Justified: City Primeval — 7 things to know before you watch

Justified: City Primeval poster featuring Timothy Olyphant
(Image credit: FX)

U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens is back in the saddle again. More than eight years after Timothy Olyphant hung up his hat in the series finale of Justified, the sequel series City Primeval puts him back into action.

The critically acclaimed neo-Western, which aired from 2010 to 2015, was based on Elmore Leonard's stories about Raylan Givens. The maverick marshal was known (and often reprimanded) for dispensing justice as he saw fit. In the series, Givens returns home to Harlan County in the Appalachian mountains area of eastern Kentucky. There, he faces off against local drug lords, white supremacists and other criminals. 

In Justified: City Primeval, Givens will encounter new enemies in a new setting. Here are seven things to know about the Justified sequel before you watch the premiere Tuesday, July 18. 

1. Justified had a universally loved ending

If you don't recall how Justified ended, here's a quick refresher. The long cat-and-mouse game between Givens and Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) finally came to a head. Shockingly, after all the violence and shootouts, both left Harlan alive. 

They faced off with guns pointed at each other one last time, but neither fired. Instead, Givens arrested Crowder.

After a four-year time jump, Givens is back in Florida with his young daughter. He visits Boyd in prison and they have one last conversation about leaving the past behind. So, Justified ended not with a bang, but with bittersweetness.

2. The spinoff comes straight from an Elmore Leonard book

While Justified was based on Elmore Leonard's books, Raylan Givens was only front and center in the story "Fire in the Hole." So over the course of six seasons, the show became its own entity. Creator Graham Yost made big changes when necessary, particularly about Givens' history. 

The spinoff is more of an outright adaptation, taking elements from novel City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit, which actually doesn't feature Givens. But the villain, the sociopathic Clement Mansell aka "Oklahoma Wildman," is the same.

3. Quentin Tarantino is (somewhat) responsible

Co-showrunner Michael Dinner told Entertainment Weekly that fans can (kind of) thank Quentin Tarantino for the spinoff's existence. 

Tarantino famously adapted Leonard's Rum Punch into his 1997 film Jackie Brown. Before that, City Primeval was one of the other books he considered. Then, while shooting Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the subject came up in a conversation between Tarantino and cast member Olyphant.

Dinner explained, "One day the phone rang and it was Tim Olyphant who said, 'I've been sitting on the set with Quentin, and we were talking about this book, City Primeval. We thought it would make a great year of Justified.' So we started kicking around the idea, and FX was into it." 

Early on, Tarantino's name was attached as a possible director. However, he didn't end up helming any episodes.

4. City Primeval is a sequel

Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens in Justified: City Primeval

(Image credit: FX)

This may seem like a no-brainer, since City Primeval is premiering eight years after Justified ended. But we've gotten a lot of questions about if the new show is a sequel and when it takes place. 

Answers: It is definitely a sequel and it takes place 10 years after the events of Justified's (then) series finale. Givens is stationed back in Miami, where he's raising his 15-year-old daughter Willa (played by Olyphant's real-life daughter, Vivian Olyphant). She is a delightfully rebellious chip off the old block. 

5. Expect mostly new faces

Justified boasted a gallery of great guest stars, recurring cast members and series regulars, from Walton Goggins to Margo Martindale to Jeremy Davies. As much as fans might want to see some familiar faces in City Primeval, they shouldn't expect it.

"Some old characters do show up, but that's one of those things the audience is going to have to get their head around: It is a pretty new cast," co-showrunner Dave Andron told EW. "It's a new group of cops that are around him. It's cops in Detroit, not marshals in Kentucky, and it really is a standalone Raylan story, just with a few old friends sprinkled throughout."

The newbies are led by Boyd Holbrook as the villain Clement Mansell and Aunjanue Ellis as Mansell's formidable defense attorney Carolyn Wilder. Plus, the cast includes Adelaide Clemens as Mansell's sweet girlfriend Sandy, Norbert Leo Butz as a detective and Vondie Curtis-Hall as a bar owner. 

6. Raylan Givens is a fish out of water

Timothy Olyphant, Norbert Leo Butz, Victor Williams and Marin Ireland in Justified City Primeval

(Image credit: FX)

Part of what made Justified so absorbing was Givens' long, complicated history with his home area and its residents. He knew almost everybody and they knew him, which made for a toxic, incestuous stew. 

But in City Primeval, Givens head to an unfamiliar place: Detroit. It was Leonard's hometown and figures into most of his work. He was dubbed "the Dickens of Detroit." 

Dinner calls the city the "fourth character" beyond the principal trio of Givens, Mansell and Wilder.

"Raylan's a little bit of a fish out of water in a place that he doesn't understand as well as he understood where he grew up in Kentucky, or Miami where he lives," he noted.

And his cowboy rule-breaking ways aren't really going to fly with the detectives in Detroit, who have their own way of meting out justice.

7. Filming was interrupted by a real shooting

Art and life collided during the production of Justified: City Primeval when a real shooting took place as the cast and crew filmed in Chicago. 

On Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend podcast, Olyphant recounted hearing a series of rapid gunshots while filming in "very, very bad neighborhood." Then, cars drove by a nearby barricade with people in the vehicles aiming "machine-gun fire" at each other.

"It was the scariest goddamn thing. It went on forever,” he said, adding that he grabbed a production assistant and "threw her out of the way."

Olyphant also noted that a police officer on scene described it as "one of the closer calls he ever had."

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Kelly Woo
Streaming Editor

Kelly is the streaming channel editor for Tom’s Guide, so basically, she watches TV for a living. Previously, she was a freelance entertainment writer for Yahoo, Vulture, TV Guide and other outlets. When she’s not watching TV and movies for work, she’s watching them for fun, seeing live music, writing songs, knitting and gardening.