Tag Archives: Justified

Farewell to ‘Justified’

Justified

There have been so many great TV dramas in the past decade. Too many, if you have a life like mine and have limited hours to watch TV live or even catch up later on demand or online.

With “Mad Men” winding down in curious fashion, “The Americans” getting out in front of me, leaving me unable to keep up, and “Walking Dead” uneven but still rewarding, I’m mostly keeping pace only with the superhero shows like “Arrow,” “The Flash” and “Agents of SHIELD.”

One show that I did keep up with, pretty much every week, was “Justified,” Graham Yost’s show, based on characters created by wonderful writer Elmore Leonard, about U.S. marshals, lowlife criminals and everybody in between in modern-day Kentucky, was too good to miss.

I watched the show live pretty much every week during the course of its six seasons. And I mourned a little bit when “Justified” ended its run six days ago.

If you’ve never watched, I highly recommend it. For so many reasons:

The lead characters, marshal Raylan Givens and criminal Boyd Crowder, are charismatic and fascinating and they’re portrayed by terrific actors in Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins.

Other lawmen (and law-women) came and went and a couple dozen wonderful bad guys (and women) have passed through these parts but Raylan and Boyd were, ultimately, the reason we watched every week.

The two Рwho grew up together, dug coal together, dreamed of getting out of Harlan, Kentucky, and had less than straightforward solutions to problems Рdid the most fascinating dance for six seasons.

As much as we rooted for Raylan, we agreed with his boss and co-workers that he could be an angry, danger-seeking jerk.

And as much as we wouldn’t want to be on the bad end of a deal with Boyd, we’d also like to have sat down the bar from him, having a beer and listening to him formulate schemes and recounting fascinating characters he met .. and, most likely, swindled or killed.

“Justified” never let us forget that, as shaded and shady as these two could be, they were our protagonists. We were as caught up in their stories – more so, really – as any tried-and-true, straight-arrow characters.

I’ve been to and through Kentucky many times. I’m not sure I pined for the characters of “Justified” – Mags Bennett, Dewey Crow, Wynn Duffy or any of them – to sidle up next to me at a diner.

But it would have been fascinating.

What I’m watching: Playing catch-up

The Man Under the Hood

It always feels like a new TV season when “Mad Men” starts up again on AMC. It’s not of course; we’re in the awkward part of the calendar when some shows have completed their seasons, others have a few episodes left and some – “Sleepy Hollow,” in particular – are long gone.

Here’s some thoughts on what I’m watching or watched until just recently.

“The Walking Dead.” This season, after staging a battle at the prison that saw Hershel and the Governor die, seemed to build to a climax in the middle of its year. The last half of the season was made up of really-pretty-good character pieces. The finale, with Rick and the gang playing into the hands of the Terminus cannibals, was shocking in that it was not bombastic. Curiously, it made me look forward to next October more than almost anything else.

“Agents of SHIELD.” This small-screen Marvel flagship series struggled early in the season. I wonder if the “slow build” story the showrunners are maintaining now is really the case – if so, they didn’t do it very effectively – or if, like many other series, it just took them a while to hit a stride. With recent episodes, including tie-ins to “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “SHIELD” is finally clicking. I hope it doesn’t falter again in the final episodes of the season.

“Dallas.” I miss J.R. I miss Larry Hagman. But the series is good, soapy fun.

“Arrow.” It’s possible I’m not enjoying any series on TV more than this take on the classic DC hero. The cast is really good, the stories are fun and the show is stuffed with comics characters. What’s not to like?

“Justified.” One of my favorite series, “Justified” had an uneven series at best. Lawman Raylan and outlaw Boyd and their supporting players were good, but the messy Crowe family story just didn’t do it for me. Next year is the final season and the last scene of this past season forecast the story: Raylan vs. Boyd. Can’t wait.

“The Mindy Project.” This Mindy Kaling comedy is funnier than I ever expected. I wish it would run for 10 years.

“Community” and “Parks and Recreation.” With only one episode left this season – and its future uncertain – “Community” has bounced back this year with the return of controversial creator Dan Harmon. It’s so odd and inside baseball that it’ll never grow in viewership. I just hope it hangs on. And “Park” has grown from a series full of oddballs to a series with characters I really care about.

I’ve probably forgotten something. With “Mad Men” back tonight and “Orphan Black” returning April 19, we’ve got more weeks of good viewing ahead.

sleepy hollow cast

But you know what? I think I miss “Sleepy Hollow” more than anything.

What a week: ‘Sherlock,’ ‘Arrow,’ ‘SHIELD,’ ‘Walking Dead’

arrow heir to the demon

Like some kind of aligning of planets, the seven or eight days we’re in the middle of here is a heck of a week for episodic TV.

