Justified: The Complete Second Season

Fresh off an Emmy nomination for his starring role, Timothy Olyphant owns his character of U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens to such a degree, it just may prove to be the one that defines his career. In short: He’s badass.

Givens remains in his godforsaken hometown of Harlan County, Ky., a backwater, redneck-ridden hellhole that he barely survived returning to in the show’s freshman year. That season’s villain, all-around ne’er-do-well Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), becomes somewhat of a frenemy to Givens, who’ll need all the help he can get after running afoul of the pot-growing Bennett clan (“family” just isn’t quite appropriate for these lowlifes) while investigating a man’s disappearance.

The Bennetts are led by matriarch Mags (Margo Martindale, in a deserved Emmy win), whose power should not be underestimated, no matter how gracious her smile or disposition. A word of warning: Don’t drink her famous “apple pie” moonshine. It’ll kill you, literally, if her sons haven’t already. (“Lost”’s Jeremy Davies stands out in particular as the scariest of them all, and he walks with a severe limp.)

In midst of all this, Raylan still has time for something resembling a personal life, even if his “home” remains a cheap motel room. While Ava (Joelle Carter) has moved on to Boyd, it’s Raylan’s ex-wife, Winona (the ever-smoldering Natalie Zea), who very well may take her place in the marshal’s rented bed … despite still being married to an utter cad (William Ragsdale, 1985’s “Fright Night”).

The one thing — maybe the only thing — that bugs me about “Justified” is that it seems so much of the skirmishes could be avoided if only the Harlan residents kept their doors locked. That goes for Raylan, too. Then again, where’s the conflict in that? TV series thrive on conflict, and “Justified” is full of bitch slaps, fatal gunshots and fearless acts, most of them committed by our modern-day cowboy hero.

Yet another example why cable television is better than most movies these days, “Justified” is based on an Elmore Leonard short story, and the esteemed author (“Out of Sight,” “Get Shorty”) approves of this adaptation. (He’s even written a new novel for the character, titled “Raylan,” which hit shelves yesterday.) If it’s good enough for Elmore, it’s good enough for you. Highly recommended. —Rod Lott

Rod Lott

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