angry brown man, do not provoke!

Justified: More Then a Crime Drama

with 2 comments

The Federalist has written a great post about one of my favorite television shows, Justified. It talks about the show’s literary qualities, that it’s just not some hardboiled crime drama set in the backwoods of Kentucky, but has “novelistic” intentions and philosophical undercurrents.

The show is filled with multiple arcs and plots, both small are large, but the most overarching theme is the conflict between Raylan Givens, titular lawman, complete with Marshall’s badge and ten-gallon hat; and Boyd Crowder, the villain, who is both ruthless and charming. Both are mirrors of each other.

…Boyd is no more a villain than Raylan is a hero; each man is a kind of shadow of the other, ill-suited to their assigned roles and unfit for the wider world. Cold and remorseless, justified in all his killings, Raylan is knotted up with anger and violence. His moral conscience amounts to allying himself with the law, though he ignores it when it’s convenient and flouts it openly to protect an ex-wife he loves but refuses to be with.

By contrast, Boyd exudes a kind of joie de vivre amid his many depredations while betraying a moral sensitivity far more developed than Raylan’s. He does wrong but doesn’t try to justify it to his conscience.

Raylan is not really a likable character. He’s rough around the edge, a bit of an outlaw who brandishes his own brand of justice: the kind where you shoot first and ask questions later. The man is filled with moral ambiguity from top to bottom. Even his cowboy hat—neither white or black, but beige – describes the man as an unlikable anti-hero. He has no friends or family to speak of except an estranged ex-wife. The only thing he has – and the only thing he really needs – is his job and his unyielding quest to put Boyd Crowder behind bars for good.

Boyd Crowder, murdering thug that he is, seems more likable than Raylan ever hopes to be. Smart, charming, Boyd is keen on maintaining relationships while Raylan is not. Oddly bookish, Boyd likes to talk in long-winded paragraphs, each like a soliloquy, like he’s a character from a Shakespeare play. And unlike Raylan, Boyd accepts who he is. He has a code, but there’s no moral ambiguity to him. And let’s admit it: We all like Boyd.

That we feel this way about the main characters proves to me how good Justified really is.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Written by niraj

February 17th, 2015 at 5:55 pm

2 Responses to 'Justified: More Then a Crime Drama'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Justified: More Then a Crime Drama'.

  1. I’ve never seen the show, but it’s one that I’ve always been interested in watching…and your post makes me all the more determined to eventually get to it!


    18 Feb 15 at 08:02

  2. You will really like the show. It’s so well-written. Much of story moves through dialog, which is specialty of Elmore Leonard, a favorite crime writer, and show’s creator.

    I’m in the midst of watching the final season. I’m going to miss it deeply after its over.


    19 Feb 15 at 13:03

Leave a Reply