And that doesn’t even count “The Black List,” which didn’t have a new episode this week, but entertained the heck out of me with the episode from last week I finally got around to watching.

Quick impressions (and spoilers if you haven’t seen):

“Sherlock” finished up this year’s three-episode run on “Masterpiece Mystery” with “His Last Vow,” a quirky finale to a quirky season. Over the past three weeks we’ve seen Holmes return from the dead after his rooftop encounter with Moriarty last season, John and Mary get married and Mary exposed as a rather deadly former government operative. In “His Last Vow,” Holmes and Watson run up against a loathsome news magnate who can blackmail Mary. With no other way to save his friend’s wife, Holmes kills the man and Mycroft prepares to send Sherlock off on a nearly-certain-to-be-fatal mission. But then … images of Moriarty appear all over London and Sherlock is called back to investigate. And we wait until next year to see what happens next.

“The Black List” – last week at least – gave us “The Cyprus Agency,” in which the federal agents – with the help of James Spaders’ Red – broke an insidious group that kidnapped women and kept them in comas as well as pregnant to provide babies for adoption. Didn’t we see something like this – with organs instead of babies – in the movie “Coma” 40 years ago? Yeah, but that didn’t have James Spader in it.

“Agents of SHIELD” raised its somewhat low bar again this week with “TRACKS,” a high-stakes adventure that found the agents on – or thrown from – a train as they try to foil the plot of a villain. More good scenes with the agents – even Ward and especially May – some good Marvel movie references (Blonsky’s cryogenic cell is obviously now the holding place for the monster from “The Incredible Hulk”) and the return of Mike Peterson (J. August Richards) as the comic book character Deathlok.

“Justified” upped the stakes also this week with more peril and more bad-assery for Art (Nick Searcy), more misery for Boyd and Ava and more danger from those scumbag bad guys the Crowes. But we gotta have the return of Constable Bob soon.

“Arrow” might have tied “Justified” for my favorite episode of the week. “Heir to the Demon” brought Nyssa, the daughter of Ras al Ghul, to town, seeking … well, not revenge on Black Canary. As a matter of fact, I totally did not see the true nature of their relationship coming. And neither did Oliver Queen. This series, the true TV embodiment of comic book adventure like “Batman,” just gets better all the time.

And then there’s “The Walking Dead,” which returns for the second half of its season this coming Sunday. With the destruction of the prison, the survivors are split up. We want to know what happened to Rick, Carl, Michonne, Daryl and Tyrese as soon as possible. And tell me Carol is coming back. I’ll be watching Sunday.

Heck of a week.

‘Justified’ – Return to Harlan County. ASAP.

justified a murder of crowes

I think I need to watch the fifth season premiere of “Justified” another time. I liked “A Murder of Crowes,” last week’s first show of the new season, just fine, but I’m a little bit on the fence about it.

First of all, a return of the FX series, created by Graham Yost and based on characters created by the late, great Elmore Leonard, is always welcome. It’s one of a handful of TV series that I anticipate for months in advance.

The story of Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), who finds himself back in his homeplace of corrupt, dirt-poor Harlan County, Kentucky, is very nearly equal parts hardboiled crime drama, smart-ass comedy and scarily accurate (to my Tennessee-descended sense) portrait of the dark side of the Appalachian experience.

As someone whose lost a namesake cousin to gun violence and whose family hailed not far from a town named No Business because the law – specifically federal revenue agents – had “no business” being there, I can attest that the show is true-to-life.

The series’ Harlan County – close enough to Lexington to make the chamber of commerce there wince every week when the show airs, I bet – surely numbers a few good people among its population. But aside from the cops, lawyers and judges – some of whom are a little bent themselves – the cast of characters is pretty much made up of outlaws: thieves, drug addicts, meth makers, prostitutes and the kind of guy who keeps a naked man chained to a bed in the back room. Although to be fair, the latter character was just visiting Harlan County from Detroit.

Walton Goggins and Timothy Olyphant in Justified

Chief among these darker characters is Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), latest in a long line of criminals who has dabbled in white supremacy – he blew up a black church with a rocket launcher, for god’s sake – evangelism, coal mining, bar owning, drug-making and distributing and, maybe most surprising of all, heroism and doing the right thing.

Pitting longtime friends/enemies and – when it’s convenient for them – cohorts and colleagues Raylan and Boyd against each other and, sometimes, against the dregs of Harlan County (and at times their own families) is the genius aspect of the show.

