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Justified (Season 3): the Dixie Mafia – backed by Detroit – are aggressively targeting Harlan with oxy; but Raylan, Boyd, or anyone else in the county isn’t going to be a rollover. The lead antagonist, Robert Quarles, absolutely steals the show, phenomenally played by Neal McDonough: smart, uncontrollable, freakishly calm and articulate, deeply troubled psychotic – he’s like the Bond villain that never was, and watching his tailspin into tragedy is an absolutely engrossing. He also gets called everything from an ‘albino giraffe’ and ‘big stupid baby face’ to ‘the man with a thumb for a head’ – unsure if he knew about this or not – but talk about a punchbag! Quarles also brings out the best in his permanently startled-looking right-hand man,Wynn Duffy. The only main character I didn’t buy in to was Limehouse, who was simply played too goofy, and only really appeared to speed up sub-plots. While there’s a few goodies, and baddies, Justified succeeds in leaving most others in the grey area – where you must make up your own mind. The dialogue one-the-whole is so well-written, and characters like Boyd, Quarles and Raylan are an absolute joy to listen to. The only thing that lets down justified is that, in order to keep characters alive, or the story from drying up, some people do things out-of-character, but the fact that you notice these shows how well-written they are to begin with. This series also peaks a little too soon, in the penultimate episode. Every aspect of Justified gets better with each season: the stories, the characters, the humour, the action, the suspense, the acting, the stakes, the entertainment factor – it’s simply TV at it’s best. It’s also not afraid to dig up a storyline / grudge from episodes or seasons past – which rewards die-hard viewers. This is the only show that’s come close to The Good Wife and The Wire for me. TV Gold.

Score: 9.5/10

Justified: after killing a mobster in Miami, old-fashioned US marshal Raylan Givens is re-assigned back to his home turf, Harlan County, Kentucky – where his past comes back to bite him. At the heart of the show are scores of larger-than-life characters, all of whom are well-developed over the season(s) and who’s intricate, interlacing, backgrounds are slowly revealed as the show rolls forward. When Raylan (Olyphant) and Boyd Crowder (Goggins) are in the same scene, it’s TV Dynamite – not to mention other great leads in Arlo, Art, Mags, Dickie, Doyle, and supporting cast members like Gutterson, Johnny, Duffy, Bo, Helen, Ava, Loretta, Dewey… and although the show hangs mostly on Givens, there are very few characters that you’d want to write out. It stands out against most TV shows by channeling an old-fashioned western, redneck, lawless, gun-slinging vibe. It’s also focused more on entertainment, over just drama: sure, the story can be a tad on the ridiculous-and-conventient side (how many criminals are there in this district? How many men can one man kill? etc, etc) but the writers seem to understand that this is what makes the show so watchable. The script and story-writing is solid, and there’s a lot of comedy one-liners that you could easily miss. Season one went for the ‘one case per episode’ format with bits of backstory mixed in, whereas season two gambled with the larger, holistic end-to-end story arc and a few one-off cases thrown in – and when coupled with better production, writing, and a bigger budget, it really improved the show. There aren’t too many shows that blend drama, tension, action, wit and succeed in keeping it entertaining. Justified is a gem.

Season 1: 7/10
Season 2: 8/10