Justified is still one of the greatest TV shows ever made. Timothy Olyphant’s performance as Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens is nearly as iconic as the hat he wore over the six-season run. So it won’t surprise you that when Justified City: Primeval was announced, I knew I had to watch every episode once they hit Hulu.
Spoilers for Justified and Justified City: Primeval follow
And for those of you who, like me, watched every second of both Justified and Justified: City Primeval, I’m sure you were also thrilled when a certain someone made a cameo in the show’s final scene.
That certain someone? Boyd Crowder played by Walt Goggins, whose performance in the original show was so good that it prevented the showrunners from killing him off in Justified’s premiere season as planned. And it seems that the showrunners couldn’t stay away from Crowder in City Primeval either, given that the final scene of a show that had nothing to do with him was used to set up an entirely new series that will seemingly be based on a manhunt — presumably led by a Givens that had just tried to hang up his hat for good — to bring Crowder to justice.
I’m certainly excited about the prospect of this new series. Part of me wishes this scene had been saved for the beginning of this new sequel series and Justified: City Primeval had been allowed to stand on its own. But I’d be lying if I wasn’t excited for more back and forth between Olyphant and Goggins as Givens and Crowder. Heck, I’d probably watch a show where they actually dug coal together rather than just reminisce about it.
But there’s one thing nagging me in the back of my mind. City Primeval, as good as it was, was missing one thing that made Justified great. And by the very nature of what this sequel series is planning, I’m worried it will be an issue again.
At its core, what made Justified great was the procedural elements
While we now think of Justified for its seasons-long battle between Givens and Crowder, the show really was a procedural TV crime drama. What made it great were the minor criminals of the week — my personal favorite was Fletcher “The Ice Pick” Nix from the season 3 premiere — and the overarching season villains. Bo Crowder (M.C. Gainey), Avery Markham (Sam Elliott), and of course, the incomparable Mags Bennett (Margot Martindale) all were as essential to Justified’s success as much as Boyd Crowder.
But Justified was simply based on an idea spawned from the Elmore Leonard short story Fire in the Hole. The creators had so much to play with because so little had already been said. City Primeval, however, was a fully fleshed-out novel. The story was all there, it just needed to be expertly adapted.
And to be fair, it was a very good adaptation. But it required a miniseries format rather than the seasons of procedural episodes that Justified was allowed to tell its story. And that was noticeably missing from City Primeval. While Boyd Holbrook’s Clement Mansell was as compelling as Crowder, there was no Mags Bennet counterpart in City Primeval.
This new Justified sequel is once again, going to require a miniseries format — at least if it wants to be as good as I hope it can be. If the plot is Givens hunting Crowder in a nationwide manhunt, we can’t have it go for longer than probably six or eight episodes without needing useless filler.
But that means, once again, that we’ll miss Olyphant chasing down criminals of the week as he makes his way toward the southern border and his old nemesis. I just hope that this time around I don’t find myself longing for Harlan County.