Justified demonstrated at the start of its second season last night that it’s working on a level that is, if anything, even more cool, witty, and serene than its debut season. It takes some guts to avoid trying to rev up the pace just to show viewers we’re back!, and to resist worries about the sophomore-year jinx. Timothy Olyphant is the actor most attuned to Elmore Leonard’s source prose since George Clooney captured the polite-cool-cat pose perfectly in Out of Sight.

Wednesday night’s Justified revisited old friends. Thank goodness Walton Goggins is still around as the grinning bad man Boyd Crowder; even better, Boyd’s dropped much of his born-again piousness but remains a devious rascal. And how nice that Olyphant’s Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens is amorously assiduous in his persistent pursuit of his ex-wife, Winona (Natalie Zea). By the way, fans of Ava (Joelle Carter) did not need to despair, since she’ll now intriguingly, bafflingly be reunited with Boyd. (We love Boyd for his volatility, but why would any woman want to live with that?)

Added to the mix was Mags Bennett (veteran character actress Margo Martindale, getting a fine showcase here), a backwoods big-time pot grower now looking to take over Bo’s market for meth dealing. Mags is as ruthless as her son Dickie (Jeremy Davies – Lost’s Daniel Faraday) is gimpy. Mags has two more sons who are dumber but no less mean than their mama.

Add Raylan’s track-down of a fugitive sex offender, good use of a bear trap, and prickly 14-year-old Loretta, and I thought the season was off to a great start.

How about you?

Twitter: @kentucker

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