Two cowboys circle one another. A gun rests silently in each man’s holster. The brim of each man’s hat shadows his face. A tumbleweed blows by. The tension mounts. And finally a shot echoes into the air as one man falls to the ground.
Now this may not be exactly how Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens goes about taking down his opponents but that’s sure as hell what it felt like throughout the first several minutes of the pilot episode of ‘Justified.”
Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) plays the modern day cowboy-style hero of FX’s newest show. The western charm of the show is present in the first few scenes of the series premiere when Raylan, a U.S. Marshall pulls the trigger.
Our story begins with the stark contrast of the modern day glamorous people of Miami versus Givens, who walks into a resort sporting cowboy boots and a wide-brimmed Stetson.
Givens follows his own moral compass and while his arrow points towards justice, on occasion his superiors feel differently.
After publicly shooting the target that he was after as opposed to bringing him in, Givens is transferred back to his hometown in Kentucky for another boss to deal with.
This tension between right and wrong allows the core premise of ‘Justified” to build from the ground up with the clash between modern day politics and rules versus Givens’ own way of bringing in evildoers.
Back in a coal-mining town of Kentucky, Givens’ past follows him wherever he goes with his ex-wife Winona’s (Natalie Zea) presence all too close and his old friend Boyd (Walton Goggins), now a Nazi supporting demolitions expert and your every-day bad boy, as his new mark. It’s good to be home, isn’t it?
‘You make me pull, I put you down,” Givens said. We find this to be more than true over the course of the first hour of the show as he protects his turf.
Yet despite this code that he seems to follow, when it comes to pulling the trigger on Boyd, Givens seems to slip a bit, not quite catching Boyd’s heart and allowing him to live.
Olyphant does a terrific job of portraying the subtleties of Givens’ character. Between the passive-aggressive behavior, anger and southern charm that Olyphant delivers, you can’t help but be on his side even when that compass does take a turn south.
Going into the episode, I was unaware that producer Graham Yost had taken the main character and initial story line from Elmore Leonard’s short story ‘Fire in the Hole.”
Givens is a character that appeared in several of Leonard’s stories. Much of the snappy dialogue that worked so well throughout the pilot was taken straight from the book.
The distinct tone of Leonard’s novels seems to have been lifted right off the page and into the television screen. Thus it is relatively unclear what direction the show will head in next.
Several story lines have been set in place throughout the course of the premiere: Givens’ somewhat mysterious relationship, or lack thereof, with his father and Boyd’s survival both seem to be set up for stories that a steady audience would want to follow as the show continues.
Character arcs aside, it might be a nice change of pace to see a show with week-to-week plots as opposed to serialized ones.
The strength of the cast and pure fun that the ‘Justified” premiere served up makes it seem worth it to tune in to see what this 21st century cowboy is doing each week.
‘Justified” airs at 10 p.m. on Tuesdays on FX.
Rosenberg is a member of the class of 2012.