One of the more obvious lessons learned from watching the first three episodes of the new FX drama "Justified," is that if U.S. Federal Marshall Raylan Givens tells you he will shoot you, he will shoot you.
Oh, he'll warn you first. And if you're lucky, he'll take pity on you and may not kill you dead on the spot. But he will, very matter-of-factly, shoot you down.
Raylan, played with white-hat-hero perfection by Timothy Olyphant ("Deadwood," "Damages"), is badass for sure. But he's no brute and he's not annoyingly invincible, like too many fictional crime fighters. This complex creation of legendary writer Elmore Leonard is deadly, but civilized. And thank the lord, he has a sense of humor.
In fact, it's that element of dry humor in the middle of all that violence and depravity that lifts "Justified" out of dreary and depressing and into supremely watchable and enjoyable television. And in this (and every) way, "Justified" keeps true to the spirit of Leonard's work.
The show's first episode, airing tonight at 10pm, sets up Raylan's backstory of how he falls from grace and ends up working back in his home state of Kentucky (Yeah, it involves shooting someone. How'd you guess?).
Back in Lexington, Raylan must do his job while navigating a procession of ghosts, including an ex-wife (Natalie Zea from "Dirty Sexy Money") and the new husband she left him for, an ex-con father (Raymond Barry), and a childhood friend gone to the very, very dark side (played just as wonderfully evil as you might expect by "The Shield's" Walton Goggins, right).
Future episodes introduce equally interesting bad guys, some of them quite likable, and Raylan's coworkers: his chief, played by Nick Searcy, and fellow deputies played by Jacob Pitts ("The Pacific") and Erica Tazel ("Jericho").
The second episode is perhaps my favorite so far. It has Raylan tracking an escaped prisoner serving time for the death of his getaway guy, who died under "foreseeable circumstances" during a bank robbery. He explains to Raylan, "Honestly, if you hire a moron for a driver, it's foreseeable." The third episode stars Alan Ruck as a fugitive "dentist" with an affection for "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."
Seriously. Don't miss this show.
"Justified" airs on Tuesday nights at 10pm on FX.