Friday, June 12, 2020


I don’t watch weekly television. Most recent was Yellowstone, but even then we DVR the whole season and binge them over the course of a week. This means the last TV show I waited a week for a next episode of was Justified.

Ah. Justified.

The Beloved Spouse™ and I watched all six seasons a few weeks ago, the
second time we’ve hung with Raylan and Boyd and Ava since the show went off the air in 2015. While there are lines we can recite with the characters, there are still things we hadn’t noticed and the special features are as good as any I’ve seen.

I don’t have time to discuss all the things I love about this show. Some plots have more twists than an intestine, but the show is an homage to Elmore Leonard, whose plots got out of hand at times and no one cared. That’s not why people read his books, and it’s not why people watch Justified. Leonard’s writing was all about character and attitude and the show has those in spades, from the opening shot of the pilot, Raylan walking through a crowded hotel pool area to kill Tommy Bucks, to the last scene in prison, where Boyd says Raylan personally delivered news of Ava’s “death” because they dug coal together.

Never has anything that ran as many episodes maintained that level of wit in the writing, people saying laugh out loud things and not realizing they’re funny, it’s just what that character would say. Raylan: “If you wanted me to shoot you in the front, you shoulda run toward me.” Boyd: “God damn, woman, you only shoot people when they're eatin' supper?” Ava: “If by uncomfortable you mean it made my skin crawl, then yes.” Dewey Crowe: ““You mean I got four kidneys?” (We could do a whole series on the wisdom of Dewey Crowe.) Art Mullen: “That mystery bag thing is giving me a bit of a Marshal stiffy.”

The show dodged a bullet when the creators realized Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) could not die in the pilot; the chemistry between him and Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) was too good. This kept Justified from being a crime of the week cop show—okay, an extremely well-written crime of the week cop show—and led them to build around annual villains while still showing what else marshals might do on slow days.

Ultimately what makes the show work—in addition to the talent and dedication of the writers, cast, and crew—was the devotion to Elmore Leonard. The special features are full of oblique and direct references to the respect and affection everyone had for him. He died during pre-production for Season Five, and that year’s extras include a hilarious reading of The Onion’s obituary by Patton Oswalt, annotated to show where they broke all ten of Leonard’s Ten Rules of writing. “The Coolest Guy in the Room” is a half-hour biography interspersed with cast members reading from his books. The extra bonus disk has another half-hour of readings, and the actors who read make sure we know what a treat it was to work with him and know him.

Justified is violent, irreverent, funny, and heartbreaking, all in balanced doses. If you haven’t seen it, do so. If you have, do so again. It gets better with age and familiarity. If you’ve seen it and didn’t care for it…different people have different tastes. You’re just not someone I’d want to hang with, is all.

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