TV Review: ‘Justified’

Justified Season 5

FX drama begins in midseason form - and offers a fitting tribute to author Elmore Leonard

Prone to slow starts and whiz-bang finishes, “Justified” opens its fifth year in midseason form, following parallel plots involving U.S. marshal Raylan Givens and boyhood pal-turned-criminal Boyd Crowder. Few programs blend comedy and drama better, and the show continues to outdo itself in the casting department, particular in the use of comic actors in unexpected ways. FX has showier and more provocative programs in its holster, but probably not one that’s any more consistently enjoyable. With author Elmore Leonard having passed away in August, the current season has the look of a more-than-fitting tribute to his signature style.

The season opens with Raylan (Timothy Olyphant, never better) traveling to Miami to pursue a case and Boyd (Walton Goggins) experiencing some of the headaches associated with the dope business, even as he labors to find some way to get his fiancée, Eva (Joelle Carter), acquitted of murder charges.

Meanwhile, the show continues to weave in characters from the past as well as new ones. The latter includes Michael Rapaport as Darryl Crowe Jr., the brains, such as they are, of a redneck family with whom Raylan has had dealings in the past, and will again; Dave Foley as a Canadian drug kingpin; David Koechner as a Florida cop with whom Raylan gets temporarily paired; and Steve Harris and Wood Harris, real-life brothers playing a pair of enforcers working for a Nashville-based drug dealer.

Much like “The Good Wife,” “Justified” has excelled at bringing in top-flight performers for limited arcs. Yet if that CBS show deals in white-collar shenanigans, this one traffics in low-life culture, where the criminals are often as dirty and unshaven as they are hilariously dense. (Nor does it hurt that the guest stars generally appear to be having a ball.)

Like most of FX’s dramas, the series pushes as close as it can to premium-cable boundaries. “Can I get you a blowjob or something?” Raylan is asked when he goes to the local whorehouse looking for information.

At times “Justified” does seem more interested in atmosphere than plot, luxuriating in its quirky characters without moving the story along. Eventually, though, it usually gets somewhere interesting – and along the way manages to do something quite disarming and pleasurable in these sort of gritty, crime-infested worlds: actually have, and be, fun.

Showrunner Graham Yost has wryly described the writing staff’s guiding philosophy as “What would Elmore do?,” and FX’s extended premiere will include a brief tribute to the prolific writer. While Leonard’s hard-bitten characters, including those in “Justified,” were hardly the kind to indulge in maudlin testimonials, season five’s opening flurry certainly does him proud.

TV Review: 'Justified'

(Series; FX, Tues. Jan. 7, 10 p.m.)

Production

Filmed in Los Angeles by FX Prods. and Sony Pictures Television.

Crew

Executive producers, Graham Yost, Elmore Leonard, Carl Beverly, Sarah Timberman, Michael Dinner, Fred Golan, Dave Andron, Don Kurt; co-executive producer, Taylor Elmore; supervising producers, Ben Cavell, Chris Provenzano; producer, Timothy Olyphant; director, Dinner; writers, Yost, Golan; camera, Francis Kenny; production designer, Dave Blass; casting, Cami Patton, Christal Karge. 75 MIN.

Cast

Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter, Erica Tazel, Jacob Pitts, Jere Burns, Michael Rapaport, Damon Herriman, Dave Meunier

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  1. 10/08lover says:

    Other than one writer’s Fruedian fixation (unresolved women issues) on injecting far too many references to blow jobs, the writing is consistently stellar. The result is not only a dialogue that makes the actors look very good, but one that allows viewers an opportunity to become involved. It’s fun to piece together the meaning of what is said in episodes from the past to the present. Justified is on its way to cult status – so cool to witness deserving older actors a place to be remembered always.

  2. changshafu says:

    Just to clarify, I was awaiting/expecting the second Gutterson climax.

    I didn’t finish my thought because I was thinking about………whatever.

    Anyway, no Tim til half way through? I hate to be brat child, but I don’t see how I would enjoy watching.

  3. changshafu says:

    Where’s Tim Gutterson? Remember the love from seasons past; the love that grew to a climax last season where you couldn’t swing a dead cat without seeing a reviews/notice/skywriting regarding what a great performance Jacob Pitts was giving and how delightful the character of Tim Gutterson is.

    So……….he doesn’t appear until the season is half over???

    Sorry, but Justified isn’t Justified without Tim.

  4. Boyd Rowdy Piper Crowder says:

    GREAT show. Just wish it had more Winona, played by Natalie Zea. She’s who we want to see Raylan with, not the floozy of the week. Is her time limited because she’s on The Following now? Dump that trash, Natalie, get back on Justified where you belong, girl!

  5. Been a huge fan of Timothy Olyphant since his breakout performance in DEADWOOD. Enjoy Justified very much especially the brilliant writing. Performs totally ROCK and a big hand to all involved in a very classy production.

    • Charles says:

      Best series on TV would love to see Olyphant in larger roles, incl western, as Eastwood did after his series. Being an avid movie goer forever (I am 78) he is the best with the brightest future.

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