It’s Justified

By Allison Brennan 

Our dear friend Rob is buried in deep deadlines, and allowed me to take over his blog today to talk about one of my favorite television shows.

I’ve been pleased with the quality of the new crime shows on television these past two years. I’ve long grown tired of the CSI franchise, irritated with Criminal Minds practically since the beginning, and while I still enjoy Law & Order SVU, it doesn’t have the same energy. And the idiot power that be cancelled one of my favorite series after two seasons, LIFE. The “classic” crime shows don’t have the edge, or they’re sorely outdated.

DARK BLUE and DETROIT 187 – both of which I downloaded because of comments on this blog – are fantastic. I edge to DETROIT because some of DARK BLUE feels unreal (and I don’t like the FBI Agent Alex Rice from Season Two-I still have three episodes to watch, so no spoilers-but I’m kind of hoping she gets killed off, or we find out she betrayed the team-which I think she planned to do all along. I just don’t trust her.) But both shows have terrific characters, and that is ultimately why I watch television.

Last year, I was surfing through iTunes and found a new show called JUSTIFIED, an F/X original program. It starred Timothy Olyphant (who I loved in DEADWOOD), and at the time there was only a couple episode that had aired. I was surprised I hadn’t heard of it, but I bought it for two reasons: it was based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, a consultant on the show, and starred Timothy Olyphant. (Whoops, I already said that.)

(As an aside, Timothy Olyphant is welcome to play nearly any of the heroes in my books, but I’m partial to him as Gallatin County Sheriff Nick Thomas who, in SPEAK NO EVIL, is a fish out of water in San Diego as he sets out to prove his brother is innocent of murder. Or Sheriff Tyler McBride, also in Montana, from TEMPTING EVIL. Or FBI Agent Mitch Bianchi from PLAYING DEAD. Or . . . well, he’d fit many of them. Just saying.)

I remember watching the pilot, not really knowing what to expect, only to be floored by the best five-minute opener of any television series I’ve seen. I was more than hooked; I became an evangelist for the series. I remember emailing our Toni and telling her she had to watch it. She’d turned me onto LIFE; I had to return the favor.

JUSTIFIED is based on Leonard’s character US Marshal Raylan Givens and the short story Fire in the Hole which is currently a free read on the HarperCollins website. (A bit of trivia-well, maybe everyone here knows this, but I didn’t until this afternoon, but Leonard-who writes all his stories with pen and paper-wrote Fire in the Hole for the e-book market in 2001.)

Leonard is pretty amazing-over three dozen books, a Grand Master of Mystery Writers of America, and now consulting on JUSTIFIED. His advice to writers is legendary: “Leave out the parts everyone skips.” But my favorite is, “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite.” Which reminds me of another quote-though I don’t remember who said it-“It’s not easy to write a book that’s easy to read.”

The show has the same sharp, story-driving dialogue that Leonard is known for. The timing is perfect, the actors amazingly well cast, and the setting is itself a character. Nothing is wasted, a good lesson for writers.

The pilot episode follows the short story fairly closely, except for the end. In the story, Boyd Crowder dies. In the television show, he’s redeemed.

Or is he?

Raylan Givens (Olyphant) is the star, but first I’m compelled to talk about Boyd Crowder (played by Walton Groggins). When Crowder is introduced, he’s the villain. A racist who blew up a black church-or is he? Why he hit the church with a rocket launcher isn’t as clear-cut as it seems in the beginning. Crowder is definitely bad news. He has a mail-order ordination and quotes (and misquotes) the Bible to justify his white supremacy. His father Bo controls the drug trade in the area, and is working with a nasty cartel. But as the season goes on, Boyd has (possibly) a complete change of focus.

What is so fascinating about Boyd is that the writers on the show redeemed a despicable character in an amazing and plausible way. We, the viewers-and Raylan Givens, who worked with Boyd in the mines-are skeptical of his change of heart. Even now, I’m not certain, but I want him to be redeemed.

I’d read last year that Groggins wasn’t supposed to become a continuing character, but after the pilot the chemistry between Olyphant and Groggins was so amazing, that they kept him on.

