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Justified 1.02 – Riverbrook

I think Raylan wants his hat back.

Grade: B+

After today’s awesome news that Justified is getting a second season, I decided the only appropriate way to celebrate would be to catch up on my new favorite series. Seriously, if you haven’t started to watch it, do it. I haven’t this drawn in by a pilot in a really long time.

This week’s episode of Justified has us look at the procedural elements that will be the backbone of the show. Usually, shows take a little time to find themselves and to find the types of MOTW* episodes that will work for the unique aspects of the show (*MOTW = Monster of the Week. Remember when you were a kid and watched Power Rangers and there was a different monster that showed up once a week and the action was concluded by the show’s closure? It’s sort of the same idea for other types of TV too, but instead of a rubber monster we have actual characters and problems that must be solved). Justified is no different – apparent from Riverbrook is that there are going to be some bumps along the way. But I’m happy to see that those bumps aren’t that major and that the writers seem to have a good handle on what will work.

This week takes us back to eastern Kentucky, where Raylan is assigned a case that involves runaway inmates (they’re in a band that plays outside prisons… doesn’t really seem like a smart idea). This episode features less of the periphery main characters and focuses almost exclusively on the relationship with Raylan and the villains.

For what it’s worth, this strategy mostly works out. I don’t really care either way about the other characters besides maybe Ava yet (though I hope that changes) so letting Raylan air out a bit was probably a good thing. The writers need as much experience as possible balancing humility and bad-assery. It also gave them time to develop really unique and fun enemies. Chris Ellis portrays one of the escaped convicts and does an exemplary job acting a character that needs to be simultaneously likeable, hard and a bit dumb. Yes, the script is extremely well written, but Ellis pulls off the one-shot character beautifully. Though I don’t really understand why he escaped with only 3 months left (the episode gives an answer, but it’s pretty unsatisfactory) even in just one episode he’s extremely well-realized. Ellis’ TV credits are extremely long even though he’s never had so much as a recurring role that’s lasted more than three episodes and I would love to see him in more Justified if there’s a chance. Kristin do good jobs portraying a doofusy Bonnie & Clyde type couple (with its own Kentucky twist).

The episode made a few leads of faith in logic at some points (Raylan is going to understand by reading a newspaper on the crapper during the middle of the night?) but in general they aren’t too offensive. The plot isn’t exactly as suspenseful when it tries to be, but that also because suspsense wasn’t really the point of this week’s story. A lot less shooting and a lot more talking. Not necessarily a bad thing, but the sudden attempt to create a tense moment didn’t really work.

Other than that, a completely solid second episode. Justified seems to have an extremely good idea thus far of what it wants to be and how it’s going to work its week-to-week format. I can’t wait for the next one.


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