Justified: The Complete First Season

Now that I’ve devoured all 13 episodes of its first season on Blu-ray, I ask for forgiveness, say my penance, and move on. Like many cable series nowadays, this show is utterly addictive.

Timothy Olyphant had a damn good year in 2010: “The Crazies” was a hit and he had a memorable guest turn on “The Office,” but “Justified” was the feather in his cap — er, make that cowboy hat. Depending on how much steam the show has in years to come, his role as U.S. Marshal Rayland Givens may just prove to be the one that defines his career. 

After killing a sleazy drug cartel assassin (Peter Greene, natch) in Miami, Givens is reassigned to his hometown of Harlan County, Ky., a backwater, redneck-ridden hellhole that’s not far enough from Florida for his actions to have no consequences. Rather quickly, he runs afoul of Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), Harlan’s reigning bank robber and all-around ne’er-do-well, not to mention an old friend from childhood. 

“Justified” plays with this interesting relationship for the first few episodes, then drops it for a run of standalone hours before picking it back up to finish out the season. In doing so, it not only catches you off-guard, but allows Boyd to undergo an almost imperceptible character shift — to what exactly, I leave you to discover, but it will have you questioning where the line falls between good guy and bad guy. 

In midst of all the meth-dealing and hostage-taking, Rayland is torn between still-smoldering feelings for his ex-wife, Winona (“Hung”‘s Natalie Zea, smoldering herself), who works in the courthouse and is now remarried, and Boyd’s sister-in-law, Ava (Joelle Carter), who’s long carried a torch for him from their school years. In the first episode, Ava has grown so tired of being abused by her hubbie that she’s blows him away, and feels rather nonchalant about the whole thing. Rayland not only has to investigate her, but attempt to fend off her not-so-subtle advances.

Needless to say, the citizens of Harlan — Rayland included — could stave off much of their troubles if only they kept their doors locked. Then again, where’s the conflict in that? “Justified” is full of bitch slaps, fatal gunshots and fearless acts, most of them committed by our modern-day cowboy hero, who warns, “If you pull, I’ll push back.”

And how! This series is based on an Elmore Leonard short story, and the esteemed author (“Out of Sight,” “Get Shorty”) approves of this adaptation. If it’s good enough for Elmore, it’s good enough for you. Highly recommended. —Rod Lott

Rod Lott

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