Raylan Givens. His ex-wife (and I hope she stays his ex-wife because I do NOT like Winona) told him in the first episode that he was the angriest man she’d ever met. And his anger simmers under his skin, giving him a perpetual brooding appearance. Where Boyd Crowder is a complex character, Raylan Givens is not. I wouldn’t call him simple, either. There is also a strong cast of supporting characters from Nick Searcy as Chief Art Mullen to the other two US Marshals in the office (Jacob Pitts and Erica Tazel) to the other Crowders, and even Winona (though I don’t like her character, the actress, Natalie Zea, is good.)

In the first season, Raylan spends his time split between protecting Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter) from the rest of the Crowder family, and handling his cases. (I read somewhere that Ava was “self-widowed” which I got a kick out of -she killed her husband, Boyd’s younger brother Bowman, while he sat at his dining table. Some might call Ava a battered woman-and she certainly was when Bowman was alive-but I call her a survivor. I didn’t like her at the beginning of the show, but she grew on me for two reasons: first, she doesn’t pretend to be someone she’s not. She’s not stupid, but she’s uneducated, and while she would be safer leaving Harlan, it’s the only place she knows. And second, she will stand up for herself–at least now she does. She’s scared, but she won’t be chased from her home. She doesn’t always make the right decisions, but she’s not conniving or playing some game. What you see is what you get. Which, ironically, is a lot like Raylan.)

Raylan isn’t perfect. He doesn’t always make the right choices. Sleeping with Ava Crowder when she’s the only witness in his shooting of Boyd Crowder wasn’t a smart move, and set up a lot of the conflict in the first season. The second season starts where the first season left off-but new viewers can hop right in. You’ll get a sense of the first season, but the opener introduces a whole new-level of home-grown bad guys. The last person on the planet I’d want to piss off is Mags Bennett (played by Margo Martindale.) She makes Bo Crowder look like a kitten.

I could talk on and on about the tight plotting, the fantastic choreography, the setting, the action-but I can’t do it justice. You’ll just have to see it for yourself. If it sounds like I’m doing the hard sell, maybe I am. All my favorite shows tend to get cancelled after a season or two, and I’m doing my level best to ensure that JUSTIFIED has a third season.

When it comes to fighting the bad guys, there is no one you’d want on your side more than Raylan. While I wouldn’t call him simple, he’s straightforward. We know how Raylan will react. We know what he’ll do. And we know that it’ll be justified.

Some memorable quotes

Raylan: Alright, I tried to be reasonable. You give me your word in ten seconds or I shoot you in the head.

Reyes: My God, she needs a doctor.
Raylan: She’s needed one for a while, but I don’t think these next two minutes are going to kill her.

Raylan (to sex offender): Normally, I would’ve just shot you myself the second you pulled, but I am doing my level-best to avoid the paper work and the self-recrimination that comes with it, though Lord knows you’re the kind that makes it worth it more.

Raylan (to his father, Arlo, a criminal): Sometimes we have to make deals with lowlifes because we have our sights set on life forms even somehow lower on the ladder of lowlife than they.

Ava: Didn’t the district attorney order you to stay away from Boyd?
Raylan: It was more of a suggestion.

Raylan: I wasn’t in a shootout, I was just near one.

Raylan: I shot people I like more for less.

Winona: You’re a little old to be fighting, aren’t you?
Raylan: Certainly too old to be losing.

Bo Crowder: Howdy Marshall, I sure am glad you could join us
Raylan: Oh, no, no, no. I’m not joining you. You were just leaving.

Hanselman: Next time you’re in Cincinnati, come by the gallery, I’ll show you my collection. I think you’ll be quite surprised.
Raylan: Honestly, I’d rather stick my dick in a blender.
Chief Mullen: Well, that would solve a few problems.

US Marshal: How’s Winona?
Raylan: Oh, she’s still happily married to someone else, thanks for asking.

Raylan: If you’re going to talk, I’ll put you in the trunk and drive myself.
Dewey: I can’t drive handcuffed to the damned steering wheel!
Raylan: You’ll get the hang of it.

