Justified. Top Quality Television

For the last three months, I’ve been watching FX’s Justified. Based on an Elmore Leonard short story, Fire in the Hole, it tells the story of cowboy hat-toting US Marshal Raylan Givens, played by Timothy Olyphant. Justified refers to his penchant for using his sidearm in the line of duty in what we might call an extremely clinical and efficient manner. He never points a gun without the intention to use it to deadly effect. The show starts, as can be seen in the trailer below, with Givens in Miami. He approaches a man having lunch at a table. It transpires he had given him 24 hours to leave Miami or be shot. The 24 hours are just about up. The result sees Givens transferred back to his home in Kentucky, where he soon comes into conflict with an old friend, and neo-Nazi, Boyd Crowder, played by the ever-excellent Walton Goggins. As fans of the absolutely superb The Shield will know, no-one does redneck better than Goggins.

The series then follows Givens’ tangled personal and professional lives, involving his criminal father, Crowder’s criminal father and sister-in-law, his ex-wife and her new husband, a sympathetic but exasperated boss, and gangsters from Miami seeking to kill Raylan. The various strands of the story are woven together over the course of the first series culminating brilliantly in the finale, while each episode contains its own strong main story as well. Although some of the clichés of the cop drama are present – the ex-wife for example – the show never feels stereotypical. It is very well paced, with each episode flying along, and never dragging (of course not watching it live and jumping through the adverts helps there). Add some top-quality acting, especially from Olyphant, to the strong writing, and you’ve got a great show.

That the show is so good is not a surprise when you look at where it came from. Not only is it based on Elmore Leonard’s work, but it was also part-written and executive produced by Graham Yost, whose credits include Band of Brothers and Pacific, as well as the greatly under-rated and much (by me) lamented Los Angeles cop drama, Boomtown. All in all, I can’t wait for the next series to start.

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