Things I’m looking forward to in 2015: Justified

I don’t have the energy to review something every day, because I don’t have time to watch something every day now that I’m working full time. I’m still trying to get into the swing of writing something every day, so obviously not all of my writing is going to be equal. I’ve decided to highlight some pop culture that I’m looking forward to this year. The first entry is the sixth and final season of FX’s Justified, which, given the pattern of the even numbered seasons being much better than the odd, should be fantastic. I don’t know how popular Justified is in the United States, but I didn’t know anyone else in Australia who watches the show until yesterday. As she put it: “You watch Justified? Get out. I’ve never met anyone who watches that show!”

I started watching Justified at some point in mid-2013. I had heard so much praise for the second season that I decided I had to check it out. I was told that I could have skipped the first season, but I chose not to, and it’s just as well, because the pilot is fantastic. Justified is based on the Elmore Leonard short story, Fire in the Hole, which is adapted in the pilot. The basic premise: Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) is a United States Marshall, and gets in trouble for shooting a criminal in broad daylight. His response is that the killing was Justified, providing the name for the show. As punishment, Raylan is relocated from Florida to Lexington, Kentucky, which he dreads because he grew up in Harlan County, east of Lexington. And that’s all I’m going to tell you, but in its first five seasons, the show has evolved beyond that premise.

The first season of the show was a fairly standard procedural show, but it did introduce the most important character after Raylan in Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). Raylan and Boyd grew up together in Harlan and worked together in the coal mines. They have a history, and the relationship between Raylan and Boyd (Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson describes them as two sides of the same coin) forms the throughline for the series. Thematically the show focuses on the relationships between fathers and sons, particularly the relationships that Raylan and Boyd have with their own fathers, and also the stronger connection that Raylan’s father, Arlo has with Boyd.

When Justified entered its second season, it became one of the greats. Even though Justified can be wildly inconsistent (the fifth season was unremarkable), it reached a higher tier of television dramas, and during its second season critics regarded it as highly as Breaking Bad and Mad Men. The terrific Margo Martindale was introduced as Mags Bennett, the matriarch of a crime family that was at odds with the Givens’ clan. The other significant addition to the cast was Kaitlyn Dever (now a regular on Last Man Standing) as Loretta McCready, whose father was killed by Mags, who then in turn took Loretta in as one of her own, much to her sons’ bemusement. The introduction of the entire Bennett clan, but particularly Mags, was significant not only because Justified successfully developed a season-long arc, but also because it continued to flesh out the Harlan County of Justified, and a set of characters that shared history with the rest of the Harlanites, including everyone’s favourite, Boyd Crowder.

I’m expecting good things from Justified’s final season because it’s refocusing on the antagonistic relationship between Raylan and Boyd. The relationship between the two was at the heart of the pilot, and it has evolved over the course of the series. At times, Raylan is happy to use Boyd as an informant, and at other times all Raylan really wants to do is shoot him (again). Also Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins are phenomenal actors, and I have faith in the writing team that they’ll be able to pull this off. The even numbered seasons being better is just a (hopefully) happy convenience.

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