What did you think Justified‘s premiere episode? Was it a relief not to have to see any more of FX’s 3,428 commercials for Justified and finally see the thing itself?
Justified worked on just about every level for me. Timothy Olyphant’s Raylan Givens is both an idealized and a realistic man of action. That is, the character isn’t like so many TV and movie heroes who make threats and intimidate thugs with smartly-phrased but empty threats. Instead, Raylan empties his gun into them.
And wild-eyed villains don’t get any better when Walton Goggins plays them. You also believed the bond between these two men, that they could have emerged from the same hardscrabble background and have arrived at very different places in life.
You can read my full review here, as it appears in EW.
As much as I liked it, I do think Justified has some challenges in building an audience. First, and I’m only half-kidding here, there’s the hat: Raylan’s big cowboy hat bellows “Western!” to casual (young?) (female?) viewers who may not be all that enthused about what could be perceived as a modern-day Western.
(Even Elmore Leonard isn’t all that fond of the hat: Read this very entertaining interview Leonard gave to TV critic Alan Sepinwall here.)
More important: Unlike other FX audience faves such as Sons of Anarchy and, before that, The Shield, the show is primarily about one man, not a team or an ensemble. Which means, if you don’t think Tim Olyphant’s character is the bee’s-knees, there aren’t a lot of obviously prominent characters surrounding him to latch onto. (Though keep a close eye on Jacob Pitts’ sharp-shooter Tim Gutterson and Erica Tazel’s Rachel Brooks as increasingly vivid presences.)
Also, the tone of Justified is very intentionally low-key-wry. That’s in keeping with Elmore Leonard’s prose, but it doesn’t always make for the kinds of explosive arguments and tension that, again, SOA and Shield possess in high-octane amounts. The quietness that can erupt into danger at any moment is a story-telling atmosphere that really hooks me; I think it’s a quality Justified shares with everything from The Sopranos to The Rockford Files. (Okay, I just happened to pick two David Chase-associated shows. But you get my point: This is TV with one foot in The Tradition and one in The Anarchic.) You have to get into the rhythms of Justified to take its ride.
Me, I’m in the car for as long as Timothy Olyphant wants to drive it.
How about you?
For more: Timothy Olyphant talks Justified