Tube Watch: 5 Reasons Why FX’s ‘Justified’ Rocks Out Loud!

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Greetings all and sundry!

Having gotten family Thanksgiving feasting and festivities out of the way a few days early. And indulging in minor Tryptophan comas through many variations of sumptuous leftovers. I’ve decided to make good on a debt or favor and honor to our Hostess, Ruth.

Accumulating information, intelligence and perspective on a well budgeted, thought out and executed extension of the Twentieth Century Fox television derivative, FX. And their inspired doubling down and betting it all on one series. As successfully done with their previous offering,”The Shield”. And again coming out on top!

The series in question isn’t exactly a Western. Nor is it what I consider a full fledged or procedural “Cop show”. Though it has topics, drama and situations taken from both genres. Cleverly updated and blended together in ways that only veteran novelist and writer, Elmore Leonard could conjure up and bring to tense, sometimes comedic life.

So, allow me a few moments of your time to delve in, peel back layers and hopefully lay bare a perspective on one of the more enigmatic, yet surprisingly addictive series of this decade with:

5 Reasons Why FX’s ‘Justified’ Rocks Out Loud!

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Though not given a numerical value that might place one specific above another. I am going to be au courant and simply state the reasons. Since each is an integral part of the others. And how well they mesh to create superlative adult entertainment.

The Writing

The foundation of any series, film, feature or short subject lays trapped inside the writers’ imagination. And how well those thought and ideas flow through to paper. And later, processor or lap top. And few are better than master novelist and screenwriter, Elmore “Dutch” Leonard.

Whose pedigree runs from the 1950s heydays of Budd Boetticher’s low budgeted, Randolph Scott films (‘The Tall T’). Through the original ‘3:10 to Yuma’. Both renditions of ‘Hombre’. To ‘The Moonshine War’, ‘Valdez Is Coming’, ‘Joe Kidd’, ‘Mr. Majestyk’ and ’52 Pick Up’. And later, more recognizable efforts, ‘Get Shorty’, ‘Jackie Brown’. Television’s ‘Karen Sisco’ and low budgeted, mid west winter revenge flick, ‘Killshot’,

JUSTIFIED_FX_GrahamYostAdd an eye for minor details with Graham Yost (HBO’s ‘Band of Brothers’ and major Wild West meets Shakespeare cult class series, ‘Deadwood’). And you have the makings of grittily modernizing the “Old Gunslinger comes to town” premise. Add a few love interests. The odd family and home town feuds. Old school (Moonshine) and updated forms (Grass, Oxycotin and Heroin) of illegal recreational pharmacology. Bracing old friends and new snitches. Serving warrants and transporting prisoners. And you have a continuing tale and mixture that pays off in ways unimagined!

With the writing for the ever developing. overall idea nicely tied up. We move to:

The Locations

With the sunny beaches south of Miami used as a backdrop for a Han Solo and Greedo like sit down showdown with a mid tier Columbian drug runner to get the story moving westward during the series’ pilot and premiere episode. Then shifting ever so quickly to the rustic, quaint and near antique confines of Harlan, Kentucky. Talent is needed to find just the right look and feel of a town and outskirts that architecturally haven’t left the 1960s.

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And that’s where Jared Kurt, Andrew Keeler and Eric Klosterman come in. Finding out of the off the beaten path and less accessible way places, townships, railway heads, trestle bridges and occasional steam powered locomotives and trains to add back woods and water authenticity. Where forested, hilly, coal country Kittaning and up against the Appalachian and Ohio border, Washington, Pennsylvania come into their own. Though much more in the second season and beyond. Where coal, mining, land sales, drug deals, the “Dixie Mafia”, organized crime out of Detroit and local politics move to the fore. Not exactly a perfect, restored time capsule when dealing with contemporary eyesores, safety rails and the like. But a pleasantly rewarding treasure trove for those who appreciate the look and feel minor details add to an organic domestic mix. Accepting and often looking forward to these tidbits, because of their solidity and tangibility.

