'Justified' - 'Fire in the Hole' Recap (Series Premiere)
by Danny Gallagher, posted Mar 17th 2010 9:29AM
(S01E01) "Would you shoot me if you got the chance?" - Boyd Crowder
"You make me pull, I'm gonna put you down." - Raylen Givins
Here at TV Squad HQ, no one really jumped at the chance to review the premiere of 'Justified,' and that's not meant to belittle or embarrass any of the writers (except for one, you know who you are and my mother still hasn't forgiven you). We're a busy bunch.
That's why I feel so very fortunate that I got to watch it because it's one damn fine hour of kick-ass television and it's well on it's way to be one of the best hours of the year so far.
First off, it's a perfect fit for FX, a network that loves testosterone-fueled dramas with deep emotional cores. That just about describes the entire body of Elmore Leonard's work, the novelist whose short story "Fire in the Hole" serves as the inspiration for the show. It's a wonder FX hasn't tried to turn one of his large and eclectic works of crime fiction into a series until now. 'Maximum Bob' would have worked a hell of a lot better on FX than it ever did on ABC.
It features Raylen Givins, a dedicated U.S. Marshal based in Miami, who gets transferred to his home state of Kentucky after he shoots and kills a suspect whom he gave a 24-hour notice to get out of Dodge or he would "shoot him on sight". He seems reluctant to return to his homeland for a myriad of reasons that aren't yet adequately explained, but given that he has childhood ties to a radical Nazi and an ex-wife there (and yes, those are two different people), it's hard to blame him.
Givins, played by Timothy Olyphant, is one interesting son of a bitch. He walks a very crooked line of justice and vengance but, unlike previous TV renegade cops like Vic Mackey, he's not looking out for number one or the almighty dollar. He sees his role in the world as an injustice corrector, but also sees the line of the law as "optional." In other words, he's just about every top TV cop in a much cooler hat.
Olyphant gives the character a very cool and collected demeanor. His volume never goes beyond a five, even when he's staring down the business end of a "scatter-gun". His attitude helps work his deep and more dramatic moments. And because he's such a likable crime fighter, he's an equally likable guy with the kind of multilayered emotional angst that makes you want to learn more about him and why exactly he is so reluctant to return to his home turf.
Boyd Crowder, played by Walton Goggins, sits on the opposite end of the good/bad guy spectrum. He heads a local white supremacist gang that stages car bombings to divert police attention from their various bank robberies. He also has a thing for his deceased brother's wife Ava, played by Joelle Carter, who incidentally has a thing for our hero.
Goggins is the perfect man for this gig. Here he plays a much shrewder and more evil version of Shane Vandrell, but with a much meaner tone and demeanor. He spouts biblical motives for his racist ways, but clearly enjoys knocking off banks and blowing up churches as much as knocking back some homemade hooch. He makes for a great villain and builds the episode to an awesome climactic standoff that thankfully doesn't kill him off in the first episode, even though he took a slug to the gut.
The whole episode was a blast to watch. It's full of all sorts of dark and funny characters, like Boyd's band of dumb redneck henchmen who make for some great comic fodder. The scene towards the end where Raylen catches two of Boyd's goons following him from a shoot-out to Ava's house had me giggling like an inbred extra from "Deliverance."
Even Raylen's boss, played by Nick Searcy, doesn't take the typical hard-as-nails, spittle shouting police chief angle. He has his own funny, good ol' boy moments and even though he sees Raylen as a potential hazard to his office, he doesn't entirely disapprove of him. It will be interesting to watch all of these cross-relationships play out in the subsequent episodes.
Of course, this first episode didn't have to do a lot of the grunt work since it follows the plot of Leonard's novella. So from here on out, the series has to stand on its own two feet but so far, it's standing mighty tall.
- Why are all of the weirdos starting at or based out of Miami? Between this show, 'Burn Notice' and the 'CSI' spinoff, Miami must have more crazies per capita than any other state in the Union. The upside is that it does explain the 2000 election.