Sony // 2012 // 541 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 3rd, 2013
"There's a war coming."
Justified rebounds from a hit-and-miss second season to prove, when it's game-on, there is no better TV series on the planet.
U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant, Live Free or Die Hard) is back, Stetson perched on his head and trigger finger itchy, to dispense justice in the hills of Harlan County Kentucky. As he picks up the pieces from the stunning implosion of the biggest criminal racket in the region, a new threat arrives in the form of Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough, Band of Brothers), an out-of-towner looking to cash in on Harlan's burgeoning prescription drug trade.
Raylan's newest antagonist is a full-fledged sociopath, but that's not all he has to contend. Long-time nemesis Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins, Predators) is starting to cause trouble again, myriad criminal elements are vying for the legendary lost loot of a deceased kingpin, and a hot-and-cold relationship with his estranged wife is growing colder by the day. Lucky for Rylan, she sucks, so no big loss there.
I'll get the bad news out of the way first: the woeful Winona plot lines are still present in Season Three. The good news is the writers eventually realize how woeful this story arc is and take welcome steps to move us into a beautiful new Winona-free future.
But wait! There's more good news. We have a killer new villain, some excellent Boyd-centric stories, Jeremy Davies (Lost) delivering an Emmy-winning turn as Dickie Bennett, and terrific a new character in the BBQ-loving, pig-slaying, banker-to-the-criminal-stars Ellstin Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson, Forrest Gump).
The very best news? Raylan is back.
Season Two had a lot going for it, not the least of which was the towering Mags Bennett, criminal matriarch and legendary character in the annals of cable television. Yet on balance, I found the show's sophomore effort sadly lacking. The Bennett-heavy storyline came at the expense of Raylan, our hero lawman often feeling like a support player in his own show. Worse, when he did show up, it was not the same Raylan who tore s -- -- up in the first season. This Raylan made bad decisions, walked headlong into obvious ambushes, and got caught over and over by the premium dumbasses of Harlan County. He was toothless and always uncharacteristically behind the curve.
However, the writers came through, turning in a third season that is return to form, incorporating the bigger world that opened up in Season Two, adding great characters, limiting the lame ones, and serving up the Raylan Givens we know and love: wry, smart, and lethal. Which is noteworthy because Timothy Olyphant (always awesome) is surrounded by scene-stealers at every turn. Walton Goggins continues to be excellent as Boyd Crowder (now completely steeped in a light-to-moderate malfeasance) and Mykelti Williamson is a revelation as yet another Harlan County power-player. But it's Neal McDonough who carves himself a chunk of Justified lore, creating a villain that's magnetic, darkly funny, and full-on twisted. As noted in one of the bonus features, Robert Quarles is the series' first big bad to carry no sympathy. And it's true. Quarles may be a superb character, but I -- along with the rest of the viewing public -- found myself counting down the minutes until Raylan was going to deliver his violent comeuppance.
That's where I'll stop, because there are plenty of great surprises and subplots to discover here, all delivered with that Elmore Leonard-inspired wit. This is probably the darkest season yet, but to the writers' and actors' credit the malevolence never feels oppressive. When Justified clicks, it's pound-for-pound the most entertaining show on television.
Top-notch Blu-ray set from Sony. Episodes look brilliant, rendered in flawless 1.78:1/1080p high definition widescreen. Kentucky has a lot of character and the show's cinematography does these locations justice, the HD tech bringing it all to life in razor-sharp detail. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio delivers a clean, dynamic mix to supplement the visuals. And we also get fine selection of bonus material: Nine episode commentaries, a making-of featurette, deleted scenes, a guided tour of the Noble's Holler set, anatomy of a stunt, outtakes and the highlight, a half hour free-form conversation between Goggins and Olyphant.
Justified is back in a big way.
Not Guilty. Keep it coming boys.
Review content copyright © 2013 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 541 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site