While Santa Clarita and the outskirts of Pasadena, California fill in for the rustic and slightly time warped main drag and town square of Kentucky’s capital, Frankfort. Its court houses, municipal buildings and the more affluent parts of cities and towns where the movers and shakers on both sides of the law and criminal scale live and do business,

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Sets of all shape, size and devotion to detail abound. From the Marshall’s office in Harlan with computers on every desk and a flat screen televisions in the boss’ office. To the incredibly old time clap board country and general store of “Mags” Bennett (Margo Martindale, magnificent and made for the role!). The tough as nails, seemingly omniscient matriarch of a low scale crime clan way out in the hills. And several old, disused and forgotten coal mines and shafts which fill a more lucrative purpose. Add some Honky Tonk bars. Dirt floored and otherwise. Mobile home and trailer-ed brothels of the series’ main nemesis. And watch some magic go to work!

Which moves us along to those who ride herd and maintain control over all this largesse of imagination and logistics.

The Directors

Far too many to mention here. Though the number tops out at twenty. With notables being Adam Arkin (Who also has a cameo role as elegant Detroit mob shot caller, Theo Tonin). Who came on board early and has a nice touch for the series tone, grit and occasional irony and humor. While honing his near veteran skills with two episodes for each season.

Followed closely by crime connoisseur and master of Neo Noir, John Dahl (‘The Last Seduction’, ‘Red Rock West’, ‘Rounders’) Who brings out the “Tough Guy” talk and image beautifully in the Good Guys, Bad Guys, crews and clans memorably the early seasons and beyond. While Jon Avnet has a real penchant for introducing and fleshing out new, often returning characters and the beginning of major twists seasons before they sometime disastrously occur. And leaves some slack to expand upon for Peter Werner, Tony Goldwyn, Don Kurt and Peter Werner to run and play with.

Creating a fluid, uninterrupted canvas for this cabal of visual choreographers to deliver solid consistent work. About the only director who hasn’t been called in to add his perspective is Peter Weller (“Robo Cop’, ‘Shakedown’), who has been doing superior work directing and being a crooked retired police chief on FX’s ‘Sons of Anarchy’!

Which brings us to the meat of the series. Split into two groups.

The GOOD and BAD Guys

THE GOOD GUYS

Relatively small in numbers. As is befitting any continuing tale of Good versus Evil.

Raylan Givens: Veteran U.S. Marshall. Tall, lean nonconformist. Made for denim jeans, jacket, chambray shirt, Tony Lama boots and a wide brimmed, down turned Stetson. That he absolutely rocks. Even in Mimi, Florida! A fast and deadly accurate shot. Reassigned back to Harlan after a controversial shooting. Played with a wise, sly, cynical smile by Timothy Olyphant (HBO’s ‘Deadwood’, ‘Live Free or Die Hard’, ‘Hitman’, ‘The Crazies’).

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Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens

Art Mullen: Raylan’s unassuming “Been There. Done That” boss. Elder statesmen, mentor and conscience to Raylan and his squad. Overweight, Long of tooth. Up for retirement. Yet knowing more about his stomping ground, feuds and secrets than he lets on. Embodied near flawlessly by baritone, veteran character actor, Nick Searcy (‘Castaway’, ‘Moneyball’, ‘The Ugly Truth’, ‘To Appomattox’).

Rachel Brooks: (Erica Tazel) So much more than meets the eye. Smart, clever, efficient, quiet. Yet very proud of her being a Marshall. And not adverse to drawing and using her sidearm or shotgun.Can read most men in less than a minute. Slated to take Art’s place upon retirement. Huge potential for an actress just starting out. And showing the chops to stay ahead of the pack.

Erica Tazel
Erica Tazel

Tim Gutterson: (Jacob Pitts. HBO’s ’21’, ‘The Pacific’, ‘Euro Trip’) The squad’s long range rifleman and occasional back up for Raylan. Former Army sniper with multiple tours in Afghanistan and the desert. Equally proficient with a pistol. Doesn’t talk much, because he really doesn’t need to. Also a dead ringer for a younger Chris Cooper! Possessing quiet “Old Time Toughness” as well as a bit of sly when confronting criminals.

ADA David Vasquez: (Rick Gomez: HBO’s ‘Band of Brothers’, ‘Sin City) Up and coming Federal Prosecutor trying to “make his bones” and a name for himself far away from the power players in Washington, DC. Fast talking. Too shrewd by half. Knows Raylan’s gun slinging reputation and wants to capitalize on it to his advantage.

Judge Mike Reardon: (Stephen Root: ‘Office Space’, ‘Fargo’, ‘News Radio’) No nonsense judge who carries a licensed pistol under his robes. And has a red Swingline stapler atop his desk beside the blotter and phone in his chambers!

