If you’re not familiar with the show — and that’s perfectly normal as it’s on FX — Justified is about Federal Marshall Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant,) sent back to the town he grew up in by a law enforcement agency that is understandably embarrassed by his shooting of a criminal over brunch at a Miami hotel. Raylan finds his past life colliding with the man he’s become in the form of old flames, an embarrassing family history, and a clan of racist hillbillies who fancy themselves the mafia in their neck of the woods, and it’s been interesting to watch how an entire TV show has evolved out of a short story by Elmore Leonard.
Justified had a shaky beginning: a terrific pilot segued into into a more-episodic-than-expected setup with several installments from the first half of the season being pretty good TV that fell far short of the benchmarks set by the first episode. I won’t lie; I watched those episodes and enjoyed them well enough but it was mostly due to Olyphant’s exquisite manliness and charm overpowering some weak plots (the trip to LA was completely unneccessary and felt like it came from another series’ writer’s room entirely.) However, even in those weakest starting salvos, groundwork was laid for what I suspect is the series’ core theme. Raylan’s cowboy attitude and affectations run contrary to how his job should be done in the modern era; watching them bite him in the ass and seeing him try to make things right within the boundaries of the law is both entertaining and satisfying. It’s a classic redemption arc, acted well by Olyphant and his supporting cast (particularly Natalie Zea as Raylan’s ex wife and Walton Goggins’ tightly wound psychopath) and writing that has gelled nicely as the series progresses. Between this and Treme (which I can’t even start to talk about without becoming a foaming zealot,) I’m in a really good place with dramas on TV right now.
(As an aside: you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a better-looking TV show, particularly in HD. Naturalistic lighting, great composition, and depth of focus used at just the right moments all work spectacularly with the muted color palette)