I've long understood that it is pointless to use this blog to convince people to check out the stuff I like. It's been a curse of the blog for so long, I almost forget it exists, where people say "I don't watch television but I like reading what you say about it". Really, though, I do better when I just say what I think without worrying if I'll influence anyone.
Thus, it is more accurate for me to say that Justified is one of my favorite series of all time, than to say that Justified is a great series that you should watch, even though I do think you should watch it.
Season Six has been as good as any, perhaps even as good as the much-lauded Season Two. That's especially nice because Season Five was the least-good of the series, so there was always a chance the show had stuck around too long.
As you look at what I've written about the first five seasons, you'll see several continuing themes: the lead actors are great, the secondary actors are great, all of those actors benefit from interesting characters and some of the best dialogue ever on a TV show, and Justified has succeeded in creating a believable community, where you know it was there before the series started and you know it will be there when the series is over. (I haven't seen the finale, yet, but somehow I doubt Harlan will disappear the way Sunnydale did in the last Buffy episode.) Season Six has also done an excellent job bringing back characters from prior seasons, in a way that feels organic. This is partly because the representation of community is so strong ... when a character reappears, it's not strange, they've just been off-screen for a spell. Best of all in this regard is Loretta, the teenage marijuana queen ... we've watched Kaitlin Dever grow before our eyes since her first appearance in Season Two, and Loretta is crucial to the way the entire narrative is headed towards the final episode. Contrast this with Mad Men, which seems to be wasting its final episodes with insignificant new characters. (Matthew Weiner more than deserves the benefit of the doubt, and I feel certain it will all be right when the series ends, but right now, he is puzzling a lot of his fans.)
Here are links and excerpts from some of the things I've written about Justified over the past several years:
Series Premiere: "Justified has atmosphere, it has a charismatic pair of actors, it has nifty dialogue (if you're partial to the Elmore Leonard school of writing, that is). It looks to be one of the best new series of the year."
Season One Finale: "The acting on Justified is often the best thing about the show. Walton Goggins in particular is terrific. The series wavers between standalone episodes and 'story arc' episodes, and the transition isn't always smooth. But there haven't been any bad episodes, and there are plenty of good ones."
Season Two Premiere: "It’s not as easy as it looks, creating a believable community. What usually happens is, there’ll be the lead and co-lead, and then each week some person you've never seen before will show up, the stars will act like we've all known good old Joe since way back, Joe’s story will be told, and we’ll never see Joe again. There are no Joes in Justified. When we meet someone for the first time, time is taken to create a believable relationship between the new character and the ones we already know. In a small community like the one in Justified, everyone knows pretty much everyone else, and that adds a depth that works very well."
Season Two Finale: "Margo Martindale as Mags ... was marvelous in every scene she was in, deftly playing her complex character so that you believed both the ruthless crime boss and the maternal stand-in mom. ... The final scene between Raylan and Mags is one of the finest scenes I’ve come across. Both actors knock it out of the park."
Season Three Premiere: "Last season it grew enough for me to consider it one of the best shows around, and while the loss of Margo Martindale will hurt, there are plenty of other fascinating characters, and the dialogue is going to be great as usual. Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins are bringing it once again."
Season Three Finale: "Some of my favorite moments come when two characters just shoot the shit, always talking about something other than what they are talking about, always talking like they popped out of an Elmore Leonard novel, appropriate since Leonard created Raylan Givens in the first place."
Season Four Premiere: "The dialogue here is so wonderful, I would watch it if all they did was put two characters in a room for an hour and had them talk. Great acting, intricate plotting that doesn't make a big deal about itself, solid continuing arcs, and a real feel for the community it has created (Harlan County, Kentucky)."
Season Four Finale: "Justified is good enough, though, that it doesn’t let Raylan off that easy. Over the course of four seasons, Raylan has become more like Boyd (which is to say, more like his father). And he knows it. The message of Justified isn't that Raylan’s way is right because he’s a lawman. The message is that Raylan is being destroyed from the inside. He no longer believes that his actions are justified. But he can’t escape those actions."
Season Five Premiere: "We see these people trying to change, and we learn more about them with each season, but one of the underlying themes of Justified is that we can't escape the place from which we came. So Raylan Givens works hard, as a lawman, to escape the future left him by his scumbag crook of a father, but as time passes, we (and he) realize it’s a case of like father, like son. Raylan doesn’t step over the line into a life of crime, but his pent-up anger at the world can’t be suppressed forever. And always looking over his shoulder is Boyd Crowder, the son Raylan’s father always wanted."
Season Five Finale: "Season Five felt too much like it was standing in place. We didn’t learn much new about the main characters … It was too obvious, though, by the end of the finale, that everything was just setting up the final season we've always known was coming. Season Six will be Justified’s last, and that can only mean that Boyd Crowder will finally be the Big Bad, and he and Raylan will finally reach the conclusion of their long trip together."