‘Justified’ packs a punch with ‘When the Guns Come Out’

“I got no interest in shit-kicker on shit-kicker crime.” — Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens to lifelong friend/antagonist Boyd Crowder.

The third season of “Justified,” the FX series about good guys and bad guys in the hills of Kentucky, just gets better and better.

In tonight’s episode, “When the Guns Come Out,” Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) finds himself dealing with the fallout from a burgeoning drug war in rural Harlan County.

As Boyd (the wonderful Walton Goggins) muscles in on the Oxycontin trade, gunmen working for Detroit mobster Quarles (Neal McDonough) start killing people.

Poor Raylan is befuddled by the sudden disappearance of Winona (Natalie Zea), his pregnant ex-wife, but he’s sufficiently on his game to not only banter with Boyd but pistol-whip a sleazy pimp whose hookers are victims/witnesses to the murders.

Off in the wings, homegrown mobster Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson) begins to maneuver his response to the growing threat of Quarles.

Tonight’s episode had a perfect mix of Raylan/Winona soap opera, Raylan/Boyd dramatic/comedic tension and violence so abrupt it’s almost funny.

There were great moments for Raylan’s boss, crusty marshal Art (Nick Searcy) and an appearance by Ava (Joelle Carter). And a return appearance by Stephen Root as a Harlan County judge.

It surprises me somewhat that “Justified” creator and producer Graham Yost makes this all look so effortless. But the show is better with every episode.

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