by Cheryl Collins
Justified — the savvy and generally light-hearted shoot-em-up now entering its fifth season — has always been a small joy. The appealing Timothy Olyphant played Raylan Givins, a well-cured marshal with an itchy finger banished to his home turf in Kentucky. Raylan was a preternaturally calm presence amid swirling chaos, much of the chaos carnage Raylan generated himself. The smart and snappy dialogue, weird-and-wonderful characters, fine acting, and sly intelligence always had me coming back for more. In fact, much of the cast seemed to be having, well, fun — how could you not, with that Elmore Leonard–inspired dialogue? — and we felt it.
The internal struggles of Raylan and his lost-to-the-dark side frenemy twin Boyd Crowder (the excellent Walter Goggins) were the center of the show. The two actors played with subtlety their characters’ efforts to stay true in some fashion to their own particularly aligned moral compasses as they pushed through some very murky waters.
The opener seemed to be a reverse double backflip homage to Godfather II. This season’s antagonist, Dewey Crowe, had taken over the family’s swampland-based criminal enterprises in Florida after his father’s death, but just like Michael Corleone, changing times have forced him to reconsider his way of doing business. Whereas Michael Corleone was lured into business dealings in Florida and Cuba, Dewey decides he needs to get out of Florida and maybe try the opportunities in his tribe’s homeland in Harlan County, Kentucky (after Raylan guns down one of his Cuban colleagues while trying to command a dingy back to Cuba, in a very stupid plot point). Dewey even has his own screw-up Fredo-like brother that requires offing. As Raylan headed south to Florida, Boyd headed north to Detroit to make a deal with the mob there amid much blood spatter.
As the bloody body count mounted over the course of the episode, it was hard to keep track of who was doing what and why. No matter. Justified is still fun. But after making my way through the season opener — with multiple blood-spattered faces, shooting victims, car crashes, off-screen torture, and gratuitous use of the word “pussy” — there was more guilt than pleasure, alas.