TV

Justified: Series Premiere

Raylon is less compelling when he's shooting and driving than when he's observing and listening.


Justified

Airtime: Tuesdays, 10pm ET
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Erica Tazel, Jacob Pitts, Joelle Carter
Subtitle: Series Premiere
Network: FX
Air date: 2010-03-16
Website
Trailer
Amazon

A good drummer joke is hard to find. Raylen Givens (Timothy Olyphant) has one. "How can you tell there's a bad drummer at your door?" he asks. "The knock speeds up."

A deputy U.S. marshal, newly assigned to the Eastern Kentucky office, Raylen's sharing with a criminal he's just picked up, a guy who escaped during a gig with his bluegrass convict band. The joke is a brief acknowledgment of the men's mutual respect, their understanding of the different sorts of work and hardship that have led them to their opposition. The joke's also a sign that Justified has at least a couple of surprises up its sleeve, that it's not only yet another cop show with a tall, too-clever lead set against brutal villains and dim bureaucrats.

That's not to say that Justified, inspired by an Elmore Leonard novella, avoids cliché altogether. It does tend to love its sublimely self-confident hero, a quick draw and a smartass who nonetheless walks a sort of moral line that baffles his mostly rube-ish opponents. But the show offers other, pleasures that help to make up for what's predictable, pleasures like that drummer joke, which tells you something about what Raylen knows and appreciates, as well as how he operates in a world where distinctions between good and bad are always mushy.

Raylen's own mushiness is established in the series' first scene. On a sunny morning in Miami, he sits down at a swanky outdoor restaurant with Buckley (Peter Greene, again haggard and haunted). They have a history, of course, which has culminated in a challenge: one of them is "going down." You know which one it will be, even if you don't anticipate exactly how or when. The violence is crisp, the camera angles elegant, and in a few moments, Raylen is reassigned to Kentucky -- Harlan County, to be specific. He's loathe to go, as it's where he's from, where he used to dig coal and run around a bit. This plot trick allows him to be both known and unknown, an outsider who's also intimate with local customs and expectations.

In the pilot episode that airs on FX 16 March, Raylen must contend with his past in an especially explicit form, an old buddy named Boyd (Walton Goggins, so memorable as The Shield's Shane). Now blowing up churches with rocket launchers and living among Nazis and skinheads, Boyd resents Raylen's return, and especially the fact that he doesn’t accept his current formulation of the world. Back when they were in the mines, at 19, Boyd reasons, they shared an antagonism to corporate and government oppression.

"Everything's changed," insists Boyd, as he and Raylen sit in the pews of the church he's confiscated for his Nazi group home. "Mining's changed, no more following a seam underground, it's cheaper to take the tops off mountains and let the slag run down and ruin the creek. You remember the picket lines, the scabs and gun thugs? Whose side you think the government's always been on, us or the people with money?" Raylen nods. So far, so historical. And then Boyd takes a next lurching step: "Who do you think controls that money? Who do you think wants to mongrelize the world?" Raylen shakes his head. Once Boyd starts in on the mud people and Biblical prophecy, Raylen calls him on it. "You like to get money and to blow shit up," he says: this religious ranting is just a front. Boyd won't answer, but instead curls his lip and makes a threat and one of them is going down. Again.

It's true that Justified doesn’t offer much that's new with regard to crimes and crime-solving, or really, with regard to Raylen's internal struggles: he's got to get over his lingering affection for his ex, now working as a court recorder and remarried, and contain his urge to sleep with busty blond Ava (Joelle Carter), who recently killed her abusive husband with a shotgun and is thus involved in an as-yet-unresolved murder case. He's apt to show his insights into social arrangements and historical injustice, as well as systemic racism and misogyny, in brief and near-lyrical interactions with his occasional partner Rachel (Erica Tazel). And he'll make mention of particular current events, as when he's asking Deputy Marshal Tim Gutterson (Jacob Pitts), formerly a sniper with the U.S. Army Rangers outside Kandahar, how he's able to keep focus on targets. Not that he gets an answer to this query either, and you're getting the idea that not talking can be as compelling as talking in this show.

Such exchanges don't especially move plot, but that's to their credit. Raylen is less compelling when he's shooting and driving than when he's observing and listening. Or calling a kid with an attitude and a big nose bandage "Chinatown." Raylen has jokes, pretty good ones. Maybe he's got something else going on, too.

6

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image