Michael Rapaport and Timothy Olyphant on Justified
Credit: Prashant Gupta/FX Network

Chilling. And correct? For Raylan Givens, the answer is an emphatic yes. Because he’s Justified, of course, or so he (and we) would like to think. Furious with righteous common sense, offering catharsis for a culture sick and tired of crazy, stupid wrong, Elmore Leonard’s scalawag-cool Kentucky lawman (played by Timothy Olyphant) is a Southern cowboy Buffy, and the bumpkin bogeymen and vampire carpetbaggers who befoul the hollers of his Harlan County home are the demons of his Hellmouth. He slays with bullets or quips or both, and he’s good at it, because he was born to it — and he hates that, so he yearns to hang it up and walk away. That day might be coming soon, for after four seasons, Justified’s once-shiny badge has dulled.

The drama’s Whedon-esque formula of building a year of story around a colorful Big Bad (or two) has never felt more formulaic: This year’s model — Florida thug Darryl Crowe Jr. (Michael Rapaport), fearsome cousin to back-in-the-fold Dewey Crowe (Damon Herriman) — is an effective but generic menace. He needs an injection of interesting, stat. Lonesome star Raylan — split from baby mama Winona (Natalie Zea) — is flirting with surrogate romance (Amy Smart) and trying to save substitute child Little Orphan Loretta (Kaitlyn Dever) from weed-dealing evil. Best frenemy Boyd (Walton Goggins), the show’s most magnetic devil, has, like, 99 problems, and barely one of them is worthy of Goggins’ talent. Building a new drug pipeline? Springing jailed girlfriend Ava (Joelle Carter)? It all feels been-there, done-that.

Slow-burn start? Maybe. Or maybe Justified’s own pipeline has run dry. Bringing back Dewey and Loretta and keeping Winona in the mix with video chats reinforce the feeling of a stalling enterprise trying to please with fan service, not vision. Even Raylan being Raylan is losing its fizz. And at a time when pop culture should be more sensitive about gun violence, watching Raylan shoot holes in Dewey’s whorehouse swimming pool out of sheer contempt was, as intended, funny. But not as much of an iconoclastic kick — or as justifiable — as it used to be. B

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