Western Watchins #126

 

Something like this starts and you know inevitably that it’s somehow got to end. Justified began in 2010 and over the course of six seasons took us all on a ride through the hills and hells of Eastern Kentucky with almost eighty episodes of the best television you’ll ever get a goddamn look at. Most of my Watchins are around twelve or thirteen hundred words long and feature a dozen pictures or so. I could write ten times as many words and not fully explain my appreciation for this show or properly caress you into watching it if you haven’t already done so.  I could post a panoply of pictures to expose you to the epic shit-tons of guest stars piled high upon an already outstandingly impressive main cast, but again, my thoughts on the images might not move you to invest the time to see any of them in action. So I’m left, here at the end of my day, seated and solemn like a distiller ready to boil down this meaty masterpiece unto its purest and most convincingly flavorful form. Justified had seasonal story arcs and a few more series spanning main arcs but the soul that lived in the heart that beat in the breast of this, the lord of all lawman shows, is one simple, time tried relationship between two men.

Marshal Raylan Givens and outlaw Boyd Crowder.

 

 

Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins in what might be the performances of their lives. These two were born for these roles harder than Ben Affleck was born to never play a superhero. For more than half a decade, Oly and Gogs took each other to so many different deadly dances that the will they/won’t they/wtf-did-they-just-do dynamic almost takes on a life of its own. And this story is brimming full with life. Several lives in fact. And the hero and the villain are touched by them all and touch them all back, some more violently than others. But for a white hat chasing a black hat in a gray world kind of show populated by guns and gusto Justified never slips into cliché, is rarely predictable and remained fresh throughout its run. Henry Winkler never once appeared in an episode because no sharks ever needed jumping. In a world of Dexters and Sons of Anarchys that sought to convince us the only way to write a series finale was to hire writers who had never seen the show, Justified‘s end was a happy slap upside the head reminder that great entertainment still wanders the wilderness along with lumberjack serial killers and the worst, unnecessarily computer generated biker gang boss in history. And unlike Jax Teller’s last, this ride was always fun.

There were of course serious times and sentimental ones and a heavy sadness grew in every dark corner of those Kentucky hollers we came to love over the years but in the end there was always at least a little bit of hope. Elmore Leonard, who created Raylan Givens and wrote the original novella upon which this show was based, liked his good guys to win even if things got bad along the way. Breaking Bad began as a Disneyland fantasy only to end in a damnation that forced you to feel every damnable act. All merriment was exorcised from that show like a demon. Thankfully the better angels of Justified‘s nature proved ”gritty” could still exist in a narrative that kept well outside of the godawfully depressing. Justified always managed to keep its heart light which is an admirable undertaking considering that heart’s size. I rode along for all the concern and for all the carefree too, and I’d enjoyed every country mile. It was mentioned, at least a few times, that Raylan and Boyd used to dig coal together. By sticking close to those two, the producers made sure that no matter how big the world felt you realized this tale didn’t much meander outside of one small town. You moved in as a new resident during the first episode and were sad to be packing up and moving on come the last.

But knowing when to go, and doing that on your own terms, brings its own joy. And that’s why weekly editions of Western Watchins end here today.

I know. I can hear the collective gasp of all four of you as you wonder what you’ll do for five minutes every Thursday morning now but don’t worry…I’m not done writing. Not even done with reviewing westerns. But there is a time for everything and now these wonderful reviews have had theirs. I kept my promise and never once stopped a one of them once I had begun. Sometimes they were fantastic, a few times I was delightfully surprised, more often than I’d wanted all I got was garbage and the stench of that pile wasn’t worth the sniffin’. I’d almost wrapped things up at 100 with Josey Wales but a new reader left me a simple comment that encouraged to me to continue. My words are marked with humor and their own inspiration. That’s a gift I don’t take lightly, a blessing I gladly share and the drive to do so weighed on me so much that the thought of ending my Watchins would bring furrows to my forehead and knots to my gut. I had to understand that it’s not the subject matter being discussed as much as it is the man behind the discussion who truly matters. I’m proud that for more than two years I’ve used my beloved westerns as a springboard to crack jokes and wax poetic about everything under the sun. I’m proud that I’ve made you laugh, moreso that I’ve made you think. You keep on coming back here and, in one manner or another, I’ll keep doing both. Now, before we ride off…

