|Timothy Olyphant looks ahead to Justified's new series. Pics: 5USA|
5USA: starts Wednesday, 8 May, 10pm
Story: Raylan tries to earn a little extra cash by doing a side job for an old flame; namely, locating a murder suspect for her – a simple job gets very complicated for deputy US marshal.
AMID a lot of dross cop procedurals on TV right now there are a couple of absolute gems tucked away, and Justified is one of them.
Now back on 5USA for his fourth season, the coolest lawman around, Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens, returns with a cracking opening episode that suggests the series will live up to previous levels of mayhem and badassery.
The cowboy-hat wearing, quick-on-the-trigger Raylan – played as ever with panache by Timothy Olyphant (ironic that a slick dude should be played by someone called Timothy) – gets a call from an old flame. Sharon, a bounty hunter, asks Raylan to keep an eye out for a murder suspect she is pursuing. There's three grand in it for him.
|Raylan and Constable Sweeney held at gunpoint|
Raylan, who doesn't live in luxury, could use the money. No sooner does the episode get into its stride than he is in a Mexican stand-off with the fugitive who is sitting in his car – which Raylan resolves in brilliant style. However, being a touch arrogant, he then loses his man and finds himself in a touch of serious bother.
It's an enjoyable reacquaintance with the series, added to by the introduction of Patton Oswalt as the newly installed local constable, puffed-up and self-important Bob Sweeney. Much fun should flow from this new character.
Having dispatched the vile Quarles in the last series – and a trademark of Justified is its superb evildoers – it looks as though a different kind of series-long mystery will drive the drama this time.
|Raylan looking down another gun barrel|
Justified's season four mystery
The opener begins with a flashback to 1983 when a man plummets to the ground after his parachute lets him down. This could be connected to a confidential diplomatic bag and driver's licence found in the wall of the home of Raylan's villainous and now imprisoned father, Arlo.
The licence has the name Waldo Truth on it. When Raylan visits his father in prison, Arlo denies knowing anything about it, but warns his son off anyway. Another inmate knows what they were talking about, and when he puts pressure on Arlo, the old man stabs him to death. Later it will emerge that the bag could help in the arrest of a major mafioso.
Elsewhere, the brilliant Walton Goggins is back as Boyd Crowder to torment his old workmate turned marshal. Crowder recruits his an old army buddy, Colt Rhodes, to help with his drug racket, which is being dented by the arrival of a snake-handling revival preacher, Billy St Cyr, who's converting Boyd's dealers and users to God.
|Joelle Carter as Ava Crowder|
Bold women, humour and plenty of slick action
So, why is Justified so captivating? It's been one of the few screen adaptations that has come close to capturing the work of crème de la crime writer Elmore Leonard (who exec produces Justified). Inspired by the Leonard's character of Raylan, who has appeared in stories such as Fire in the Hole, Riding the Rap and Pronto, the series has also had the wonderful backwater setting of Harlan County in Kentucky and been full of Leonard's trademark dumb or vicious villains and a hotshot hero.
It's got humour, emotion (particularly in series two, when Raylan liberated a teenage girl from the clutches of psycho matriarch Mags Bennett) and oodles of macho action. It's also got some bold female characters, including Winona (Raylan's ex with whom he is now having a child), Ava (his other ex, now allied to his enemy Boyd), and the terrifying Mags.
American networks such as FX (makers of Justified), AMC and HBO are currently producing a golden age of superb drama, which sadly leaves UK shows in the dust. And among bigshots such as Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire, Raylan Givens and co certainly walk tall.
Cast: Timothy Olyphant Deputy US Marshal Raylan Givens, Nick Searcy Chief Deputy US Marshal Art Mullen, Joelle Carter Ava Crowder, Jacob Pitts Deputy US Marshal Tim Gutterson, Erica Tazel Deputy US Marshal Rachel Brooks, Natalie Zea Winona Hawkins, Walton Goggins Boyd Crowder, Raymond J Barry Arlo Givens, David Meunier Johnny Crowder, Jere Burns Wynn Duffy, Ron Eldard Colton Rhodes, Joe Mazzello Billy St Cyr, Gerald McRaney Josiah Cairn, Lindsay Pulsipher Cassie St Cyr, Patton Oswalt Constable Bob Sweeney, Mike O'Malley Nick 'Nicky' Augustine, Robert Baker Randall Kusik, Brian Howe Arnold