Pulp Consumption: Justified

Long Hard Times to Come

JUSTIFIED was a law-and-crime show that ran for six seasons on FX, and starred Timothy Olyphant as US Marshall Raylan Givens and Walton Goggins as the criminal Boyd Crowder. The show was based off characters by the late great Elmore Leonard, who, until his untimely death, had an Executive Producer credit on the show.

It would be too easy to say that Raylan is a cowboy cop… but with the boots, the hat (the hat!), and the general attitude, well, it fits. That said, many of Raylan’s actions where he deviates from standard procedure only gets him into worse trouble both personally and professionally. The show also doesn’t steer away from the issues that substance abuse, in particular alcohol, can have on a character. Raylan would be a typical white hat in any classic Western: quick on the draw, giving ultimatums to bad guys (memorably used in the very first episode), and operating within his own code of honor. At times, given that he is operating in the early part of the 21st century and not the latter half of the 19th, this often has negative repercussions.

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Timothy Olyphant (left) as Raylan Givens, and Walton Goggins (right) as Boyd Crowder

One of the most interesting facets of the show for me was that it realized it had two interesting character arcs to work with, and it wasn’t afraid to take time off from one to focus on the other[1]. Even though Raylan and Boyd are frequently set in opposition to each other, the show does diverge at times to show that not every criminal action was tied to Boyd, and that Givens did have a responsibility as a law enforcement officer that extended beyond Boyd’s criminal aspirations. Both arcs are highly compelling and complex. The show accomplishes this by focusing not only on the tensions between Raylan and Boyd, but each season contains a arc where some outside criminal force tries to make inroads in Harlan County, thinking the locals uneducated rubes. Without fail, the locals show that local knowledge and deep roots in Kentucky triumph every time.

The show also brings to the fore how vital secondary characters are to establishing a well-rounded show. Whether it was Ava (Joelle Carter), torn between Raylan and Boyd, or Art (Nick Searcy) as Raylan’s long-suffering boss, the people orbiting around the main characters provide a vibrant and more importantly, believable, community for these characters to inhabit. Also, all of the characters evolve in believable ways to the actions that take place around them. Characters grow, evolve, and yes, make some truly stupendous bad decisions, but, for the most part, you can understand why they’d make those decisions in the first place.

So if you are looking for a show to binge and want to see what happens when a great like Elmore Leonard gets transferred to a different medium, you could do a lot worse than JUSTIFED.

[1] Fun trivia fact: Boyd Crowder wasn’t supposed to survive the pilot episode, but Walton Goggins’ performance convinced the showrunners to keep him around. I can only imagine how different the show would be without him.

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