Which leaves the floor open for:

THE BAD GUYS

Many with extended families and cousins. Most vying for supremacy. Or control of a criminal beyond the reach of their respective towns or counties.

Boyd Crowder: Criminally under rated Walton Goggins, Channeling Shane Vendrell of FX’s earlier, ‘The Shield’. Finally being the Outlaw he was meant to be. Sly, smooth. With a chess player’s mind and a scary familiarity with violence. Had worked in the mines as a youth with Raylan. Very handy with explosives.

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Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder

“Mags” Bennett: (Margo Martindale: ‘Million Dollar Baby’, ‘The Hours’, Orphan’) Hard luck woman. Matriarch of the Bennett clan. Sons Doyle, Dickie and Coover. Sells Moonshine (“Apple Pie”) and decent grass. When not trying to get family land from a fading coal company.

The Crowes: Daryl Crowe, Jr. (Michael Rapaport). Muscle bound ‘roid raged bully and small time grafter with delusions of grandeur. Danny Crowe (AJ. Buckley. Lab nerd on ‘CSI:NY’ turn in a bravura turn as a knife freak fixated on challenging men with guns from a distance. Dewey Crowe (Damien Harrison). Skinny. Loud mouthed. Former gator poacher. Possibly the most hapless criminal in Florida or Kentucky. Nose broken by Raylan early on lead to a lawsuit and payoff that bring Dewey’s cousins ruing at the scent of opportunity and money!

The Crowe Brothers
The Crowe Brothers

Wynn Duffy: (Jere Burns) Represents “The Dixie Mafia” as front man and “arranger”. Always mobile in a Winnebago. Constantly stuck in the middle of attention drawing Turf Wars. Thinks his talents are misplaced.And would rather be elsewhere.

Robert Quarles: (Neal McDonough. Another ‘Band of Brothers’ alum) Enforcer for the Detroit syndicate. Sexual sadist and usually calm sociopath. Favors a two shot derringer in a forearm to wrist slide rig.

Ellstin Limehouse: (Mykelti Williamson: ‘Forrest Gump;, ‘CSI:NY) Overseer to an historic hollow where slaves were left alone to thrive. post Antebellum. Shot caller fo many gangs throughout the state. And not adverse to the odd bank robbery.

Which leads us to:

The Ladies in Attendance

Winona Hawkins: (Natalie Zea) ADA for Harlan County. Former girlfriend of Raylan. Smarter than she lets on. Though sometimes lets emotions get in the way.

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Natalie Zea

Eva Crowder: (Joelle Carter) Married to Boyd’s cousin Johnny, whom she shoots with a Deer Rifle at the dinner table in the series premiere. Falls for Raylan. Then Boyd. To become the font of knowledge of criminal activity in Harlan. And Boyd’s woman. A hard luck. Hard loving woman. Who may just be out for herself, after all.

Wendy Crowe: (Alicia Witt) The only Crowe to earn a law degree. And not bashful about using that knowledge gaming others and The System to her and her son’s advantage. Pretty, clever. Dreams big. But manages with just enough to get by.

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Alicia Witt and Michael Rapaport

Katherine Hale: (Mary Steenburgen: ‘Joan of Arcadia; ‘Elf’, ‘Sunshine State’) Back up for Wynn Duffy. Elegant, fetching. Heart of ice. May or may not off Wynn during this last season.

Loretta McCready: (Kaitlyn Dever) A teenage girl with the mind far beyond her years. Whose father was killed by Coover Bennett and sought revenge. Then redemption. Every bit as sly as the boys and a perfect foil for Raylan!

Overall Consensus:

A series that has done surprisingly well. With its first season devoted to character introductions and small scale crime. That has smartly built on copious notes taken and expounded upon in later seasons. Whose script writing team wisely hangs around at the ready for new ideas from its constantly expanding cast and directors. Creating memorable scenes on the fly with Margo Martindale. Hints of the beginnings of the blood feud between the Bennett and the Givens clans. Or Damien Harrison’s Dewey Crowe for incredibly shameless comic relief.

