Justified: Season 1 - Fire In The Hole (Pilot reviewed)
Review by Jack Foley
What’s the story? In the series premiere, US Marshall Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) is forced to go back to where he grew up, basically a 21st century wild west, where he faces off against one of his oldest friends.
Our verdict: Former Deadwood star Timothy Olyphant provides an enigmatic central presence to Justified, a thoroughly enjoyable modern day Western that also boasts Elmore Leonard as executive producer.
Riding tall above proceedings, complete with laconic charm, cool white stetson and an itchy trigger finger, he’s a classic kind of hero who channels the toughness of Clint Eastwood in his prime.
And yet, there’s already some interesting layering. Olyphant’s Givens clearly has a way with women. In Fire In The Hole, an old flame wanted him, while an ex wife belatedly tried to understand him.
He’s angry – possibly the angriest man his ex has ever known – and he’s conflicted, by virtue of a mentioned (but as yet unseen father) and the ghosts of past endeavours.
Hence, while confident in his own ability with a gun, he constantly told people he had been “justified” in the actions that prompted him to return to his Kentucky roots.
What makes Justified so hopelessly enjoyable (at least on the strength of this pilot episode), is it’s no-nonsense approach. It’s a man’s world and characters cut straight to the point.
Within the opening few minutes, Givens had shot dead a gun runner in a Miami hotel after he had failed to heed his warning to split town within 14 hours. The detective’s justification was that his victim “drew first”.
It was this shooting, however, that prompted the US Marshall Service to relocate Givens back home and, no sooner had he arrived, then he was headed for a showdown with one of his oldest friends, a former mining buddy who had since turned to White Supremacy.
The character in question, Boyd Crowder (played with scenery chewing relish by Walton Goggins), provided a tasty nemesis for Givens: mean, cold-blooded yet willing to play on their past friendship for personal gain.
He began by blowing up a ‘church’ with a rocket launcher, then shooting a potential turncoat in the back of the head. When he concluded by giving Givens the same ultimatum about splitting town that Givens had put to the Miami gun runner, the stage was well and truly set for a classic stand off between the two men.
Thus far, Justified oozes laidback Southern charm… it’s glib, frequently amusing and frequently exciting in seeing how Olyphant’s Givens tackles the objects placed in his path.
But the insights into his inner turmoil have already posed some intriguing questions about his ability to continue coping now that the personal stakes are higher.
Tuning in to find out whether he does should be extremely enjoyable from here on in…
Justified is on Five USA on Wednesday nights from 10pm. This pilot episode first aired on Wednesday, May 5, 2010.