Review: Justified: City Primeval, “The Question” | Episode 8
We say goodbye to Raylan Givens once again, but is the story over?
You know what’s funny? To think of the Justified follow-up limited series as an audition for—or even a prelude to—an actual Justified follow-up series. I personally find it funny, because that was the case for another season of television I covered once upon a time (in the era of The A.V. Club): Veronica Mars Season Four. While that season of television did technically function as a true continuation of the world established in the original series—also highlighting how television storytelling had changed between the original series run and the new series run, like Justified: City Primeval has done and Party Down just did—the way it ended revealed that there was already an idea in place for how the series could continue outside of the insular world of the fictional Neptune, California. The season’s final act revealed creator/showrunner Rob Thomas’ clear intent for the series’ future the whole time.1
Unfortunately for Thomas, in setting up that future, he also made a major move that almost every Veronica Mars fan refuses to forgive him for. The series did not continue on after Season Four.
As I’ve written before, Justified: City Primeval is more “a Raylan Givens story” than “a Justified story.” So despite telling this single story with Raylan Givens at the center, it ends up being the final acts of City Primeval—six weeks after the Detroit/Clement Mansell saga—that actually make the case for Justified (not just Raylan Givens) finally continuing in what could be considered its true follow-up form. In movie quote terms, while City Primeval began with “I'm not even supposed to be here today,” it arguably ends with, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” (To tell the truth, the latter quote could also apply to viewers who have been disappointed by City Primeval.)
The original Justified series finale ended with an epilogue, but that was very much a conclusion to the story. City Primeval’s epilogue essentially makes the argument that this entire limited series was a case of saying you have to go there (Detroit, which has been just as cold a setting for viewers as it has for the characters) to come back (Miami and Kentucky, the familiar setting said viewers hope for in a follow-up). It’s not the titular question, but I imagine plenty of people watching would want to know just why showrunners Michael Dinner and Dave Andron (who again co-wrote this episode, with Dinner directing) didn’t just do the Miami/Kentucky story instead, with Boyd Crowder back on the loose. I honestly imagine it’s a combination of scheduling minutiae and this series serving more as a proof of concept—proof that anyone would even care about Justified still, from a network perspective—that meant that particular story was never really in the cards as the limited series. But if Dinner and Andron could prove they had viewer demand and show a glimpse of what it could look like—both stylistically and where Raylan and his circle would be narratively—then they could get the necessary leverage for a future true Justified follow-up.