Friday, September 9, 2011

Box Set Blues: Justified, Season 1

Justified opens with our hero, US Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens, gunning down a man across a table he has a shared history with, a man who saved his life, but is now on the wrong side of the law from, after pretty much talking him into drawing first to give him a "justified" shoot. The same episode ends with Raylan gunning down another man across a table, a man he has a shared history with, a man who saved his life but is now on the wrong side of the law from. Justified, like many of its characters, has a laid back, easy-going charm that hides a slick brain underneath.

There is a lot of wonderful things about Justified, a show that I'm finding it hard to categorise. At heart it's an updated Western - the Kentucky drawls, the gunslinging, the lawman riding into town - but it also owes a lot to that peculiar sub-genre of US shows that focus on the quirks of small-town America, from Twin Peaks onwards, with it's diverse and eclectic cast of oddball characters. It's funny, for a show with a lot bloodshed and criminality and a lot of that is driven from the laconic politeness everyone uses in conversation, a wonderfully dry, deadpan tone that I just found irresistable.

After shooting his old comrade in Miami, Raylan is send to Kentucky to get him out of the way, back to the state he grew up in and the old loves and freinds he left behind. The series mixes "case of the week" and a steady, ongoing plot that gradually ratchetts up across the run of the show to a final denoument with some unexpected twists and turns to it. This is a clever show that knows that what it's doing, even if it can't be said for many of it's characters.

Central to this is Timothy Olyphants' turn as Raylan, a performance that that seems to make women go weak at the knees and men green with envy at the effortless "cool" that he brings to the role. The pacing of the show brings the best out of it, and a pretty stellar supporting cast, although I could have done with seeing a little more of some of them, especially the Marshalls Team in Lexington, that feel a little underused compared to the (always entertaining) Crowder Clan in Harlan.

Actually I can't really think of a single thing wrong with this series - it has a pretty clear sense of where it wants to go, how it wants to get there, and what it wants to do when it arrives. There is very little dead space, no "duff" or "filler" episodes that contribute nothing to the overall story, and my only regret is that i didn't see this two years ago when it came out.