show’s done more to set itself apart from the pack. You’d think that Raylan would be another Martin Riggs. He runs around shooting bad guys and every now and then the Chief sits him down and gives him a good yelling at. At first he and Danny Glover don’t like each other, but after Raylan comes over for dinner you know they’re going to be best buds. This isn’t the formula “Justified” looks to be going with. Raylan’s boss, played by Nick Searcy, seems like he’s much more comfortable to sit back and watch as Raylan work the way Raylan likes to work. Situations like this are where the show gets a lot of its comedy from and one of the things that gives it that Elmore Leonard flair.

Of course I’ve only seen the pilot, so things could really go anywhere. The first episode borrowed generously from Leonard’s short story “Fire in the Hole,” but won’t have that luxury from now on. We’ll have to wait and see if the tone it’s set is something it can stick with. I would like to see a more serialized show but think it might work well as a procedural, even though those types of shows aren’t normally my thing. The pilot was so impressive that I’m willing to stick with it and see where the whole thing takes us. Definitely recommended.

Stuff I liked:

  • The pilot was filmed in areas of Pennsylvania while the rest of the first season was filmed in California. The pilot felt so authentically Southern and I hope that carries over in subsequent episodes.
  • Herc from “Friday Night Lights.”
  • “Man, I don’t understand you.”
  • A bunch of good one-liners that don’t sound trite and stupid. Maybe you’d have to be Timothy Olyphant to pull that off, though.