I’m in a really good mood after watching a bunch of clips from JUSTIFIED in preparation for this blog (grueling work, I know, watching Timothy Olyphant all night. As an aside, I saw on Elmore Leonard’s blog that two-thirds of JUSTIFIED viewers are men, and I’m like, WTF? I think every romance writer on the planet watches the show, if the status bars on Facebook are any indication.) If you haven’t seen the show, watch it. Download it to your computer or buy the DVD ($22.99 on iTunes; $19.99 on Amazon.) I’m giving away a DVD set of Season One-just comment below. If you haven’t seen the show, tell me if you want to see it-and what is your favorite show so far this year. And if you have seen it, do you have a favorite episode or quote?

In case you missed it, here’s the Superbowl commercial promoting the series–it’s pitch perfect.

And here is the Season 2 teaser

42 thoughts on “It’s Justified

  1. Annie Jones

    We are hardcore JUSTIFIED fans in our home and the thing most people won't really grasp without some experience is how RIGHT they got everything. The look, the people, the relationships, the attitudes and the accents of that part of Kentucky, just spot on. I can't even pinpoint all the ways they've gotten it right and that adds a level, knowing this isn't over the top drama, this is just plain truth telling in fiction form. LOVE IT.

  2. TerriMolina

    I've never seen it, but I want to…it's just one of those shows I forget is on because there are other shows I watch and I keep telling myself I'm not going to add new programs to my DVR. So far, of the new shows this year, I enjoy Blue Bloods and Human Target (although that one is in it's second season).

    fun post. =)

  3. Beth Clark

    I have seen Season 1 and enjoyed every episode. I came across this show as a result of 2 things – TO was in Damages and I really liked his character on there & my Mom is a huge Elmore Leonard fan so I watched the first episode with her and was hooked. I like your observation in romance readers & this show because that is the genre I will pick up first to read. I too am looking for good writing, great cast & believable characters. May this series continue and I will do my part to talk it up every chance I can.

  4. Neil Nyren

    I don't have a new favorite yet this year, but JUSTIFIED was definitely my favorite of last year (along with THE GOOD WIFE), and if anything, it's started out even better now. Mags is an awesome new character.

  5. Princess Alethea

    It's a subtly brilliant show, like Terriers (which Joe and I still lament losing after only one season).

    My favorite line is in this first episode of Season Two that just aired. "What does it look like I'm doing?" That one tiny scene epitomizes the brilliance of both the show's writing and Timothy Olyphant's superb acting ability.

    (PS – I think it's "Goggins" not "Groggins" He was one of the strike force on The Shield.)

  6. JB Lynn

    I just wanted to add that I think the writers are beyond brilliant for the way they managed to make the season one finale dovetail with the pilot….everything came full circle in such a beautiful fashion.

    I also appreciated that they echoed the pilot with this season's premiere with the reappearance of Matt Craven's character (sorry, don't remember the character's name). It felt like a treat dropped in for loyal viewers.

    I'm sort of partial to the "hillbilly whisperer" line.

    I hope that this show catches on because I was devastated that LIFE only aired for two seasons.

  7. Charlie Stella

    I'll try this again. Raylan is the featured protagonist in Leonard's "Pronto"; a great read and just as good movie. In the original, the Tommy Bucks charactger is a zip (an Italian brought over to do the MIami mobs dirty work). He's no Buckley (Justified). I prefer the Pronto ending to the start of Justified (where it is supposed to pick up from for Givens). Olyphant is terrific in Justified (as he was in Deadwood–kind of the same character). It's a great series.

  8. Allison Brennan

    I just added two YouTube clips — one the Superbowl commercial (which is classic Raylan Givens) and one a teaser for Season Two. There's nothing from the new season, it's all old stuff, but it's a great little summary.

  9. Allison Brennan

    You won't regret it Dusty!

    Annie, I just re-read my post (I wrote it late because I spent too much time re-watching episodes!) and I could have added so much more. They get it right on every level — character, dialogue, action. They also have the edginess I love in cop shows and they don't hold back, probably because they are on cable tv (which in my opinion has the best shows.) And there is also a dark humor thread that Olyphant plays perfectly.

