Justified: Season 2 - Review
Review by Jack Foley
THE second season of Justified managed to build on and surpass the achievements of its excellent first series to become one of the very best shows on television.
Based around a character created by legendary crime novelist Elmore Leonard, the show successfully raised the already high stakes of the first season to create a complex tale of families at war that also drew on drug dealing, paedophilia, murder and revenge.
Caught in the middle was Timothy Olyphant’s sharp-shooting, no-nonsense US Marshall Raylan Givens, whose past family connections made him an integral part of the ensuing chaos both in his capacity as lawman and one-time community member.
Although more slow-burning and episodic than its debut season, this sophomore run wove a richly satisfying tale that showcased a number of great performances – most of which have now rightly been recognised with Emmy nominations.
It focused on the ongoing power struggle between three families – the Givens, the Bennetts and the Crowders – as they sought to make their fortunes from land wrangles and drug deals no matter what the cost to those in between.
Primary among the victims was Kaitlyn Dever’s 14-year-old teenager Loretta McCready, whose father ran foul of the Bennett family during the pilot, and who subsequently fell under the dangerous spell of Bennett matriarch Mags (Margo Martindale).
But it was the disappearance of Kaitlyn’s father and her close run-in with a paedophile during that opening episode that drew Raylan Givens into the mix, as he came to her rescue for the latter part of the story while keeping an eye on her for the remainder of the season as the fate of her dad became clear.
Integral to proceedings, too, was the re-emergence of Walton Goggins’ Boyd Crowder as a criminal force, as he came to realise his place in the scheme of things and what his own human nature dictated of him, as well as the Bennett brothers, Dickie (Jeremy Davies), Doyle (Joseph Lyle Taylor) and Coover (Brad William Henke), whose tempestuous relationship with their mother and each other posed problems for anyone who got in their way (including Raylan).
Throughout the course of 13 tightly constructed episodes, families betrayed each other, old wounds came to the surface and people died, culminating in a tense and utterly riveting finale that was as emotionally compelling as it was action packed and exciting.
Givens, too, remained a fascinating enigma… a lawman with impeccable values who also liked to fly close to the flame in terms of his remit. He enjoyed stirring up a hornet’s nest where possible, while continuing to find himself at odds with his own past, his anger, his father and adoptive mother and – most importantly – his ex-wife Winona (Natalie Zea), who seemed to be ready to consider a romantic reconciliation.
Olyphant excelled as Givens was pushed into all sorts of corners, even finding himself at odds with his boss (Nick Searcy’s Art Mullen) after being forced into some very dark moral and ethical places by the various tragedies that unfolded throughout the season.
But then he was backed up by an exceptional cast, with Goggins, Davies, Dever and Martindale all in formidable form.
Davies, in particular, mesmerised as conflicted brother Dickie, a crippled son to Mags who was constantly striving for his mother’s respect and affection, who managed to remain strangely sympathetic in spite of some terrible deeds.
Martindale, too, provided a terrifying matriarch… a figure of hate so formidable that every man worth his salt in Harlan County knew to be wary of her. And yet she provided glimpses of humanity, too, that showcased a highly complex individual.
Dever, meanwhile, consistently displayed a maturity beyond her age by handling the tough subject matter with an emotional authenticity, while Goggins also remained another of the show’s enigmas – a man constantly struggling with his own demons until finally accepting and embracing his calling in the world.
The accolades continue to extend throughout the series yet are too many to single out here, suffice to say that the balance between character, drama and action was always flawlessly maintained so that each episode maintained a fine sense of pathos and building tension.
Every character resonated in some way, while the show-downs were almost always supremely well executed and memorable both in terms of their design and emotional repercussions.
All in all, Justified is a fantastic series and one of the very best that television has to offer – which is saying something when you consider the golden age that US TV now appears to be enjoying.
You must not let this pass you by!
UK Release Date: July 18, 2011