Justified has shown a great amount of depth and progression each year it has been on the air. The first season was largely plot-driven, but managed to utilize interesting characters to its advantage. It could be slow at times, but it was never boring. The second season improved on the first in various ways. The story became more character-driven, and each person affected the plot in their own way. Nothing felt contrived or forced. The third season managed to mesh what worked in the first and second seasons, and create something unique and memorable.
The characters of Justified continued to make the third season excellent. Each person, even minor characters like the dimwitted Dewey Crow, have realistic and interesting motivations that propel their personal storyline forward. The lives of these characters move on their own trajectories, but at certain times intersect with the trajectories of the other characters. This occurs several times throughout the series, and unfortunately cannot be explained succinctly. You’d just have to watch it to fully grasp how intricate all the character motivations and interactions can be. For example, though, Boyd’s shared history with Raylan causes Quarles to think Raylan is on Boyd’s payroll, he comes after Raylan, which ultimately causes Raylan to begin his work to bring about Quarles’ downfall. Each character is fully realized and completely believable as a real person. Of course, the incredible acting by all the series’ stars helps this along so much more.
Season 3, is somewhat plot-driven, as well. The writers managed to utilize the character relationships in interesting ways within the confines of a story-driven affair. As I mentioned before, they combined the plot-driven aspects of Season 1 with the character-driven aspects of Season 2, in order to create a hybrid that works on every level.
The other thing they managed to do was make every single episode exciting. The first season did have droughts that were slow. The second season had a couple of those as well. The third season had none whatsoever. There is so much going on, there is never a dull moment to be found. What happens on-screen is either criminals jockeying for position amongst themselves, police investigating said criminals, or straight-up action. The action is brief and at times extremely violent, almost like a Western. Plenty of people get shot, others beaten up or blown up, and others run over by cars. The violence certainly isn’t gratuitous, and it only happens when it needs to. When it does, it provides for thrills that help maintain interest for the audience.
Aside from the great acting and writing, the series has very high production values. It has interesting directorial choices and some fantastic cinematography. The hills of Kentucky look stunning in their natural majesty. At the same time we see the grimy underworld in all its disgusting glory. Music, editing, and, hell, even the wardrobe (Raylan’s hat!) round this series out as the complete package.
Justified is without a doubt THE best show currently on TV. Absolutely everything in Season 3 worked, and worked incredibly well. While the first and second seasons were both really good, they weren’t perfect. Season 3 was perfect. I can’t think of a single thing to complain about, and believe me, I like to complain. If you’re a fan of Timothy Olyphant (and how could you not be?), a fan of Westerns (this is a modern Western), or just a fan of great TV, then you can’t go wrong watching this show.
Check it out.