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Rankings the Shows That I Watch – 9: Justified

1 Nov

Justified is part of a two-some of shows, along with Terriers, which proceeded Justified on this list, that are examples of what USA shows could be without their inherent USA limitations.  They’re shows that very much feel like the “characters welcome” brand of USA show except unleashed to be a little darker, a little bit more serial and generally just feel like the creators have a little bit more control over them.

Justified is a show that grew on me over the course of the last season, which was significantly better than an already solid first season.  Part of what makes the show so enjoyable is the wonderful Timothy Olyphant, who yes, maybe always plays a type, as the tough, speak-softly-but-carry-a-gun honest guy with attitude, but plays it as well as anyone.

The show tries to posit as the second most interesting character Boyd Crowder, played by Walter Goggins, who was apparently in the Shield, a massively long show that I have not dared attempt yet.  Fowler was the primarily antagonist for most of the first season going from a work-a-day Dixie mafia leader to a crazy quasi-religious drug runner.  I knew the creators of Justified wanted to keep Fowler as a character long after the season, but I thought it would either seem forced or repetitive as shows often do when they keep around an interesting character past his or her expiration date (is Sylar still alive?), and to the show’s credit it hasn’t felt that way as Fowler has transitioned from someone seeking honest work to a gangster again, but one who ends up on the same side as Olyphant’s Raylon Givens at the end of the season.

The second season was greatly enhanced by the increased emphasis on a serial plot which was spread out over the course of the season.  The key antagonists in the second season were the Bennett clan, a Dixie mafia family who control their local county (fittingly named Bennett county).  Ma Bennett was the matriarch, and she had three sons, one of whom was the local police chief.  (By the way, I credit Justified along with Winter’s Bone for learning what the fuck the Dixie mafia is and being scared that these people could command police forces.)  The other two are mostly kind of moronic henchmen, one of whom is played by the always enjoyable Jeremy Davies, who is hilarious to hear in a southern redneck accent.  Ma Bennett is portrayed by Margo Martindale, who won an Emmy for her role (for whatever that’s worth) and actually deserved it.

Why it’s this high:  Olyphant is fantastic, the show sets a nice western tone, and Ma Bennett was a great villain

Why it’s not higher:  I greatly enjoy this show, but it lacks the scope and maybe a little bit of the depth behind Breaking Bad, Mad Men or Game of Thrones (not to give away shows coming up on the list)

Best episode of the most recent season:  “Bloody Harlan” – the season long plot more or less ends in the final episode of the second season and shit goes down.  I won’t reveal exactly what happens, but the ending is fairly final and satisfying without feeling cheap or implausible in context.