True to the spirit of Leonard – who’s featured characters used in the show in a few novels and stories – “Justified” features a lawman who’s not only cool but hot-tempered who, at times, makes astonishingly bad decisions and an outlaw who murders – sometimes with remorse, sometimes without – and traffics but is prone, at the time you least expect it, to do the right thing.

justified raylan boyd

If the conflict and simpatico relationship between Raylan and Boyd is the heart of “Justified,” the supporting characters are the veins that carry the blood.

Few cop shows have ever had such a likable and interesting group of lawmen, from wry Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Art Mullen (Nick Searcy in a performance that makes me want to see a whole hour about him every week), Jacob Pitts and Erica Tazel as marshals Tim Gutterson and Rachel Brooks and assorted characters like a smart-ass U.S. attorney, a kinky judge and Constable Bob, a small-town, small-time lawman played by comedian Patton Oswalt who seems like the comic relief but ended the fourth season as just about the biggest badass in Harlan County. Despite his worries that the folks who live out in the hills eat people. I’m praying Oswalt and his “go bag” will be back this season.

And my god, what bad guys. Goggins makes Boyd Crowder as complex and fascinating a character as any on TV, and likewise Joelle Carter as Ava – a bad-leaning girl who could be downright ruthless when she needed to be, and ended up in prison because of it – are characters capable of carrying their own show.

And what a bunch of low-lifes consort with Boyd and are confounded by Raylan, including Dewey Crowe, the hapless, brainless small-fry crook played by Damon Herriman, Jere Burns as sarcastic criminal Wynn Duffy and so many others.

Tribute must be paid to the Bennett clan, led by Mags (Margo Martindale). The Bennetts, astonishingly corrupt but endlessly fascinating, made the second season of the show so hard to top.

The current season is trying, though, by introducing more members of the Crowe family, including Darryl Crowe Jr. (played by Michael Rapaport), a Florida thug moving to Harlan to complicate Raylan’s life.

I need to watch the first new episode of the season again because I can’t figure out just what about it left me a little frustrated. Maybe it was that Raylan and Boyd were a thousand miles apart for most of the action. Maybe it’s that both were out of Harlan County for most of the premiere. Because, believe me, as much as I wouldn’t want to live in Harlan County, I want my hour there every week.

‘The Bridge’ – Murder from both sides

the bridge leads

We’re living in a golden age of cable TV. Starting with “The Shield” and continuing through “The Walking Dead,” “Breaking Bad,” “Justified” and other series, what was once “basic” cable has in recent years given us serial dramas that rival novels for their depth, complexity and characters.

“The Bridge” is the latest episodic drama that fits that mold.

Based on a Danish/Swedish series, the FX series plays out on two sides of the Bridge of the Americas, between Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas.

An El Paso detective, Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger), and a Chihuahua detective, Marco Ruiz (Demian Bichir), are called in when a body is found in the middle of the bridge. To their horror, they discover it is actually two bodies: One half is Mexican, the other American.

In service of its gruesome plot, the series launches into a mix of politics and murder, with a serial killer who seems to relish making statements about the disparities between American and Mexican life and justice as much as he enjoys killing.

The cops struggle to keep up as they deal with not only political considerations but a killer who sets out to shock. One episode puts the detectives in a race against time as they try to find a woman staked out in the desert, her slow death being shown via a webcam.

Kruger’s character is especially interesting: She has Apserger’s Syndrome and is prone to tactless pronouncements. Ruiz is a family man who, nevertheless, goes astray from his moral roots.

the bridge ted levine

There’s a good supporting cast, particularly Ted Levine (the killer from “Silence of the Lambs”) as Cross’ crusty cop superior. Annabeth Gish – looking very different from her “X-Files” days – is good as a widow with a secret.

the bridge street

The promos for the series were dark and macabre, focusing on gravesites and dark alleyways and remote haciendas in the desert. The promos sucked me in.

And the series followed through on that imagery. Each week, the story moves back and forth from the mansions of Texas to the seedy streets of Juarez to the dusty desert expanse. The tourism boards from El Paso and particularly Juarez can’t be any more thrilled with this depiction of the area than the chamber of commerce from Lexington, Kentucky is thrilled with the endless parade of meth heads, hookers and small-time criminals on “Justified.”

“The Bridge” is a little more than halfway through its first season and the early episodes are available online and on demand. It’s definitely worth the effort to try to catch up.

Counting down to one: What I’m watching right now

the walking dead welcome to the tombs

It’s that time of year. Some of my favorite shows are working toward their season finales, with just an episode or two left. I’m glued to the TV (well, not literally).

Here’s the best of the best:

“The Walking Dead.” This season, the third, has been a big improvement over last year, which spent way too much time at Herschel’s farm. Much of the current season – which ends with the season finale Sunday night – has been split between the prison, where Rick and the other survivors have stopped, and the town of Woodbury, where the so-called Governor rules.

