TV Review: Fourth Season of FX’s Brilliant ‘Justified’ Begins

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CHICAGO – The third season of FX’s “Justified,” arguably the best drama on one of the most creatively vital networks on television (it’s this or “SoA”), had big shoes to fill. Mags (Emmy winner Margo Martindale) was such an amazing character that her shadow persisted over the entire next season. The fourth season, starting tonight at 9pm CST, features a more confident, refined sense of pacing than last year as the two stars of the show — Timothy Olyphant & Walton Goggins — have been relieved of the pressure to follow up season two and seem to be more comfortable in their characters than ever. Raylan Givens & Boyd Crowder are two of the most fascinating TV creations of the last decade. It’s great to have them back. Television Rating: 4.5/5.0
Television Rating: 4.5/5.0

There is some carryover from season three as Raylan (Olyphant) is still a bit lost, living above a bar and sleeping with its beautiful owner while Boyd (Goggins) and Ava (Carter) are making ends meet in their own under-the-radar way. Which is code for drugs and whores. Problems start for the Crowder clan when a preacher (played by Joe Mazzello, the kid from “Jurassic Park” two decades later) comes to town espousing forgiveness and redemption but mostly just stealing employees from the drug and prostitution underground. It’s hard to find women willing to sell themselves when religion is taking over your community. But is it a “good” religion or just another form of brainwashing? The opportunity to play with the idea that those preaching Jesus may be as (or even more) duplicitous than those preaching sin is going to be a fun one for the underrated writers of this show. The second episode features a scene with Boyd during a sermon that is among my favorite in any show of the last several years.

Photo credit: FX

But I’m getting ahead of myself. In the first episode, religion starts to sneak in but so does pure force. A mysterious character lurks on the fringe who we learn is a backyard fighter. Another pops up in Boyd’s life, played by “ER” vet Ron Eldard, who may end up being Crowder’s enforcer. Even the great Patton Oswalt (“Young Adult”) gets in on the action in the premiere as a plot arises based on something found in the walls of Arlo’s house. He’s a force in his own way. Oswalt makes everything better.

Photo credit: FX

I love the approach to storytelling in the first two episodes of the new season of “Justified,” one that was reportedly inspired by Elmore Leonard’s “Raylan,” which was a series of short stories about the beloved Marshal. The scripts to these two episodes are among the series’ best in the way they balance various story arcs at the same time without ever losing focus on the Hatfields & McCoys of this series — the Givens & Crowders.

I must admit that I miss Natalie Zea, who was abruptly written out last season and appears on FOX’s “The Following” in two weeks (and will reportedly re-appear in a few episodes this season but not as a regular). Winona was a fascinating character, one who grounded Raylan in ways that the show is missing now. As for new cast members, well, I like them all, which is incredibly rare. How many show can introduce four to five new characters at the start of a season and have them all work? The casting director and producers need a raise as even small characters, like the kids who set the premiere’s plot in motion, feel perfectly embodied. And it appears that the great Joelle Carter looks likely to have an expanded role this season after not being used enough in season three. There’s not a false piece here even if the show does belong to Olyphant and Goggins, both of who have arguably never been better.

Look, I miss Mags too. And her debut in the season two premiere of the show is likely an episode that will never be topped by the show’s creators. However, as a pair and when determining overall potential of an entire season, this is my favorite 1 & 2 of any “Justified” season to date. I’ve seen so much new TV lately and even the best of it has an occasional whiff of desperation — that desire to please that comes through in thin characters, weak plotting, and cliched storytelling. There’s NONE of that here. It’s one of the most confident shows on TV. And I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

“Justified” stars Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, Joelle Carter, Nick Searcy, Erica Tazel, Jacob Pitts, David Meunier, and Raymond J. Barry. It returns January 8, 2013 at 9pm CST. content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

JustifiedFan's picture

Natalie will be back for a

Natalie will be back for a couple of episodes though. She’s clearly not a regular anymore but it’s not like the writers are abandoning her character and storyline.

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