    Terri, you definitely should DVR it. All writers can learn something about pacing and dialogue. Well, I also suggest reading Leonard too, because he's a master at pacing and dialogue.

    Thanks Beth! I'm set on making sure there is a season three, so I'll be talking it up every chance I get. In fact, I emailed the artist Rench from Gangstagrass who wrote and sang the opening song and asked for permissions to quote another song in my next book. The book has an abandoned mine as part of the storyline (it's not in Kentucky, it's in the Adirondacks) and there's a song that fits my town perfectly. So I'll give a plug to JUSTIFIED in the acknowledgments because that's how I discovered the band.

    Thanks Sarah!

    Neil, Mags is one of those characters I wish I had created. She is amazing, and the actress plays her perfectly. I also liked Loretta, and think she's a great character with a lot of potential. I think the season finale was set up in the first episode, and I can't wait to see how they play it all out.

    Alafair: you'll love him more in this!

    Princess, you're right, it is Goggins. Grr, will go change it!

    JB, Matt Craven was Raylan's old boss in Florida, right? I get my actors mixed up sometimes :/ — and what's even more amazing about the full circle of season one is that it wasn't planned–Boyd wasn't supposed to stay on the show, but the ending wouldn't have been the same without him. I think the complexity of Boyd and Raylan's relationship–I hesitate to call them friends really adds another dimension to the show. (In the short story, after Givens kills Boyd and Mullen says something, Givens replied, "I thought you understood. We dug coal together.")

    I never saw Pronto, but now I have to get it. While Olyphant is definitely natural in a cowboy hat, I think he is very talented and would love to see him do other things. Except . . . he does edgy western lawmen sooooo well.

  10. Christy

    I have heard so many people talk about Justified about how good it is. I am going to have to find season one to watch…..maybe I will have to join netflix now!

  11. Jake Nantz

    Okay, first, the reason so many guys watch JUSTIFIED is because of the kick-ass factor (see Dusty's series on this for more info). Second, this is one of the few shows that my wife and I watch as a series. We didn't get into LOST, or 24, or CHASE (after the 3rd episode, ugh), or any of the other shows that always end up jumping their own shark at some point (hell for 24 it was in the FIRST SEASON with the whole amnesia thing). But we watch Rizzoli and Isles, we watch Justified, and we've started a new one that you may like if you like whip-tastic dialogue. THE CHICAGO CODE. Great characterization and awesome dialogue. And c'mon, who doesn't like Delroy Lindo as a villain?

  12. Janice Gable Bashman

    I haven't seen Justified, but my husband has been bugging me to do so ever since the first episode aired. He wants me to watch the show with him, but I missed out on the first season for some reason, so I'd love to see it. My favorite show at the moment is THE BIG BANG THEORY.

  13. Tracy

    I am not much of a television watcher but my DVR has actually changed my viewing habits significantly. After reading this I will definitely buy the Justified Season 1 DVD. I too have grown tired of the CSI franchise even though it was gripping television when it first aired. Right now I do really like Blue Bloods but it is very much a show about family and other relationships that happens to be set in the police department.

    Personally as a reader and viewer I am always drawn in by story arcs that connect the series. (Allison you are one of the best in that!) Good continuity and character development can completely make up for storylines that ask me to suspend my belief. When those two things are lacking I feel like I am reading or watching a poorly produced soap opera.

  14. William Simon

    JUSTIFIED is one of the few on the "will NOT miss" schedule. Just bought the first season this past weekend, and went through them all.

    The "Dirty Harry" commercial is funny, but the one I'm trying to find is one I saw only once on f/X: As I remember it, there's a beautiful blue sky, camera pans around. *GUNSHOT* Looking up at the sky. Someone walks toward the scene, and is revealed to be Raylan. He bends down, mutters, "That's what they mean by 'die trying', huh?" and he walks off.

    As a long time Elmore Leonard fan, I'd love to see Mr. Leonard write a conversation between Raylan Givens and Chili Palmer. Nothing major, jut two guys in a bar talking about Life….

  15. Jeff Greene

    I love this show! My wife accuses me of having a man-crush on Raylan, to which I repeat a quote I saw that said "If you are a man and don't have a crush on Raylan, you're totally gay."

