Justified: Season 2 - Online Review

'There is no better example of that good work than Yost and Martindale's Mags creation, who during the course of just one episode (the first) goes from homely brewer of 'apple pie' to cold hearted murderess.'

There's a fresh new villainous family for Justified Season Two, which starts moments after Series One ends. The Bennetts, led by Margo Martindale's creepily maternal Mags, provide a raw level of antagonist which lets Justified continue to do what it does best: namely build up the Raylan Givens / Boyd Crowder relationship. Though there is great work by all of the Bennett cast in this sophomore effort, make no mistake: this is still really a series about Boyd (Walton Goggins) and Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) and it works just fine on that level.

Which isn't to say that showrunner Graham Yost does not have a job on his hands convincing you of one of this series' major developments, with Raylan love interest Ava (Joelle Carter) switching sides to Boyd. It's a level of soap opera-plotting that is in-keeping with the first series' love quartet, but it still requires some selling. For those already ahead of where I'm up to here: watch for Yost's effective admission of the ridiculous situation in episode two of season three, as Raylan and Boyd joke about, and bring attention to, their various love pursuits.

There's also another effective admission in season three by Yost of two elements that feel weak here compared to what else is offered. Two plot points - involving Winona (Natalie Zea) and, both separately and inter-linked to her, some money - that are developed here are dealt with fairly swiftly at the start of the next season, with good reasoning. Here, they merely detract from the good work going on with the Bennetts.

There is no better example of that good work than Yost and Martindale's Mags creation, who during the course of just one episode (the first) goes from homely brewer of 'apple pie' to cold hearted murderess. The Bennetts do not quite attain tragic, in a somewhat misjudged final episode, but Martindale's work throughout the series is as strong as any villain Justified has so far offered, at least if you accept Boyd as something approaching an anti-hero.

Meanwhile, Boyd and Raylan are hardly left to it, inter-weaving with the Bennett plot consistently and satisfyingly. An early sub-plot with a newly honest Boyd does a terrific job of drawing him back into criminality whilst keeping him sympathetic. Olyphant meanwhile is finally allowed to break out a little from the emotional reticence which pervades his character, in a crackling scene with Boyd, Ava and Arlo (Raymond J. Barry) in Episode 12.

Perhaps though, if there's something that sums up the quality of Justified Season Two it is a character death two thirds of the way in. Though inevitable from very early doors, Justified is not a series that takes any such moment lightly. In Yost's hands it has dramatic impetus and emotional resonance, where another series would just show another life being thrown away. An improvement on the first series and eminently satisfying viewing.




Justified: Season 2 was playing on Netflix.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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