Counting the days to ‘Justified’

Jan. 17 can’t come quickly enough.

I’m not wishing for the depths of winter. (In fact I’m a little SAD about it.)

But since Jan. 17 brings the third season of “Justified,” I’ll put up with the wintertime blahs.

If you haven’t watched the first couple of seasons of FX’s “Justified,” you should. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Back? Okay.

The series, about a tough U.S. marshal who gets disciplined for killing a bad guy in Miami by being sent back to his home territory of Kentucky, is typical in many ways of the more adult cable TV series airing on FX and AMC like “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “Sons of Anarchy” and “The Walking Dead.” “Justified” has “grown up” language and violence, but like those other shows, the draw is the characters and plots.

Based on stories by crime writer Elmore Leonard, “Justified” centers on Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), the cop who is less than thrilled to be back in Kentucky. And who can blame him? Givens is back in the mix with his father, an aging crook, his ex-wife, the hapless but hot Winona (Natalie Zea) and, best of all, longtime friend and antagonist Boyd Crowder (the excellent Walton Goggins, from “The Shield”).

Raylan and Boyd have a long history. They grew up together and worked in the coal mines together but parted ways after that. By the time of the first episode, when the quietly disgruntled Raylan comes back to the town of Harlan, Boyd is the head of a white supremacist group and fond of blowing stuff up: Churches, cars, banks, you know.

But the relationship between Raylan and Boyd — the best thing about the show — is complicated. The two have a real bond that Raylan can’t ignore even as he works to link Boyd to crimes plaguing Harlan.

As the series has progressed, Raylan found Boyd at his side more often than he found him in his face. The characters are great antagonists but as complex as real-life friends would be.

The show has a real feel for danger and violence. Not just from the meth-heads and petty criminals that populate the backwoods but from Raylan and Boyd. Raylan is wry and smooth but there’s a reason Winona describes him in the first episode as the angriest man she ever met.

The first season revolved around the cat-and-mouse relationship between Raylan and Boyd, while season two introduced a great character, Mags Bennet, a small-town Ma Barker with a brood of scary sons.

I don’t know what to expect when the new season begins. Promotional clips have shown Raylan and Boyd working together and at each other’s throats. With this duo — one of the best on TV — I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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