Has Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) hung up his hat for good? Fans of the laconic lawman are asking the question again now that Justified: City Primeval, the follow-up to FX’s 2010-15 neo-noir Western that introduced viewers to Elmore Leonard’s Kentucky-bred gunslinger, has aired its finale.
In Raylan’s eight-episode return, the Miami-based marshal takes an unplanned detour while on a road trip with his teen daughter, Willa (Vivian Olyphant), and ends up in Detroit investigating the murder of a corrupt judge. He has to decide how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the slippery, sociopathic Clement Mansell (Boyd Holbrook), aka The Oklahoma Wildman — and, after a hard look in the mirror, whether it’s time for him to retire.
The final hour’s epilogue, which anyone who loved the original series won’t want to miss, could give Raylan a reason to reconsider his choice. (Or, perhaps it simply grants a different fan-favorite character the happy ending he may or may not deserve…)
If you want to spend more time in Leonard’s Detroit, we suggest the 1998 Jennifer Lopez-George Clooney movie Out of Sight. For TV shows like Justified that feature a blend of unpredictable violence, dark humor, and slow-burn drama, we recommend the following titles.
Justified fans know Raylan had a complicated relationship with his criminal father; Arlo’s dying words to his son were “Kiss my ass.” Well, Raylan and Ray (Liev Schreiber) would have plenty to discuss. As the 2013-2020 Showtime series begins, Ray’s a transplanted South Boston thug working as a besuited fixer for LA’s rich and famous. He’s nice until it’s time to be terrifying. He just can’t keep his own problems from piling up, from the urge to cheat on his wife, Abby (Paula Malcomson), to the unexpected parole of his gloriously twisted pop, Mickey (Jon Voight), who is determined to reunite with his damaged sons (and meet his grandkids) after serving 20 years for the one murder he didn’t commit.
Before the credits roll on the series’ seven seasons and 2022 movie (available on Amazon), family betrayals and other secrets are revealed, bullets fly, and the inherited trauma moves on down the line. The show, from Southland creator Ann Biderman, earned Schreiber and Voight multiple Emmy nominations and the recurring Hank Azaria a statue for guesting as unhinged Fed Ed Cochran.
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If Justified: City Primeval made you question how entertaining you’ve found Raylan’s more cowboy-cop moments over the years, then prepare to feel guilty for how much you’re going to enjoy vigilante serial killer Dexter Morgan, a role that scored Michael C. Hall five consecutive Emmy nominations. The Miami PD blood splatter analyst lives by a code taught to him by his late adoptive father, a homicide detective (James Remar) who recognized young Dexter wouldn’t be able to suppress the darkness a childhood tragedy instilled him, so he trained him to channel it for good and not get caught. Now Dexter rids the world of criminals the law can’t touch while trying to fake a real relationship with his girlfriend, Rita (Julie Benz), and keep his colleagues, including his adoptive cop sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter), in the dark.
The 2006-2013 Showtimes series is full of jaw-dropping twists, like the identity of the Ice Truck Killer who plays with Dexter in season 1, and John Lithgow’s legendary, Emmy-honored turn as season 4’s Trinity Killer, whose final act is so shocking you may have heard about it even if you weren’t watching the show at the time. Hall returned for the 2021 limited series Dexter: New Blood on Paramount Plus. A prequel series is planned.
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Some fans of the OG Justified missed cool cat Raylan having a history with the mouse he was chasing in City Primeval. Those folks will dig the game that’s afoot in this 2018-2022 BBC America spy thriller. Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer star, respectively, as the once-bored security services desk jockey Eve Polastri and the psychopathic assassin Villanelle, who become obsessed with hunting each other. It’s not hyperbole to say Comer is a revelation as the stylish killer, whose deadpan comebacks and childish antics opposite her victims and handler Konstantin (Kim Bodnia) are as oddly endearing as her showing up at a petrified Eve’s home unannounced asking to have dinner with her.
Over the course of four seasons, the first plotted by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, their relationship intensifies with sexual tension, jealousy, and more than one reckoning for daring to think they understand each other. The series scored Comer an Emmy, and multiple nominations for Oh and Fiona Shaw (as Eve’s formidable MI6 boss Carolyn Martens).
Was it Justified: City Primeval’s moody blue tint that reminds us of this 2017-2022 Netflix drama, which was absolutely bathed in it? Jason Bateman stars as Marty Byrde, a financial advisor in Chicago whose firm launders money for a Mexican cartel — and, unbeknownst to Marty, has skimmed $8 million in the process. To make amends and save himself and his family, he promises an astronomical expansion of the operation in Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks region and moves there with his cheating wife Wendy (Laura Linney) and their two kids (Sofia Hublitz and Skylar Gaertner) to set up shop.