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Margo Martindale w/ Olyphant

But the real meat of the series is the continuous slow raging war for supremacy between Raylan and Boyd. A perfect team up of wits. The give and take of discussion that Boyd makes sure work to his advantage. Add an endless stream of often returning bad guys. And variations on slowly solidifying schemes. And an episode rarely ends the way anyone predicted!.

Toss in well tended Art and Set Direction, Dressing and Continuity. And Stunt and Special Effects men too numerous to mention. Music by Steve Porcaro. Notable late night, middle of nowhere location cinematography. And you have the makings of superb adult television!


Author’s Notes:
I’ve only scratched the surface in as concise a thumb nail and sketch as I can manage. There are multiple clips, tributes, mash ups, interviews and complete episodes from the previous five seasons of ‘Justified’ n You Tube and IMDb


Check out Jack’s other posts and reviews


What do you think of JUSTIFIED? Opinions are always welcome. The floor is now open for discussion.

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24 thoughts on “Tube Watch: 5 Reasons Why FX’s ‘Justified’ Rocks Out Loud!

  1. Oh, Hell YES!!! JUSTIFIED is our favorite show right now. Can wait for Tuesday to arrive. Doubly sad that it’ll be its final season, Kevin. Wonderful spotlight, my friend.

    1. jackdeth72

      Welcome, Michael!

      ‘Justified’ set the hook with its first ads and trailer! Piquing curiosity with its characters and growing, flexible plot lines and hinted at stories. With the following season playing well off the previous ones. Superbly written, cast and executed. While showing off the underlying “sly” of its main characters. I had a ball putting this one together and laying it out as best I could.

      Very curious to see what happens with Loretta and Dewey Crowe this time around as the series ties up it snug and loose ends!

    1. jackdeth72

      Hi, Richard:

      Thanks very much!

      I’ve been wanting to take a shot at this since its second season. When characters started developing along with expanding plotlines. Definitely a series that is more than what’s there at first glance. Very compatible for binge watching and catching up. And Ruth couldn’t have timed its delivery better!

    1. jackdeth72

      Hi, Tim:

      Excellent observation!

      The seasons grew progressively better from its first. Spreading out from the Crowders to the Bennetts. With just the right amount of time devote to fleshing out characters and advancing the growing plot for the next few episodes, Still think Mags Bennett was just as bent as Boyd and gave him a good run playing off each other.

      Not a huge fan of the Crowes. Though it took a few weeks to recognize Danny, the knife freak as Mac Taylor’s lab nerd in ‘CSI:NY’. A great opportunity that he made full advantage of. And his death is still one of the funniest and tragic on television.

      Huge fan of Kaitlyn Dever’s Loretta McCready and Erica Tazel. Looking forward to both their futures in the coming, sadly last season!

  2. Agree with you on everything here Jack! This is one of the best and most underrated shows in TV right now. Writing, directing and acting are all top notch. What I love about this show is that you think you figured out what’s gonna happen and then bam they did a 180 on you. I wasn’t a fan of Michael Rapaport’s villain role in last season but with Boyd Crowder involvement, it’s always fun to watch. I’m glad Crowder will be the main antagonist for the final season.

    I hope Fox would consider turning the show into feature film after it’s over. My wish is to have Tarantino write and direct a feature film version, the story doesn’t require a $100mil production and if it’s done right, it could be a huge franchise for them.

    1. jackdeth72

      Hi, Ted:

      You came loaded for bear! Much appreciated,

      Great catches on the sudden and out of nowhere twist and 180 degree turns! One of the main reasons the series stays ahead of he curve. Where other writers would search for an easy way out. Kudos to Mr. Rappaport for trying on a completely unlikeable and offsetting character. Even if I didn’t much care for him.

      While Walton Goggins has been radiating the potential to be this generation’s Warren Oates. Incredibly comfortable in his own skin while portraying an intriguing character best kept at arm’s length.

      Agree with your idea of a film franchise. With its fan base already locked in. There’s more potential to save on other ends.

    1. jackdeth72

      Hi, Three Rows:

      Tim Olyphant was Graham Yost’s first and close to only choice after reading Mr. Leonard’s novel, ‘Fire In The Hole’. Which introduced Raylan Givens as a secondary character. Fortunately, HBO’s ‘Deadwood’ had finished its rum. And Tim was available.

      While the character of Boyd Crowder was killed at the tale’s end. Yost has auditions and selected Mr. Goggins very early on Both.knowing it would be a “one shot deal”. Until an early preview and the audience demanded that Boyd survive and return, Creating one of the best protagonist team ups in television!

