The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Raylan Givens is the hero of Justified, the good-lookin’, Lexington-based U.S. Marshal who’s usually one step ahead of the bad guys on the FX television series.
But with four seasons almost done, fans will tell you Harlan County crime boss Boyd Crowder is every bit as essential with his mix of literary reverence and ruthless discipline of his henchmen.
The man who plays Boyd, Alabama-born, Georgia-raised actor Walton Goggins, has another essential character in mind with the show.
“Harlan County has a real mythical, mystical quality in the context of the show,” Goggins says during a phone interview Tuesday. “It’s the seventh character in the show.”
He compares it to the way the city of Los Angeles worked into The Shield, the FX series on which he played Detective Shane Vendrell for seven seasons.
“Lexington and Harlan County are what the show revolves around, what the nature of the show revolves around, so it looms very, very large,” Goggins, 41, says. Referring to the author whose short stories about Raylan Givens inspired the series, he says, “What we try to do is be true to the characters that Elmore Leonard created, and the ways in which they are unique to that part of the country.
“Always, in the back of our ears, are people from Kentucky whispering, ‘You’d better get it right.’”
Goggins has gotten it right and grown his role as much as any character in the show, starting as a white supremacist explosives fiend, becoming a backwoods preacher and eventually evolving into the crime boss of Harlan, though he always seems to be fighting off Northern aggressors who think they can do crime better.
SPOILER ALERT: If you have not watched the Feb. 21, 2012 episode of Justified, maybe because you were watching a basketball game, but intend to, do not read further.
This was an episode where Raylan decided to stop putting up with people’s … uh … stuff.
Frustrated after Winona left him again, Raylan wanted to take a few days off. But, as usual, events down in Harlan keep him on the clock. This time, a pill clinic set up in Raylan’s late Aunt Helen’s house gets shot up as the episode opens, and Raylan has to go down and look into it.
That brings into play this week’s intriguing guest star, Tom Cruise’s cousin and yet another Lost veteran William Mapother, as an Oxy-addicted, prostitute beating pimp who amusingly likes to talk to people about accountability – the ethics of criminals seems to be a recurring theme this season.
Speaking of the bad guys – and there are plenty this season – this is an episode where we are really seeing Boyd (Walton Goggins), Quarles (Neal McDonough) and Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson) start to plot against one another. The obvious conclusion about the pill clinic shootout is that it was Quarles taking a shot at Boyd. But Boyd knows that would be rather obvious and doesn’t jump to any conclusions or action. And he’s right. We find out none of these crime bosses went after the clinic. It was one of Limehouse’s associates, trying to push their operation from the background to the foreground.
This leads to the episode’s most compelling scene, where Limehouse berates the bad lieutenant for stepping out on his own, telling him this could bring a great deal of trouble to Harlan’s black community. In a chilling moment, Limehouse says he will have to make things right, and it doesn’t sound like a it will be easy or pretty.
Speaking of chilling, Quarles has almost as great a scene with Duffy (Jere Burns) where we can see the wannabe white collar criminal is a getting wigged out the more he sees Quarles’ sadistic side. Quarles also thinks he’s pegged Raylan as a bad cop doing Boyd’s bidding. We know that’s not the case, but we can also see how it may seem that way, and setting this up as the city slickers vs. the locals, Raylan and Boyd could end up on the same side of this fight.
At the end of the evening, we do see Raylan and Winona back together, and yes, she did leave because, with a baby on the way, the nature of Raylan’s job is getting to her. Adding an ominous tone to this is Quarles interest in going after Raylan seems to be leaning toward attacking the things Raylan loves, so we can see a situation arising soon where he goes after Winona or even Arlo (Raymond J. Barry). While saying Raylan and his dad are estranged is an understatement, you still have to wonder how Raylan might react if Arlo is attacked, which the scenes from next week seem to indicate could happen.
One mystery reopened is the money in the evidence locker that Raylan put back for Winona last season. It’s gone again, and this week’s final scene gives us a plot twist far from Kentucky.
Right now, midway through the season, Justified episodes are giving us a lot to take in. It starting to feeling like time for some of these situations to start sorting themselves out.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich