Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens is back on the case, in a whole new world
I'm tentatively on-board after these first two episodes, but this revival isn't quite capturing the original for me yet. The action so far seems very coincidence-heavy: Raylan is randomly targeted on the road by a Detroit criminal whose lawyer turns out to also represent the guy who later kills the judge of the earlier case who was recently the target of an unrelated death threat Raylan was looking into. Phew! It's a lot to take in, especially with the flashbacks and the still-murky relationships with more peripheral figures like Sweetie thrown in. Admittedly things in Harlan could sometimes be pretty convoluted too, but I guess I have an easier time suspending my disbelief that the same handful of characters would keep crossing paths in a small town than a big city.
I also just want more of those big colorful personalities! It's nice to have Raylan back, but the judge was the only one who really seemed like a classic stock Justified role, and he of course won't likely be joining us for the rest of the season. I haven't been following the publicity for this series at all -- is there any chance that we're getting more of the surviving former cast popping by, even for a quick cameo? Either way, the newcomers need a lot more fleshing out IMO.
Not sure how I feel abt this one yet, but my gut is saying that either there’s a step lost, or I’ve aged out of being that impressed with pastiche of Elmore Leonard dialogue (tho the real deal never fails to slap).
Olyphant’s in fine form but Justified needs Walton Goggins, or a presence like him -- a wary, canny figure who doesn’t underestimate Justified (aka Raylan Givens) but also knows enough to recognize and be already, always exhausted by his gleeful pettiness; if Justified (the man) can’t get his way in strictly legal fashion, he’ll settle for being an agent of chaos. Clement is not that presence. He’s not Boyd. Boyd isn’t there.
The thing abt Justified (the show) was that it had a deceptively wide scope. Every season began with Justified (the man) and Boyd basically unconcerned with one another, and by the end of it Boyd had tried to find an angle or been rolled into the scheme of whatever secondary villain had designs on Harlan, and Justified (the man) had blown it all apart.
It was that movement, the two leads dragged back into the same orbit by some criminal conspiracy, which drove the show. J:CP doesn’t simply suffer by dint of missing Goggins’ chops in scenes. In dramaturgical terms, Boyd was actually the protagonist of Justified (the show) -- he was the character who tried to accomplish things and make things happen. Justified (the man) was the antagonist, the character who served as obstacle and foil. And Goggins / Boyd was strong enough that you kind of wanted him to succeed.
I like Season 3 of the original show more than most, in large part because I loved the Boomtown crew’s performances, but also because it was the first and most stark demonstration of the Detroit-Kentucky divide. Quarles was a more interesting shade of (this version of) Clement, the grinning, chipper mad dog psycho. Quarles worked because he carried himself like a mastermind but was revealed through the season as having no control at all, over himself or his situation.
Through that season and the following, you get the sense that Quarles was actually not all that out of the ordinary, in context; Wynn Duffy consistently emphasizes to people that the Detroit mob’s eagerness to shed blood is exceptional, and that he doesn’t want Detroit to become interested in Harlan for that reason. What made the Detroit mob an interesting element in Justified (the show) was that this penchant for overwhelming violence was taken seriously as a business plan, which is to say that the Detroit Mob writ large, like Quarles, was too loud and too out of control to last as a concern, but could cause a lot of collateral damage.
Anyway, if I imagine what Quarles would look like if he were really supposed to be a slippery, mastermind criminal in addition to a mass murderer, I’m basically imaging Clement as he’s depicted in these two episodes. And that’s honestly a problem! Boyd lasted because he was cagey and not actually all that aggressive, and so he was a match for / proved a great dance partner with Justified (the man), kicker of sand castles; Quarles didn’t last because he leaned gleefully into conflict and always escalated.
