Arts & Life, Columns

Navigating Netflix: Justified

FX is one of those networks cranking out some of the best TV available today. Like HBO and AMC, it’s built a reputation for interesting and innovative stories about unique characters. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Archer. Louie. Sons of Anarchy. It’s a strong pedigree but there’s one show I hadn’t paid much attention to until I watched it on Netflix.

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It’s the story of Deputy U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens who works in Miami. After a very public shooting incident, he’s transferred to Lexington, Kentucky, often working in the Harlan County where he grew up. People in Harlan, according to this show, seem to find work in either the coal mines or any number of illicit activities. Drug dealers, thugs and armed thieves are the primary vocations. Even racist seems like it’s a professional calling in the Harlan of Justified…

Family is an ongoing theme in this series and the driving force behind many of the plotlines. Season one features Givens facing off against the Crowders, a family of professional miscreants who have played havoc in Harlan for years. Boyd, one of the Crowder boys, is a childhood friend of Givens and is often his backup/enemy, depending on the situation. Season two brings on the Bennett clan, a rough family of pot dealers looking to take the county over who have an age old feud with the Givens. But as bad as they all are, Raylan’s own father is the worst of them all.

The core of the series is Raylan choosing his new family, the U.S. Marshall service, over his criminal father and those he left behind in Harlan County. His presence is often an instigating factor in many of the conflicts, escalating them at the very least. His penchant for making his own situation worse is a constant source of annoyance for his supervisors, co-workers, friends, enemies and ex-wife. Really, Raylan Givens pretty much just annoys everyone he knows.

Timothy Olyphant of Deadwood fame brilliantly plays Raylan Givens. Brash and arrogant, he’s his own worst enemy and just barely the hero of the story. The show even derives its name from his claims that the shooting back in Miami was justified.

Which keeps coming up.

He shoots a lot of people.

A lot.

The cast of characters that surround him are disturbing, earnest and engaging all at the same time. In particular, Walton Goggins, well-known for his role on another FX series called The Shield, is exceptional as the tortured Boyd Crowder as he flits between sinner and saint like a hummingbird moving between flowers.

I’m not sure why I didn’t check out Justified sooner, particularly given how big a fan I am of both Walter Goggins and Timothy Olyphant. I’m not big on police procedurals so I never clicked into this. But Justified is so much more than that, something I’m glad I finally clued in on.

It’s based on a pair of novels and a short story by Elmore Leonard, which explains the gritty, noir-esque qualities. To date, it’s received a Peabody award as well as two Primetime Emmy wins among seven nominations.

While each episode is its own entity, each season is a superb arc with plot points snaking back to the previous episodes and seasons. It moves at a lively, engaging pace that sucks you in and keeps you on board. I watched a couple of episodes and before I knew it I had worked my way through everything available to stream. Currently, only seasons one and two are on Netflix but seasons three and four are hopefully on the way with FX signing Justified up for season five.

There’s plenty of Justified to come so now is the definitely the time to get on board.

Ian Goodwillie is a columnist for the Spectator Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @ThePrairieGeek and on Tumblr at