Review: Justified 1×1

Like Walker: Texas Ranger but better, thanks to Elmore Leonard and Timothy Olyphant

Justified FX

In the US: Tuesdays, 10pm, FX
In the UK: Starts next month on Five USA

Miss Walker: Texas Ranger? Then have I got the show for you.

Actually, that’s kind of unfair. That comparison might have you thinking Justified isn’t any good, when actually it’s very, very good. I mean, it’s based on an Elmore Leonard story so how bad do you think it could be?

In something of a break from FX’s traditional dark, manly shows about manly men doing manly things, Justified is a light, manly show in which manly men do manly things. In this case, Timothy Olyphant plays a US Marshall working in Miami who really quite likes shooting the bad guys he’s chasing – and as a result gets shipped back to his home town in Kentucky.

There, he’s faced with catching up with his backstory, which apparently involves lots and lots of women. Which is no surprise, given it’s the charismatic Timothy Olyphant playing our hero Raylan Givens.

Here’s a promo for you.

JUSTIFIED is the story of Deputy U.S. Marshal RAYLAN GIVENS (Timothy Olyphant), a true-blue hero and something of a throwback, given to wearing a Stetson and cowboy boots, carrying his sidearm in a hip holster – a weapon he only draws when he has to, and when he does, he shoots to kill, because, as he sees it, that’s the purpose of a gun.

Raylan was born and reared in the hill country of eastern Kentucky. It was in Harlan where he played ball, chased girls and dug coal. And it was from Harlan, at age 19, that he ran, determined to become a U.S. Marshal. Now, years later, after shooting a gun thug in a Miami hotel and thereby incurring the wrath of his Marshals Service superiors, Raylan has been sent in punishment (and by fate?) to the one place to which he vowed he would never return – Kentucky.

The character of Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens was created by America’s pre-eminent crime novelist Elmore Leonard (Get Shorty, Out of Sight) and is played by Timothy Olyphant (Deadwood, Live Free or Die Hard). The Chief Deputy of the Lexington U.S.M.S. office is ART MULLEN, played by Nick Searcy (Cast Away, From the Earth to the Moon). Working alongside Raylan are fellow deputies TIM GUTTERSON – played by Jacob Pitts (The Pacific) – and RACHEL BROOKS – played by Erica Tazel (Life, The Office). Raylan, Art and the other deputies do what all U.S. Marshals do – chase down fugitives, protect witnesses, transport prisoners.

But, being back in Kentucky, Raylan will also have to confront a past crowded with enough skeletons to choke a graveyard. There’s his old friend and fellow coal-miner, now fugitive bank-robber, BOYD CROWDER (Walton Goggins – The Shield). There’s AVA CROWDER (Joelle Carter – Monk, CSI: Miami), the cheerleader from his youth he always had a crush on. There’s ex-wife WINONA (Natalie Zea – Hung, Dirty Sexy Money). And, looming largest of all in Raylan’s past, there’s his career criminal father ARLO (Raymond Barry – Cold Case, Training Day).

JUSTIFIED was developed for series television by Executive Producers Graham Yost (Boomtown, The Pacific), Michael Dinner (Karen Sisco, Sons of Anarchy), Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly (Kidnapped) and Elmore Leonard. The series comes from FX Productions and Sony Pictures Television.

Is it any good?
It’s always hard to know, unless you come from a place, whether a TV depiction of something is realistic or a stereotype. So it’s hard – for me at least – to tell whether Justified‘s depiction of hills-country Kentucky, where everyone loves their guns, eats fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, is real polite and slow-talking, works down a mine, and drinks moonshine is as realistic as The Wire or Walker: Texas Ranger.

What I can say is that stereotype-city or not, it is very enjoyable and a hell of a lot smarter than Walker: Texas Ranger, no matter how many similarities there are in setting, central character and attitude.

Barring some bad CGI explosions, this does ooze quality from every pore. Timothy Olyphant is as captivating as Simon Baker is in The Mentalist, but in a very different way, and his soft-spoken, polite Southern gentleman with a dark past is an appealing character. The supporting characters are just fine, better than The Mentalist‘s for sure, since although they’re equally sketchily defined at this point, they do come across as professionals who know what they’re doing at least, and not just there to serve as Olyphant’s foils.

The dialogue’s good, as you might expect from a Leonard creation (although he didn’t write this opening episode, he helped develop the show). The plot is a pleasant throwback to the late 90s, when terrorists were all overseas and all the big threats on US TV came from home-grown militias, and at no point goes in the exact direction you think they’re going to go in, right through to the end, which is a mercy indeed.

Maybe the female characters could do a little more than be ego-plumpers for Olyphant’s character, but let’s see what happens in the next few episodes, cos I’m liking this quite a lot. I don’t know how stand-alone the episodes will be or whether they’ll continue the events of this episode, but either way it’ll probably be worth sticking with if you like slightly slower-paced, thoughtful cop shows.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.