Even the most beloved TV series falters after a few seasons. “West Wing” lost its way with a tedious subplot involving President Bartlett’s multiple sclerosis. “Foyle’s War” went off the rails once WWII ended and the show didn’t. Claire Underwood’s clean water initiative in “House of Cards” was all wet. “Burn Notice” kept bringing in increasingly audacious bad guys (will we ever meet Mr. Big?), and who can forget Season III, Episode 10, of “Breaking Bad,” where Walt does battle with a house fly for what seemed hours?
Or, take “Justified.” It’s a series, much like any other, and it has its weak points. A few too many international bad guys descend on rural Kentucky, each more ruthless than the last, seeking to undo U.S. Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant). And secondary characters, among them Raylan’s boss and his partner marshals (not to mention his ex-wife, Winona), lack development. And, plotwise, it is occasionally difficult to know who’s on first.
But you never tire of Deputy Givens and his — nemesis? friend? coal brother? — Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). Both are the creations of that most original of fiction writers, the late Elmore Leonard. Both demonstrate Leonard’s gift for characterization … part saint, part taint. Throw in Ava, Boyd’s sister-in-law, who shot dead her husband, Bowman Crowder, after years of abuse; the cast’s semi-Edwardian sentence structure; an endless supply of hillbilly first and last names and first-class acting and you have yourself a series that keeps you watching for all six seasons (Season 6 just came out on Amazon.)
Givens’ Wild West law enforcement style lands criminals in the pokey, hospital or morgue while landing the deputy himself in hot water. Is he a bad good man? And is the swastika-tattooed Boyd Crowder a good bad man, a reformed bad man or just a white supremacist who has memorized most of the Old Testament? Doesn’t really matter: he’s a fascinating character and, if push came to shove, we’d pick Boyd over Raylan. Sounds bizarre but, truly, it’s “Justified.”