January 9, 2013



JUSTIFIED has the luxury of time.  The series typically tells one or two extended stories through the course of its season, so tonight’s Season 4 premiere, written by series creator Graham Yost and directed by Michael Dinner, mostly served to introduce the year’s plotlines and allow us to make the acquaintance of some new characters.  In the hands of another show, that could seem slow and exposition-heavy, but Justified provides plenty of crisp and funny incident to hold the interest, as well as probably, pound-for-pound, the coolest cast on television.

That cool starts, of course, with Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), who when we rejoin him is still awaiting the birth of his child with ex-wife Winona (Natalie Zea, who unfortunately is now a regular on FOX’s new The Following, so she won’t be around much this season).  Despite his feelings for Winona, Raylan is still semi-casually involved with bar owner/landlady Lindsey (Jenn Lyon).  Anticipating fatherhood, Raylan is also trying to put together a little extra money with some off-the-books bounty hunting, which tonight put a murderer in his trunk for transportation back to jail.  That led to a set of violent complications, but was a sidetrack to what appears to be the season’s main story:  the discovery of a mysterious bag and driver’s license behind the wall in Raylan’s endlessly evil father Arlo’s (Raymond J. Barry) house, which connects to a flashback set in 1983 in which a D.B. Cooper type parachutist was found dead in the street, apparently dropped from a plane, his body surrounded by drugs.  Meanwhile, on the criminal side of things, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), now in full control of the region’s oxy sales–and with his lady-love Ava (Joelle Carter), also handling local prostitution–finds his business being dented by a snake-handling revivalist who surely isn’t what he seems.

The season premiere felt somewhat underpopulated:  not only was Winona gone, but Raylan’s invaluable boss Art (Nick Searcy) was absent for the night, as was fellow agent Gutterson (Jacob Pitts), while Marshal Rachel Brooks (Erica Tazel) was barely present.  On the other hand, the very busy Patton Oswalt (just off an arc on Burn Notice) will apparently be a steady presence for at least part of the season as a woebegone local constable.  In any case, Yost’s remarkably Elmore Leonard-like dialogue crackled (there was a mistaken killing by a new associate of Boyd’s that felt like it came straight from a Leonard novel, even if it didn’t), and no lawman on television holds a gun with more calm conviction than Olyphant.

Justified is a taut, reliable pleasure, one of the most enjoyable crime shows on TV.  In a different era when TV wasn’t flooded with so many excellent dramas, it (and Olyphant) would deserve serious consideration for awards.  (Margo Martindale did win the Emmy for Supporting Actress for her brilliant villainess in Season 2, still the show’s peak to date.)  While not a breakout hit (FX’s Sons of Anarchy outrates it by quite a bit, and it tends to be a shade below American Horror Story), it’s consistently successful, and the season premiere shows no sign of slippage.   Fittingly enough, it’s television’s closest equivalent to a gripping crime novel read.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."