In Justified, Timothy Olyphant plays a cool, quiet Gary Cooper character. He is Raylan Givens, a US Marshall. Olyphant’s Raylan is tough. He doesn’t back down when bigger men talk tough at him, and he’s good at pulling out his gun and shooting people with it. He says things like, “If I pull, I’ll put you down.”
Raylan is forced to work in his Kentucky hometown because that causes the plot to have personal ramifications for him. Of course, he has to confront his father in one episode. Also, the plot dictates that there must be action, so in every episode Raylan pursues a fugitive, or something. That’s how shows like this work.
What’s interesting, though, is the level of character development that has occurred over the seven episodes that have aired so far. Almost all of Raylan’s cases have some ties to his past, whether they be related to his childhood in Kentucky or past cases he worked on as a Marshall. The writers of the show do well to avoid keeping the episodic characters’ connections to Raylan from becoming too cheesy.
Olyphant does a good job of playing Raylan as a soft-spoken tough guy with a few complications. He’s tough enough that men respect enough and kind enough that women like to smile at him. In early episodes, he falls for a woman (Joelle Carter) who is the only witness to a shooting he committed in her kitchen. This causes plot complications, but the two actors are talented and have enough chemistry that their romance is believable.
The same can’t be said for all of the guest actors who appear in each episode. The best episode of the series so far was the fourth, “Long in the Tooth.” It opened with a dentist ripping a man’s molars out in a parking lot and got more interesting from there. But the dentist’s girlfriend, played by Michele Nordin, was given a number of witty, dimensional lines by the writers, but failed to use them. She played her role flatly, and the episode suffered for it.
The show is worth watching if only for Timothy Olyphant, who is engaging and fun to watch. He’s a convincing tough guy, plays a complex character, and he’s good looking to boot. His Raylan also has a dry sense of wit because the show is based on Elmore Leonard stories, and Elmore Leonard produced. The other regular characters are all pretty good too, and have personality.
Justified is a show worth watching. Occasionally, the cinematography, acting, and writing are all excellent. When they’re not, at least Timothy Olyphant says wry things and shoots people.