Review: Justified: City Primeval, “Backstabbers” | Season 1, Episode 3
Sweety’s got a gun and Raylan’s got a mess to clean up
An unfortunate symptom of watching television these days is thinking about whether a show would be better suited airing in the week-to-week format or in the ever-prevalent binge model. For FX on Hulu’s The Bear, the discourse was arguably better suited for the former, despite existing in the latter (as every Season 2 episode dropped on Hulu on its premiere date, same as in Season 1). In both seasons, The Bear’s quality was such that it allowed it to overcome the typical plot amnesia that tends to come with the binge model, as thoughtful criticism and engaged discussion continued to sprout past the usual two-week window of relevance. On the other hand, FX’s Justified: City Primeval does the week-to-week dance just like the original series did back in the 2010s.
However, I would posit that the way Justified: City Primeval is telling this particular story makes it better suited for the binge model. Or at least for a rewatch binge, with the full puzzle on display.
Over the years, I’ve reviewed both week-to-week and all-in-one binge-drop series, and I’ve tried to consider why certain shows are better suited for their particular model—or why they would’ve been better off using a different model.11 I’ve always described watching episodes of Justified like reading chapters in a really good book. While I binge-watched the series to do my pre-City Primeval rewatch, that didn’t change my opinion on the series’ week-to-week format. But I would perhaps describe City Primeval episodes as the pages of a novella: not just because of the shortened length of this series comparatively, but also because the episodes themselves feel more like a fuller piece of a story when even just two of them are together (like Episodes 1 and 2, “City Primeval” and “The Oklahoma Wildman”) than alone. Having seen ahead, “Backstabbers” really feels like it’s of a piece with next week’s “Kokomo.” To just have it here by itself, there is a sense of something missing.