The great American author Elmore Leonard died last August at age 87, but his work lives on in Justified, the Emmy-wnning drama that starts its fifth season tonight on FX.
Based on Leonard’s novella Fire in the Hole, this rich, multi-layered series stars Timothy Oliphant as cocky Kentucky-based Deputy U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens, whose work throws him into daily contact with the kind of quirky, violent and often comical characters that Leonard himself specialized in.
Many TV critics and fans of Justified point to Season 2 of the show as the most satisfying to date, and I’m not inclined to argue. That batch of episodes found Raylan wrangling with a truly nasty mountain clan headed by a lethal matriarch named Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale of The Millers in a tremendous performance that won her an Emmy Award).
Season 5 of Justified introduces us to another, equally nasty redneck family called the Crowes, with whom Raylan becomes entangled when he is dispatched to the Florida Everglades to investigate the case of an off-duty Florida Coast Guard officer who is missing and presumed dead. His investigation leads him to an alligator farm owned by family patriarch Darryl Crowe Jr. (Michael Rapaport), a rough piece of work who puts Raylan on the trail of the man responsible for the murder – but not before Darryl learns that a Kentucky cousin of the Crowes, Dewey (Damon Herriman), recently received a sizable windfall in a settlement with the U.S. Marshals office.
Meanwhile, continuing a Season 4 storyline back in Kentucky, a cash-poor Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) is running out of options in his desperate bid to get his fiancée, Ava (Joelle Carter), out of jail, so he heads to Detroit to retrieve some missing drugs with Dixie Mafia figurehead Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns), only to find themselves in a polite conversation with the Canadian Mafia (very funny guest performances by Dave Foley and Will Sasso).
Beyond that, I really don’t want to spoil any more of the delirious delights awaiting fans in these new episodes of Justified (at least the first two – that’s all I’ve seen). Critics rave about Justified every time a new season rolls around, but it’s high time more viewers caught on to this fascinating, splendidly acted gallery of unforgettable characters.