23 August 2023


First off, we have to posit that Justified is one of the best series ever.  Period, full stop.  I won’t hear any argument.  I’m a big fan of Bosch, Happy Valley is amazing, I love Unforgotten and Shetland, but Justified is king.

Here’s what you do.  Go on YouTube, search for “Raylan Givens vs. Fletcher ‘The Ice Pick’ Nix,” and treat yourself to what comes.  Just the one scene.


There are, of course, other scenes as fully flavorable, but this has the essentials.

Raylan makes his appearance in Dutch Leonard’s 1993 novel, Pronto, and then in Riding the Rap, in 1995.  The immediate jumping-off point for Justified is the 2001 short story, “Fire in the Hole.”  Dutch revisited the character in 2012, with Raylan, his last published title.

I think it’s common knowledge in the Justified fanbase that the writers’ room – headed by exec producer Graham Yost – had a mantra, What would Dutch do?  In any situation where they’d written themselves into a corner, or they weren’t entirely confident of a story development, they went back to the baseline: How would Dutch Leonard himself handle it?  They usually got it right.

Much has been made of the casting.  Timothy Olyphant and Walt Goggins, and astonishing support, Nick Searcy and Mikelti Williamson, Kaitlyn Dever and Joelle Carter, the Crowes and the Bennetts.  I’d happily list each one.  Not to mention the guest heavies - my stars and whiskers!  The incomparable Margo Martindale; Neal McDonough, no Band of Brothers, here; Sam Elliott and Mary Steenburgen.  Villains all, who get their just desserts. 

Timothy Olyphant and Graham Yost closed the book with Season Six.  FX, the network, wasn’t entirely happy about it.  (Justified was their highest-rated show.)  But hold the phone.  The sequel, Justified: City Primeval, just premiered a limited run in July, and Tim Olyphant’s back as Raylan. 

The new series is a hybrid.  The novel, City Primeval (subtitled High Noon in Detroit), came out in 1980, and it doesn’t feature Raylan, but local cop Ray Cruz.  Raylan has been added to the mix.  This has no ill effect.  You still got the basic Elmore Leonard elements, a crooked judge, a car bombing, Albanian gangsters, a long con, and the usual mix of opportunists and low-lifes, fast-talkers and the criminally insane.  This time around, we have more of the fish-out-of-water trope, but Raylan is nothing if not resourceful, and since you were wondering, he hasn’t slowed down.  Nor does the show waste any time getting stoked. 

You might miss the hillbillies, for about thirty seconds. 


  1. I love Justified and have been loking forward to City Primevil. Here is my favorite scene from the original series. Warning: It is pretty brutal. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-I6QO0TPxc

  2. Earlier today I was discussing Justified and mentioned my favorite scene and my favorite secondary character. David provided a link to one and Rob to the other. Constable Bob, a pudgy half-step up from a security guard everyone treated as a joke turned out to be a show's most underrated hero. He had the heart of a lion.

    And there was Boyd Crowder, a walking Greek tragedy. Even when he does the right thing, the gods laugh, but we can't help but wish he could find the right path. I think that's justified.

    1. After the scene I linked to the bad guys threaten to torture Raylan and he points to Bob and says he can't exactly let himself give in if Bob didn't. Much funnier than the way I put it.

  3. Justified was fantastic. You're right, one of the best series ever. I too have directed people to that countdown scene to show them a little about the show.

    Great post, David.

  4. The best line in the whole series: "We dug coal."

    1. Rob, I think that meant a lot to Raylan. Even with all the run-ins he and Boyd Crowder had, Raylan would always go back to the fact that they dug coal together. The strange relationship between the two of them was one of the most interesting things about that series.


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