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'Justified' review: Timothy Olyphant's Raylan Givens returns

Timothy Olyphant, left, stars as Deputy U.S. Marshal

Timothy Olyphant, left, stars as Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens in the FX series "Justified." Credit: FX

 "Justified" is back Tuesday night, and for Newsday's review... read on! 

"Justified," FX, Tuesday night, 10

What it's about: Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) is forced to endure the indignity of a courtroom cross examination as Dewey Crowe (Damon Herriman) seeks damages for the various beatings he's endured at the hands of the U.S. Marshall. Dewey ends up scoring, and so Raylan figures he owes him something -- information about a Cuban organized crime figure who may have ties to his brother Darryl Crowe Jr. (Michael Rapaport), head of the deadly Florida Crowe clan. Dewey as usual knows nothing, which means Raylan has to go on an exploratory mission himself, aided by another U.S. Marshall (David Koechner). Meanwhile, back in Harlan, Boyd Crowder (Walt Goggins) learns the hard way that his Detroit drug pipeline, by way of Canada, is about to dry up for good. But the particularly brutal Picker (John Kapelos) has another idea for him.

Meanwhile, as you know,  "Justified' patriarch and great American crime novelist Elmore Leonard died last year, and Graham Yost -- who has so brilliantly brought Leonard's creation to TV over five seasons now -- wrote this about him in a tribute, and the spirit certainly lives on.

"Elmore said all his stories were about "people with guns in dire situations: His favorite review of his work was in London's New Musical Express, l called him "the poet laureate of wild --- with revolvers." Martin Amis said Elmore Leonard really only wrote one story, or variation on one story, Chaucer's "The Pardoner's Tale," where death roams the land disguised as money. Elmore's between, like money, usually no more than can fit in a suitcase. They will lie, cheat, steal, kill and do a hundred other sordid things to get it. Elmore Leonard liked money too, and he wrote stories to get it .?.?.

" .?.?. The day Elmore had his stroke he was in his sunlit room, conducting the voices he heard in his head, characters telling him their stories, in his hand a Virginia Slim trailing smoke. He was working on a book he called "Blue Dreams" which was to be about bull-riding, ICE agents, Slab City [a fascinating place in Southern California comprised pretty entirely of RVs and concrete slabs .?.?.], the Salton Sea, hot chicks, and all manner of people with guns in dire situations .?.?. Months earlier he thought about having Raylan enter the tale the decided against it. But this past July he thought, what the hell. He loved Raylan. Raylan was his guy. On that last handwritten yellow page, Raylan Givens was back in the story."

My say: Well, people die in tonight's season opener, and a case could be made that too many do -- leaving you or at least me to wonder why the body ante is upped so dramatically so early in the season.

"Justified" usually has us at one -- one blood-spattered corpse, that is. But I gave up counting at around 10. This high a mortality rate is unusual for any "Justified" season opener, and if life is so cheap this early then what's the price further down the road?

But even if the dramatis personae shrinks by about 25 percent tonight, "Justified" is always about the inevitability of more casualties -- which means if "A Murder of Crowes" is any indication, expect to hit the fifty percent mark by mid-season.  (The aforementioned family - Crowes - relocates from Florida to Harlan County, and Boyd is forced to explore new supply lines south of the border; it's pretty much insanely inevitable.)

 But tonight's toll is too high. The show remains terrific; the production details, the writing, the quality just about peerless in just about every shot. There's beauty in every scene -- each detail inscribed with so much care that you're left with the urge to rewind just to savor it again.

Except: When you do, the body will still fall .?.?. the brain still splatter.

Why so much blood so early?  Some fine character actors meet their ends almost instantly tonight -- character actors with work you know and probably cherish, but who get their turn at the camera for only a handful of scenes. You'd like them to hang around longer -- to explore a little further their degenerate souls and misbegotten ways.

No such luck. Will this be a good season? Undoubtedly, yes, and blood will be spilled. But if this opener is any indication, there's not enough fake blood in Hollywood to sate the fifth.

Bottom line: Memorable start, too much death.

Grade: B+

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