Based on Elmore Leonard's written work, Justified revolves around the US Marshal Rayland Givens. Rayland is the lead character in the books 'Pronto', 'Riding the Rap', the short story 'Fire in the Hole' and is best described as a cowboy sheriff thrust into the modern age. Timothy Olyphant stars as Rayland in Justified, bringing the character to life with a great deal of ease; as Timothy is, of course, no stranger to playing the part of a sheriff - his performance as Seth Bullock on Deadwood is an integral part of that phenomenal series.
After a semi-controversial shooting of a button man named Tommy Bucks and the ensuring bad publicity Rayland is reassigned back to Lexington, Kentucky, a place he swore never to return to. There he's placed under the command of Chief Deputy Art Mullen (Nick Searcy) working alongside Rachel Brooks (Erica Tazel) and Tim Gutterson (Jacob Pitts), reconnects with his ex-wife Winona (Natalie Zea) - who also swore never to return to Kentucky - and becomes involved with the Crowder family in various degrees after Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter) shoots her husband Bowman Carter, while Ava's ex-brother-in-law Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) and past friend of Rayland proves to be an exceptionally dangerous individual after blows up a church and then shoots his accomplice dead.
Justified is a mixture of old west philosophies and modern day life, Rayland has many of the traits of the old classic small town sheriff, the most obvious of which are his hat and his ability to quick draw, he also shows a great deal of old school ethos in his dealings with criminals and civilians alike. So it is more than fair to draw comparisons between Justified and the western genre as a whole - it's not just Art Mullen's poster of the fantastic movie Tombstone that evokes the feel of the old west.
Timothy Olyphant is magnetic as Rayland Givens - he's had a great deal of practice playing a forceful and strong lawman in the past and in some ways his portrayal of Rayland is a natural extension of his past experiences as Seth Bullock - I know if you've enjoyed watching him in Deadwood you'll enjoy him here. The remainder of the cast are all solid, they give believable supporting roles - Erica Tazel is wonderfully understated and Joelle Carter is just adorable as the sweet-but-tough Ava. But the strongest performance amongst the cast belongs to The Shield alumni Walton Goggins, watching his abilities as an actor go from strength to strength on The Shield was a delight and I'm pleased to say he's a great fit here in Justified as Boyd Crowder as he's given an interesting and challenging role as one of the primary antagonists.
Structure-wise Justified is a mixture of standalone episodes and a serialised storyline that is built during the pilot episode and builds momentum in the latter part of the season. The pilot episode is fantastic, but the standalone episodes vary in quality, the earlier ones are only middling to decent at best but the later ones are pretty great and when the show gives way to its serialised story in the final few episodes and everything comes to a head it's just fantastic, ending with poise and grace that is almost poetic at times.
Justified is the very definition of a grower, at the start it's a solid, thoughtful piece with some great dialogue and fun moments but as the series progresses it becomes an elegant take on the modern western with characters who evolve and grow as the series does. As such, I'm certainly looking foward to the second season.