    My favorite Raylan quote was his prayer at Boyd's Camp: "Dear Lord, before we eat this meal we ask forgiveness for our sins, especially Boyd- who blew up a black church with a rocket launcher, and afterwards he shot his associate Jared Hale in the back of the head out on Tate's Creek bridge. Let the image of Jared's brain matter on that windshield not dampen our appetites, but may the knowledge of Boyd's past sins help guide these men. May this food provide them with all the nourishment they need. But, if it does not, may they find comfort in knowing that the United States Marshal Service is offering fifty-thousand dollars to any individual providing information that will put Boyd back in prison. Cash or check, we can make it out to them. Or to Jesus. Whoever they want. In your name, we pray. Amen."

  16. Diana Duncan

    I am up there on the platform singing the praises of this show (and its fabulous actors, writers & directors) right along with ya, sister! IMHO it's the best thing on television right now. (And did I mention Timothy Olyphant is HOT?) *G*

    Seriously, I impatiently wait for every week's episode. I bought the Season 1 DVD for my stepdad when it came out, because he doesn't get the FX network in his area — and now he's totally hooked too.

  17. Carolyn Sullivan

    I have loved Justified since the beginning. I don't have cable so I watch it on my computer.

    My favorite quote is from the first episode. "He pulled first."

    I agree with you about Winona. She certainly does not deserve him. At first I didn't like Ava either, but she has redeemed herself.

    Did you see the movie Live Free or Die Hard (Die Hard 4). He was the perfect villain.

  18. CarlC

    OK, Allison, you've got me hooked. Need to find it on FX and hope that it doesn't conflict with any of the other shows that we DVR. If so, there's always the DVDs.

    Thanks for posting such a rousing recommendation.

  19. Allison Brennan

    Jeff, I totally remember that scene! Thanks for the reminder. I love Gangstagrass. They were playing in a club in New York City and wished I could have fit a business trip back there at the time. They have a great mix of rock, country and rap. I don't care for rap music, but this sound is unique (like the Howling Diablos–it's hard to classify, but I love them too.)

    Diana, AMEN! When I bought Season one, there were 3 or 4 episodes already aired, so I watched them all in two nights. I HATED waiting until the next week. In fact, I hate waiting so much that even though I bought season two on iTunes, I'm recording it in my bedroom. (I just really, really hate commercials, and the iTunes quality is SO much better than regular television.)

    Carolyn, I searched for the opening scene of Season one, episode one, and couldn't find it on YouTube. I really had wanted to post it! Winona is an idiot. She might be educated and cultured and smart, but to cheat on Raylan with Gary???? Pul-eeze. Yeah, yeah, I know in Hatless they tried to give viewers another side of Gary about why Winona fell for him, but . . . he's not Raylan. And then she cheats on Gary with Raylan. I hope Raylan wakes up and sees her for what she is. She'll never be satisfied, and I guess I just don't like adulterers–especially repeat adulterers! . . . and yes, I say Die Hard 4. I actually liked it a lot (much better than 3) and though he made a great villain. But he makes a better hero. (Though, if he wants to play a villain from any of my books, he's more than welcome to–I'd suggest Theodore Glenn from KILLING FEAR because he's a pure sociopath, though the villain in THE PREY would be good for him, too. I can also see him as my head vigilante in LOVE ME TO DEATH–not evil, but willing to do bad things for the right reasons.)

  20. Laurey

    I absolutely love Justified. FX has some really great shows and hope they keep them going. Its to long between seasons. I am also a huge Sons of Anarchy fan. I go from that in Sept through December to waiting for Feb for jusified.

    I got my mom hooked on Justified also. We both are big Timothy fans. She also loves Elmore Leonard books so its a great combo

  21. lil Gluckstern

    My Netflix queue just got longer, my DVR just got busier, and I have all these books to read. Loved the post, may not emerge until Spring!

  22. KDJames

    I LOVE this show, love love love it! I can't pick a favourite scene or quote, they're all so good. The writing and the acting are fabulous. And this new woman, Mags? What a fantastic piece of understated acting last week. That character is chilling. And horribly realistic.