A character who is both an unhinged, impulsive wrecking ball AND a Teflon operator just doesn’t make any sense for this show. He’s a cheat code. He’s boring. If I invested in Clement as a new breed of threat (and I don’t) I would have to reconfigure my idea of the stakes involved. And I liked Justified (the show) not just for the naturalism of its setting but the relative naturalism with which it considered the shelf life of criminal enterprise, when it provoked the law’s attention. So I’m going into this new show quite skeptical.
"Set 15 years after the end of the original series (maybe don’t try to do the math)..."
Can't we, though? I love how messed up time is on Justified. So the show started in 2010, and ended in 2015, six seasons over five years. Based on dialog in the episodes, it sounds like maybe two or three years of story-time actually elapsed, but they just went with comic-book time and whenever they needed a date, it was always when the episode was going to air. They did that all the way to the series finale, which had a four-year time-jump which landed them sometime in early-to-mid 2019 (helpfully confirmed by a 2018-dated newspaper from the prior Halloween). Which means, if it's about 10 years after the time-jump, or 15 years after the end of the main time-period of the show, it's now somewhere in the late 2020s.
I was joking they should have someone casually project a hologram or something because it's five years in the future, but it was almost as funny having a flashback dated to 2017, and I have no idea if that was supposed to be six years ago or twelve years ago (it's supposed to be six, but let me imagine someone actually did do the math at some point). It's probably better this way, though. At least the phones make sense. Easier to explain someone having an old iPhone than Winona having one that came out in 2013 when it's supposedly only been a year and a half since spring of 2010.
I don't need this to feel like OG Justified, it can be its own thing with its own mood and tone. I'm just not sure what it is is all that compelling. Maybe if it felt a bit grittier, leaned a bit further into the desolation of (TV-version) Detroit, I wouldn't be feeling the lack of colorful Harlan county fuckups so much. And it pains me to say this, but his daughter's performance is bringing it down a notch for me.
I'm intrigued, and I'll keep watching, but really, the actor you cast to play Clement is named Boyd??? I don't care how good Boyd Holbrook is in the role, it distracts me.
The thing that elevated Justified was its humor. Its sparkle. It had endless, quirky, specific characters that were all funny in their own ways, yet totally grounded within the world. You had Boyd's loquaciousness and rhetorical flair, the mad idiocy of Dewey Crowe, Art's long-suffering forbearance, Winona's sarcasm, etc.
This version of the show has none of that. Aside from the courtroom sequence about Raylan's travels, it's basically humorless. The characters don't leap off the screen; they're not gripping. Sure, the progression of Raylan's character makes sense on paper, but this show isn't fun. There are scenes in the first two episodes that are genuinely boring, a drag to get through. There are scenes in here I've seen a dozen times before in other shows. What made Justified so special was it always found the delightful twist, the specific way scenes could only happen in its world. This? Not even close.
Add in stupid kid shenanigans and some seriously convenient story convergence (bad dude just happens to kill the judge Raylan is helping? For no reason? Come on...) and this came across like a pale imitation.
Biggest disappointment of 2023 for me. More so than Ted Lasso. At least I had no expectations for that show. I got my hopes up here and that letdown was rough.
Olyphant has spoken about how he would be down to do another series with Raylan in another city in a few years time and based on how much I enjoyed these two episodes I would be up for it. The courtroom scene was just perfect.
Introducing Clement by having him play his own cover of Seven Nation Army had me laughing a lot, says a lot about the character.
So far so good. I am viewing this limited series on its own merit instead of trying to compare it to the original, which I watched in real time. Especially since it’s based on a story that wasn’t about Raylan Givens. I feel like the strength of the series so far is the support cast. In particular, Carolyn, Sweetie and Wendell. Obviously I love Olyphant. He’s the big draw. But the fact that I was drawn right into the story is a good sign.
One thing that kept bugging me in these two episodes, and this may just be a Me thing, but I kept wondering how Dan Stevens would've been as Clement Mansell. He seems like a better fit than Boyd Holbrook.
I just enjoy having Raylan back in my life. It won’t be as good as the original (how could it be?), but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable.
Interesting to see how they develop the secondary characters.