That’s easier said than done, with ambitious local spitfire Ruth Langmore (three-time Emmy winner Julia Garner), the only brains in a cursed clan, shifting her loyalties; the FBI being on Marty’s scent; and Marty and Wendy getting stuck between a pastor and home-grown heroin dealers, the heroin dealers and the cartel, the cartel and the FBI, the casino they use as a front and the Kansas City Mob, you get the picture... They’re dealing with a lot of s—t. No wonder the show, which racked up multiple Emmy noms for Bateman and Linney (he took him a trophy for directing), is often compared to Breaking Bad.
Somehow, after four seasons of exquisite tension and eye-for-an-eye justice, the Byrdes come out closer.
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For anyone who loves Justified’s seasonal dose of great new supporting characters, Rian Johnson’s atmospheric 2023 mystery series — which employs different guest stars for each episode’s case of the week — will feel like a gift. Natasha Lyonne stars as casino cocktail waitress Charlie Cale, a bona fide BS detector. She has the ability to know when someone is stating a lie, but she still has to figure out the truth. When her friend is killed in the premiere, she can’t help but play sleuth. To avoid the target now on her back, she hits the road to hide, taking jobs that pay cash and routinely place her in the vicinity of another murder that needs to be solved before it’s time for her to move on. As with the show Columbo, viewers know whodunit from the start; the fun is seeing Charlie, who’s as laidback as Raylan but way easier to talk to, piece it together and answer the question why.
Judith Light and S. Epatha Merkerson guest as nursing home residents with a radical past. Tim Meadows and Ellen Barkin play former TV costars who reunite for a deadly dinner theater production. Nick Nolte and Cherry Jones are filmmakers haunted by an on-set tragedy. Chloë Sevigny is the singer of a has-been band in need of another hit. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a guy who thinks he killed Charlie in a hit-and-run, then is snowed in with her when she survives. The series, which earned Lyonne and Light Emmy nominations, is retro and fresh at the same time and guaranteed to keep you guessing until the delayed season 2 arrives.
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He’s described as “250 pounds of frontier justice.” So even though 6’5” Jack Reacher (Alan Ritchson) is more of a hulk than Raylan Givens, you know they have something in common. Based on the popular Lee Child book series that spawned two Tom Cruise films, season 1 of the 2022 Prime Video smash follows the former military police investigator to tiny Margrave, Georgia. The sightseeing hobo steps off the bus and is arrested for murder before he can even have a bite of peach pie with his black coffee. Once he’s cleared, he’s forced to stick around — the victim turns out to be someone he knows and mourns, and the body count is rising.
Corruption runs rampant in the town, but there are at least two people he can trust, transplanted chief of detectives Oscar Finlay (Malcolm Goodwin) and officer Roscoe Conklin (Willa Fitzgerald). As Reacher helps them unravel the far-reaching mystery, he busts heads (arms and other body parts) in a prison bathroom, a nice restaurant, and while hanging off a fire escape. The action is memorable, but so are Reacher’s powers of deduction. He’s brains and brawn, and Ritchson understands the assignment. Season 2, an adaptation of the novel Bad Luck and Trouble, premieres in December.
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Hitmen were having a moment in 2017-2018, when Epix premiered an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s Get Shorty headlined by Chris O’Dowd and HBO launched the Bill Hader-led Barry, both series about their leading muscle trying to make it in Hollywood. But there was also this Aussie FX gem (2018-2021), starring its creator/writer Scott Ryan as an enforcer whose goal is far more relatable: just trying to keep his work and his personal life separate. The show itself does that so deftly, and Ryan is so natural, that it feels perfectly normal to watch Ray shoot a man in the grave he made him dig, then next see him telling his 8-year-old daughter, Brittany (scene-stealer Chika Yasumura), about the time he met a unicorn because he could sense her hearing the truth about Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and (probably) Jesus had been enough.
Ray’s a man who believes in respect and consequences. He’s loyal to his friends, including his boss Freddy (Justified’s Damon Herriman), to a fault. He cares for his brother, Bruce (Nicholas Cassim), who suffers from motor neuron disease. And he doesn’t want to be alone. As seasons 2 and 3 grow darker, more intense and more revealing, Ray’s losses will move you. But you’ll also always be waiting for him to flash a trademark grin right before the action pops off. The series’ final scene doesn’t disappoint.
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