  3. OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD! You just blew my FRIGGIN’ MIND! In my dumbness, I never connected that Tim was in EUROTRIP, and now I don’t know what’s real or not in my universe! Ahhhhhh! This is amazing!

    Second, I heart you so much for writing a JUSTIFIED diddy. In preparation for the final season, I just spent most of December binging on all five seasons, and it was a joy to re familiarize myself with some of the earlier seasons. Super stoked to have the Boyd vs. Raylan showdown five years in the making, but also depressed it’s coming to an end. Superb piece. Agreed on all points. And love your character descriptions, which were spot on.

    1. Hi Andy, how’ve you been man? Well I haven’t seen a single episode of Justified so I can’t comment on it but it sounds like a superb piece just from what I read here and from seeing the trailers.Well hopefully Olyphant would get another great show now that this one’s ending.

      1. jackdeth72

        Hi, Ruth:

        Looks like your gentle persuasion and nudging has paid off marvelously! Very surprised by all of the delightful positive comments and feedback. The series does have a lot of give and take, Though, its second season with Margo Martindale as Mags Bennett is probably the richest in character introduction and development.

        And I’ve no doubt Mr. Olyphant can get another series, project or film!

    2. jackdeth72

      Welcome, Andy:

      Excellent comment!

      I like to keep an eye on the supporting cast early on. And pick out possible team ups for future episodes. And Jacob Pitts caught my attention right away. Not just from his resemblance to Chris Cooper, but for his style and quiet patience. Which looks to pay off well this season!

      Erica Tazel’s Rachel has been the surprising plum in previous seasons, Working well with Raylan while giving small hints to her past, Very curious to see where she goes as the boys’ interim boss!

    1. jackdeth72

      Welcome, Sherise!

      ‘Justify’ is a very smooth transition for Mr. Olyphant and his grittier less groomed Seth Bullock in HBO’s ‘Deadwood’. With dialog updated and upgraded and made seamier, which is Elmore Leonard’s realm. Creating a series that is character and action driven in its own unique way.

      I think you’ll enjoy it a lot. And hope to see you drop by more often!

  4. Awesome, Kevin, I think this is just what I needed to see right now. I’m on the final season of Deadwood, and I think once I finish that I’ll start watching Justified. Sounds like a great series, and Timothy Olyphant is the man.

    1. jackdeth72

      Hi, Eric:

      If you’ve adapted and attuned your viewing of ‘Deadwood’. You should have a wonderful ride with ‘Justified’. The first episodes are devoted to character introduction and a brief backstory on Raylan that will expanded upon once in Harlan County.

      There’s a lot of excellent dialog which adds bits and pieces that flourish in later episodes and seasons. Mostly focused around Raylan. Then branching off to Boyd and other related bad guys,

      A most delightful trip!

  5. Justified is one of my favourite shows on at the moment, and I don’t watch a hell of a lot of TV these days. Think Timothy Olyphant was my initial draw for the series (I’m not blind!), and I think he’s so overlooked in that role as Raylan Givens. As much as Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder, who’s probably one of the best “villains” there is on TV. He’s barely a villain! And that’s the beauty of this show – there’s so much fricking grey! Nothing is black or white. Awesome show.

    1. jackdeth72

      Greetings, Jaina:

      Thanks for adding so well and insightfully to the conversation!

      Excellent catches all around!

      Mr. Olyphant became the guy other guys wanted to be and women wanted to be with during his time on ‘Deadwood’. And created a smooth extension with ‘Justified’. Which revels and excels in the gray areas. After establishing character and terrain in the first season.

      Walton Goggins is developing his abilities to be good in any role. More of a man trying to make a life for himself and his family. Where the choices are limited to crime and wits.

    1. jackdeth72

      Welcome, snapcracklewatch!

      The first episodes do move at their own pace, Though the fun is in watching bits of scenes and hints at future mischief later in the season(s). Between trying to figure out who Raylan is going to shoot. And why?

      The second season is where the series begins to come into its own new, unique and diverse characters and plot lines.

      If my critique has given rise to a second look. I’ll gladly take that as a compliment!

  6. Pingback: Spring Forward: Year of Bests – 2015 | It Rains... You Get Wet

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