Justified Review: Welcome Return To Wild West

May 12, 2010 by  
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JUSTIFIED: Wednesday 12th May, FIVE US, 10pm ALERT ME

In this new drama series from FX, Timothy Olyphant plays a US Marshall who appears to have been thrust from the Monument Valley of the 19th century and into the modern day. Olyphant – who came to prominence in his role as Seth Bullock in Deadwood – plays Raylan Givens, a Clint Eastwoodesque anti-hero created by Elmore Leonard who takes an executive producer credit.

The first episode of the series saw Givens relocated from Miami to Kentucky following the rather unconventional handling of a suspect. An anachronism who cannot defy his baser instincts as law enforcer, Givens makes for a compelling central protagonist who delivers similar warnings to that of a Wild West sheriff: “You have 24 hours to get out of town?.

Givens, a former miner, has grown up in a rough town and applies varying degrees of justice ranging from restrained violence to rational verbal negotiation. As a result he garners respect from both sides of the law abiding community – and hostility in equal measure.

The plot of the pilot episode bleeds into the second as Givens sets about tracking down a fugitive who has mysteriously gone on the run despite only having three months left to serve of a fifteen year sentence. There are some wonderful linguistic flourishes that recall the verbal delivery of both John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. Asked why he chooses to wear a ten gallon hat he replies in gruff monotone: “I tried it on one time and it fit?.

Well written and so far engaging, it will be interesting to see how Justified develops. The allure of the West remains a potent force and still manages to capture the imaginations of audiences today. Whilst there may not be any saloons or spittoons on display, the harsh heat and horse sweat still permeates the atmosphere of this contemporary interpretation of the genre and announces Olyphant as a more than competent actor who – after the success of Deadwood – puts on an assured performance that deserves an audience.