Best Shows of 2011: ‘Justified’ (2010-)
“I don’t want you to speak anymore, cause once you start lying to me there’s gonna be a river between us with no bridge to cross.” — Raylan Givens
As was the case with ‘Sons of Anarchy,’ I came late to this wonderful masterpiece and I don’t even have an excuse for why that’s true. Once again, it probably came down to a lack of time in my already busy schedule. But I made room for it at the end of October and I watched both seasons in the span of about 4 days.
Raylan Givens, US Marshal and modern day gunslinger. He’s one of the angriest men I’ve ever seen (to quote Winona in season one), but it’s also obvious that the world he grew up in, which we saw more of this season, played a role in shaping the man he is today. Raylan has a strong desire to do what is right by the law (and usually by the laws of human nature), even if all the signs are telling him it’s dangerous and stupid. He’s a good man, but he’s also not against taking action if he thinks it’s justified. He’s intelligent and sexy and stubborn as hell. But there’s something about the way he wears that hat and those boots and the way he can lean on a door jamb that makes you just love him. And boy, do I love that Kentucky man.
Being from Ohio, this show has a soft spot in my heart simply for being set in my part of the country and not in some town in California or some odd and charming town in New England or the Pacific Northwest or the Deep South. No, it’s a show set in Kentucky and aside from making it look like Lexington and Harlan are practically neighbors, I think the producers do a great job at portraying Kentucky (unlike just about any show that’s ever been set in Ohio, including Glee).
But that’s not why I really love this show or why it’s on this list. It’s on this list because in its sophomore season this show somehow managed to be even better than its stellar debut. This season had a more set trajectory than the first. It had a story to tell and it did it well. By delving deeper into Raylan’s back-story and by introducing us to the Bennett family and all their rotten drama, we got a well-planned, well-executed second season for this drama. And for that I am eternally grateful (as I’m sure Margo Martindale is as well, seeing as her role as leader of the Bennett clan won her an Emmy).
This season we learned a lot more about our protagonist, but we also learned more about his sometimes ally, usual enemy, Boyd Crowder. We got to see another side to Boyd and I cannot explain how happy I am that the writers realized it was best not to kill off Walton Goggins’ character in the first season. And I’m not just saying that because I often find myself in a trance wondering how Goggins’ gets his hair to look like that. It’s because he adds something to the show that I can’t quite place. He could have easily been a one-note character, but the writers took him and developed him and made him into a very interesting and rather complex man. Not to mention his relationship with Ava made him a more relate-able character. That being said, I cannot wait to see what hell he raises in season three, which premieres Jan. 17.
Season two also brought us a reconnected Raylan and Winona and it was nice having more of Natalie Zea around, but I hope she gets her own story this upcoming season and doesn’t just exist in and around Raylan. Because as much as I love these two together, I think she has the ability to hold her own on this show. The Justified writers do a great job of rounding out and developing strong characters and I hope it continues for Winona as it did more with Ava in season two.
The writing, the characters, the actors, the entire world they’ve created – there isn’t a thing about this show that I don’t love and think is perfect. I’ve been dying for season three to start since I realized Mags poisoned herself at the end of “Bloody Harlan,” and I desperately hope more people will tune in on Jan. 17.
Note: Photo courtesy of FX.