The compelling backwoods noir of “Justified”continues in Season 4, where old-school lawman Raylan Givens finds himself tangled in a thirty-year-old mystery that started with a sky-diver cratering on the asphalt of a suburban cul-de-sac.
Along the way, Raylan tangles with his own father Arlo, his bartender girlfriend and her hulking ex-husband, his long-time nemesis Boyd Crowder and his crime syndicate, a bail jumper with a score to settle, a snake-handling preacher and his sister, and the Dixie Mafia.
Everything that set apart creator Graham Yost’s drama in the first three seasons—the sharp, mannered dialogue drawing from writer Elmore Leonard’s source material, the wry and mordant sense of humor, the superb casting—returns with renewed focus, rooted in a rather bleak take on the weight of the past and the turns of human nature.
As Marshall Givens, Timothy Olyphant continues to refine and deepen his laconic, iron-willed charm, and he is surrounded by character actors working at the top of their game.
Walton Goggins’ layered portrayal of the complicated, ambitious crime boss Boyd Crowder has been central to the show’s success in the first three seasons. His Crowder is slippery and ruthless, but with a literate, verbose charm that puts even his most violent actions in a curiously sympathetic light. In Season 4, his relationship with his true love Ava (Joelle Carter) moves to a new level of emotional depth as Boyd makes clear his long-term plans for their future.
Newcomers to the latest season include Ron Eldard, effective as Boyd’s old army buddy who joins the Crowder crime family as Boyd’s enforcer, and Patton Oswalt, perfectly cast as Gremlin-driving Constable Bob Sweeney, with his wounded pride and surprising resilience. Jere Burns, Mike O’Malley and Chris Chalk also make strong impressions in supporting roles.
The zingy, pungent writing continues to elevate the series above the average, with twisty plotting combining with barbed dialogue soaked in backwoods flavor. Even marginal characters have intelligence and wit, and the whole equation is made much more compelling by the equal smarts on both sides of the law. Taking their cue from Elmore Leonard’s love of surprise and unpredictability, the writers delight in upending audience expectations, and the cast clearly relishes the chance to cut loose on some rich situations.
While tempered by subtle touches of compassion, “Justified” is also hall-marked by its tenacious avoidance of glib sentimentality, like the steely, adversarial nature of Raylan’s father, or the complicated, two sides of the same coin relationship between Raylan and Boyd.
The plot thread of Raylan’s impending fatherhood doesn’t really get enough traction until near the season finale, and Raylan’s two fellow deputies Tim and Rachel (Jacob Pitts and Erick Tazel), both underused) are pushed to the margins for long portions. “Justified” occasionally teeters on the brink of self-parody with its tight-lipped po’ boy aphorisms and smart-guy swagger, but not often and never for long.
The parade of flawed, fascinating individuals, the hangman’s sense of humor, and a keen, rueful intelligence make for exceptionally entertaining viewing. In Season 4, “Justified” continues to honor and expand on the legacy of Elmore Leonard, and the peculiar charms of its own backwoods universe.
The Blu-ray edition of “Justified: Season 4” is presented on three discs in 1080p High Definition, in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. There are subtitle options for English, English SDH, and French
The audio track is 5.1 DTS-HD MA. There are no set-up options.
Commentary tracks are recorded with a variety of staff writers, producers, directors, and cast members including Timothy Olyphant, Patton Oswalt, Nick Searcy and Walton Goggins. The limited selection I listened to was entertaining, informative, and not as padded out as most commentaries.
On disc 1:
- “Becoming Boyd”: actor Walton Goggins talks about the roots and personality of his character Boyd Crowder, and the creators talk about Goggins’s contributions to his role
- “Deadly Serious: Constable Bob”: Patton Oswalt, Timothy Olyphant and the creative team talk about the character of Constable Bob Sweeney, one of the best additions to the new season
- commentary tracks for episodes 1, 2, 4, 5
- a deleted scene for episode 3
On disc 2:
- “The Veterans’ Experience”: the background behind the military veteran characters who play an important part in Season 4, and the impact of their wartime experiences on their actions
- an outtakes reel for the entire season, the highlight of which is Nick Gutterson’s Owen Wilson impersonation
- commentary tracks for episodes 6, 7, 8, 9
- a deleted scene for episode 8
On disc 3:
- “Anatomy of an Episode”: a lengthy, in-depth examination of episode 12, “Peace of Mind,” by the production team and actors, including Nick Searcy, Walton Goggins and Joelle Carter. It’s interesting to hear how fluid the creation of the episode is, with re-writes of the script and actor contributions.
- “Script to Screen: The Finale”: another well-made featurette, where the production team discusses the structure, meaning and process behind episode 13, “Ghosts.”
- Commentary for episodes 11 and 13
- Deleted scenes for episode 10
Season 4 of “Justified” is another winner, with sharp, smart writing, a top-notch acting ensemble, and an enjoyable mystery at its core.