Pivotal events this season – the death of Lori, the birth of “Little Ass-Kicker,” the full acceptance into the group of Daryl Dixon, the return of Merle Dixon (the incomparable Michael Rooker) – seemed to come in the first half of the season.

In the second half of the season, its as if the showrunners decided to avoid the problems of season two by not repeating, over and over, scenes of the cast standing around and ruminating.

Instead, episodes have focused on small groups of characters. Like “Clear,” in which Rick, Carl and Michonne go back to Rick’s old sheriff’s station in search of weapons only to find that Morgan (Lennie James), Rick’s friend from the first season, has holed up in the town.

Morgan has lost his mind after losing his wife and son, and his madness and complete failure to cope with the post-apocalyptic world sent a message to Rick (Andrew Lincoln), who was spending too much time in Crazytown himself.

the walking dead season finale

Other episodes focused on Daryl and Merle – ending tragically for the newly reunited brothers – and on Andrea and the Governor, both of whom came off as badasses.

I’ll be watching the season finale, “Welcome to the Tombs,” this Sunday.

Meanwhile, “Justified,” the FX show about Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), continues to be one of the most clever and sarcastic shows on TV. The over-arching storyline of the season, ostensibly, was the 30-year-old mystery of thief Drew Thompson, but the story is less important than the parade of great characters we’ve been able to enjoy, ranging from the regulars – who have more to do this season – to great new faces like Constable Bob (Patton Oswalt).

“Justified” has always had some uneven moments, but this season has had some of the best episodes of the series to date. The season finale airs Tuesday night.

dallas

There’s another sort of pleasure to be had from “Dallas,” the continuation of the classic American soap opera about the Ewing clan of Texas.

The death of beloved actor Larry Hagman in November left the show in a tough spot mid-way through the second season: How to continue without J.R., a character who symbolized the show even as the real-life illness of Hagman reduced his presence in the new series.

The producers have handled Hagman’s passing well. On the show, J.R. died, the victim of a shooting, in Mexico. But the scripts have taken the mystery of J.R.’s death in a new direction, with Bobby (Patrick Duffy) and the younger generation of Ewings trying to figure out why J.R. was trying to find Pamela (Victoria Principal in the original series, who is apparently not returning).

J.R.’s presence still figures into the show and his death allowed for the return, even briefly, of classic “Dallas” characters like Gary Ewing, Val Ewing and Afton Cooper.

The show has five episodes remaining this season, so we can look forward to more Ewing scheming in the weeks to come.

Justified 4th season premiere: ‘Hole in the Wall’

Justified Hole in the Wall Timothy-Olyphant-and-Patton-Oswalt-in-JUSTIFIED-Episode-4.01-Hole-in-the-Wall

I’m hard pressed to name a series that I enjoy more than Graham Yost’s “Justified.”

The series, which returned for a fourth season on FX, recounts the adventures of Raylan Givens, a U.S. marshal assigned to mid-Kentucky, the place of his birth and his longtime home. As he deals with all manner of fugitives, thieves and drug dealers, Givens (Timothy Olyphant) is forced to acknowledge not only with his criminal father, Arlo (Raymond J. Barry), but his longtime frenemy, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins).

The show is badass, funny and full of backwoods low-life characters for Raylan to wryly bring to justice.

Because the show is based on the works of writer Elmore Leonard, there are plenty of oddball characters on both sides of the law.

As the show returned tonight, with the episode “Hole in the Wall,” Raylan finds himself trying to make a little money on the side – he and ex-wife Winona are expecting a baby – by working for an attractive bail bondswoman.

justified hole in the wall boyd crowder

Meanwhile, Boyd has been running the drug business in Harlan, Kentucky, and is dismayed to find that his OxyContin sales have dropped significantly. One of his dealers tells him it’s because so many local residents have been redeemed through the works of a traveling evangelist.

And meanwhile, we’re introduced to Constable Bob, played by comedian and writer Patton Oswalt, who meets up with Raylan when petty thieves break into Arlo’s house. Raylan has hired Bob to keep an eye on the place while Arlo is in jail for attempted murder.

And meanwhile meanwhile, Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter), Raylan’s sometime girlfriend, is still running the local whorehouse and continues to be as badass as Raylan and Boyd.

Constable Bob comes in handy when Raylan’s car gets stolen, and an old buddy of Boyd’s, played by Ron Eldard, shows up unexpectedly.

“Justified” is so quick, so funny and so brutal. It’s unlike anything else on TV right now.

After three good to great seasons with memorable bad guys, “Justified” seems to be playing the long game this season, introducing some winning characters, bringing back others and peppering clues to a 30-year-old mystery throughout the witty, sharp stories. I’ll be watching.