Timothy Olyphant is no stranger to playing the guy with the gun. He’s played big screen lawmen, drug dealers, hitmen but his biggest big screen role was the villain in Live Free or Die Hard.
In Justified, he’s a good guy–a U.S. Marshall named Raylan Givens. I’m still a bit fuzzy on the responsibilities of Typical U.S. Marshalls, but I know from movies that they chase Fugitives and get to over-ride local law enforcement on a whim.
The very first scene of the series Raylan is by a pool in Miami sitting across the table from generic-low-life-bad-guy_01. Raylan tells generic-low-life-bad-guy_01 that he’d warned him that if he saw him again he was going to shoot him. Not exactly ideal lawman threats, but Raylan is not an ideal lawman as we learn about six seconds later when he fulfills his promise and shoots generic-low-life-bad-guy_01. It’s okay because it was “justified” (hence the name of the series as Raylan uses the term to defend his actions) because generic-low-life-bad-guy_01 was clearly about to try to shoot Raylan. Raylan is just fast enough to react and in the time between someone else starting to pull a trigger and completing the action, Raylan can draw a gun, tip his white ten-gallon hat, and shoot with deadly accuracy.
Okay, so I’m exaggerating about the hat. He does wear an off- white ten-gallon hat, but I haven’t seen him tip it in the course of shooting anyone and he shoots a lot of people in Season One. Since the ten-gallon hat doesn’t really fit into the Miami culture, and because the U.S. Marshalls don’t like the publicity that gets out when one of them shoots someone, they send Raylan off to the Kentucky office, maybe or maybe not coincidentally just one town over from where he grew up.
His ex-wife still lives there. As do his childhood buddies who have mostly gone to the wrong side of the law. Also in local residence is his father, who is knee deep in criminal activities. The biggest, baddest, bad-guy in town appears to be Boyd Crowder. We know he’s a bad guy because he uses a Rocket Propelled Grenade to take out a church in the first episode. It’s not long into the series before Raylan shoots Boyd, just to make sure they get off on the right foot. Boyd spends some time in prison, but not much more than it takes for the gunshot wound to heal.
It seems that in Prison Boyd finds religion and takes it upon himself to spread the good word. There really is nothing more creepy than a bad-guy with religion. Only it begins to become less clear if he’s really religious or really a bad-guy. The bad-guy in charge of the county is Boyd’s father. And though we see Boyd blowing more buildings up and a truck, those targets were heavily involved in the local Meth distribution net run by his father, who coincidentally buys some of his supplies from a Miami source who happened to be a close friend of the guy Raylan killed in the first scene. We honestly cannot tell if Boyd is a bad-guy using religion to gain power over a flock of other former inmates while trying to take over the local crime scene if he’s a vigilante, or honestly religious and trying to reform. It’s brilliantly disturbing.
Of course there is a romantic interest for Raylan. Did I say “a”? Actually, there are two because things are not exactly cool between Raylan and his ex-wife, despite their best efforts. His main squeeze for Season One is Ava Crowder. Recognize that last name? Right, the same one as Boyd. She was married to his brother until she shot him just prior to the beginning of the series. This means she is frequently under Raylan’s protection from Boyd and his father. And by frequently under, I mean this is a cable show, so she is occasionally shown frequently under. It’s not premium cable so there’s more skin than network but no naughty bits.
Throughout the show, we get to see how Raylan has a very distinct code of when and when not to shoot someone. It’s rather an honorable one as he claims that he never draws first. I’m pretty sure he lives up to that. The body count averages around one per episode, but it’s not always Raylan pulling the trigger.
The atmosphere of the show is a strange mix between the western Sheriff character of Raylan, the modern world and how little of trickles into backwater Kentucky, and the organized hick crime scene. There is a very enjoyable gritty feel to the show.
Season Two of Justified starts February 9th 2011. Season one is available on DVD so there is time to catch up. I recommend you do.