What an ending!
Like I expected anything less from an episode called “Bloody Harlan“? I won’t spoil it for you, don’t worry – sit and savor it for yourself. Matter of fact, go back to the first episode of this second season and watch it all again just in case the well-placed seeds escaped your grasp the first time around. Because what’s popping up out of the ground as this arc closes is as interesting as who is getting planted in it.
I think we all agree that Timothy Olyphant is badass, and in Raylan Givens he has achieved what many actors never do – the perfect match of performer and character that we can only feebly call the role of a lifetime. But even I wasn’t sure where they could take Justified after the first season; frankly I was thrilled just to see that it was renewed. But I’m struggling for the words to describe how exponentially better this season has been. Whatever the opposite of a sophomore slump is called would be a good start.
Video: Season Two promo
I couldn’t even tell you where to start with the supporting cast, from the amazing Walton Goggins as the unpredictable Boyd Crowder, Nick Searcy as the supportive yet skeptical boss, or Natalie Zea and Joelle Carter as the strong but damaged women trying to keep Givens and Crowder from jumping the rails. And in smaller and guest roles, actors like Raymond J. Barry, William Ragsdale and Jere Burns shine like beacons. But everything in Season Two begins and ends with the Bennetts, a dry-land hillbilly crew that would make the river-edge pikers in Deliverance squeal like a pig.
Joseph Lyle Taylor, Jeremy Davies and Brad William Henke are incredible as this show’s version of Dumb and Dumber (and Dumbest) although there’s rancid evil and twisted Mommy issues percolating underneath those hillbilly hats. Davies has always played characters as an amalgamation of tics and quirks (Lost and Saving Private Ryan being two prime examples), but Dickie is soaked in them. And while young Kaitlyn Dever might seem to be playing a page from the script of Winter’s Bone, she stands toe-to-toe with this group, a tribute to her skills and the quality of the writing. Really – how can you go wrong with Elmore Leonard in the mix?
But as Mags Bennett, the matriarch of this twisted little holler, Margo Martindale is off the charts. Sinister yet sensitive, moral and amoral, protective and ruthless, her complex portrayal is mesmerizing. I don’t hold my breath expecting actors on FX shows to get their due when awards are passed out – Goggins would have a mantle full by now if they did – but anything short of a Best Actress trophy would be…well, unjustified.
There are a lot of great dramas on television that deserve your attention like Breaking Bad and Mad Men. But after a season that was absolutely Shakespearian, there is no doubt that Justified is the best show on television, game, set and match.