    *possible spoiler* (If you haven't seen the first show of the new season) Loved the scene last week when Raylan had to turn in his gun and the Chief called another deputy into his office to witness it by saying, "We're gonna do the gun thing." And Raylan has a short running commentary about the process and it's so funny, ending with a wry, "What could possibly go wrong." And after the gun is in the envelope and the papers signed, the other deputy asks Raylan, with an attitude of idle curiosity, "So whatcha gonna get?" And Raylan says, with a shrug in his voice, "Probably the same thing." It's such a small exchange, such a throwaway remark, but it tells so much. Obviously, all three of them have done this before. Many times. And you know that even though Raylan just turned in his gun, none of the men in that room are thinking for even one minute that it means he's going to go around unarmed. And they're all fine with it, that rule breaking.

    If you're a writer and NOT watching this show, you're missing out on a great learning experience. Plus, you know, Timothy Olyphant. Good lord that man is hot.

  23. J.E.Taylor

    This is now on my to watch list!

    I've seen the promos but haven't had the chance to watch – but that will be fixed tonight!

    Thanks for the write up!


  24. Pam Payne

    Just watched my first ever episode last night. It was good, but man, some of those people are EVIL. 🙂

  25. Kathy Crouch

    I haven't seen or heard of this who before. But we don't have TV at my sister's house and we make a special trip to my niece's to watch NCIS and NCIS Los Angeles. HUbby loves the shows and I enjoy them too. I like the new Hawaii Five O as well.

  26. Kathy Otten

    Loved the last episode of the last season when they were surrounded in the cabin and Raylan says to Boyd, "You didn't happen to bring your rocket launcher?' Absolutely love those one liners delivered in such a laid back manner. Great show. Loved it since the very first.

  27. Tracy Nicol

    I have never seen, JUSTIFIED, but I would love for my parents to see it especially. They adored DEADWOOD and Timothy Olyphant. JUSTIFIED sounds right up their alley! Their favorite show right now is, DETROIT 187.

    Thanks for the heads up and the brilliant quotes!

  28. Meg Gardiner

    PRONTO, where Elmore Leonard first introduces Raylan Givens, is indeed wonderful.

    Great post, Allison. I love the discussion of the characters.

    You will be posting more photos of Timothy Olyphant, right?

  29. Marley Delarose

    I AB SO LUTE LY Love this show. It's been my favorite since I watched one episode last year and was going to settle in and watch the rest all by myself with no distractions only to find the DH had watched and deleted them. I had to wait until the repeats in January to get to see them again.

    Last week I taped every show Timothy was on promoting the new season. What a delightful and funny man he is. Now I want to watch Deadwood again and go see I am Number Four. Thanks for all the great vids.

  30. Marley Delarose

    I AB SO LUTE LY Love this show. It's been my favorite since I watched one episode last year and was going to settle in and watch the rest all by myself with no distractions only to find the DH had watched and deleted them. I had to wait until the repeats in January to get to see them again.

    Last week I taped every show Timothy was on promoting the new season. What a delightful and funny man he is. Now I want to watch Deadwood again and go see I am Number Four. Thanks for all the great vids.

  31. Martyn Lewis

    Im watching justified I happened to see the first series on the tv over here, (in the uk) after your first post about it.

    I just like the fact that is very character driven and they are constantly being developed. Hats off to the writers.

    I'm also watching The Chicago Code for two reasons;

    1) it was created by the same person who created the shield – Shawn Ryan
    2) it's set and being filmed in Chicago which I'm hoping to be able to visit in the not so distant future.

  32. Jake Nantz

    Martyn, so far I admit there's only been two episodes, but I L-O-V-E the writing for The Chicago Code. Solid, solid show. I put it right up there with Justified, and I think Justified is pretty much the best thing on television.

  33. Denise in AZ

    I have never seen Justified. We do not have cable or satellite TV — just converter boxes. I love watching crime drama and true crime shows. I've seen Blue Blood once (I work evenings and happened to be off that particular evening).

    I would love to win the DVD. Thanks for the chance.

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