Justified is an undeniably outstanding show and one that’s incredibly special to me on a personal level to boot. My wife and I started watching this show with a dear friend of ours and finished it off the exact same way. That man is one of only three in this world I know who, beyond any shadow, would be there for me no matter the cost to himself physically, emotionally or financially. Unplanned, he and I both drained the remaining whiskey from our glasses just as Raylan and his Chief did the same on screen making for one culminating toast I’ll never forget. Then it all ended. Just as it had begun. With Raylan and Boyd on opposite sides of that proverbial coin. How do you even rate the kind of emotion I feel for all of this?

With something as unique as the show itself.

Timothy Olyphant had starred in Deadwood, a glorious show that never got the glorious send off it deserved. This time around I think Sheriff Bullock via Marshall Givens would have none of that. One shining Silver Star then is what I’ll leave here for Justified. The cylinder sits empty, no more triggers need be pulled, the smoke will clear and that star will forever shine. I’ve seen some tremendous T.V. in my day but nothing as good as all this, to say it’s once in a lifetime viewing is not at all an exaggeration.

And I’m not at all exaggerating when I say that it’s been my pleasure to write these 126 reviews, for myself and for all of you. Finding the right place to stop was a decision I did not take lightly and once I’d set my sights on Justified the additional burden of not only giving it a perfect sendoff but one for the Watchins as well sat with no little weight upon my mind. I’d already delayed it by a week and even contemplated pushing it off again doubting my abilities to compose, at the current moment or any future one, the perfect goodbye. But perfect is just an excuse. Wait for perfect and you’ll die having gotten not a damn thing done. I will never write the perfect review. I will never draw the perfect picture. I will never run the perfect race. I will never be the perfect husband. I will never be the perfect friend. And neither will you. But that’s a wonderful reason to get up tomorrow and every day thereafter my dear amigos.

Just to see if, on that particular day, you actually can.

Western Watchins: It’s time

 

Got me a busy week ahead, got a busier weekend on the tail end of that and I got a feeling in my gut that next week’s Watchins is gonna be something special. I didn’t feel justified in rushing it out the barn door so allow me instead seven days of delay along with the following insight.

If you’re in a room with other people and you’re the only one talking, no one is listening.

We all know folks like this. The moment they’re in earshot they’re shooting and it’s an unassailable barrage about what they’ve been up to, how great they are and what they’ve been up to makes them even greater. Even preachers, motivational speakers and candidates for public office pause and whether through direct conversation or simply casual eye contact they’ll confirm that you’re hearing them and, more importantly, they are hearing you. Good public speakers acknowledge you, are interested in you. The bad ones aren’t interested in much past the edge of the stage. Someone who listens builds a rapport and earns your respect. Someone who never shuts the fuck up will never be afforded these treasures.

And treasures, I can tell you, they are.

When someone shares with me after an event, in person or online, about how much fun they had, how inspired they’ve become or perhaps just how they felt noticed for the first time in forever, well that right there is my definition of success. And it’s a success more valuable to me than any gold. Anyone can talk into a microphone but it’s another thing entirely to change someone’s life for the better while doing so and have your own life change in return. It’s a tremendous gift, one I’m terribly thankful for, and it all comes back to listening. To the audience as a whole and to each individual heart in attendance.

I’ve stood in front of thousands over the years at so many outings I’ve lost count. As an established attention whore my breast, along with other more manly sounding parts, has always swelled with excitement. Excitement knowing that I’ll soon be bathed in fleeting admiration and cell phone flickerflash sure, but also so excited, more excited, the most excited…that right then and there I’ve got the opportunity to make a lasting connection to anyone within the sound of my voice. I’m here for you, you’re here for me.

My thunder cracks, and the room goes boom!

I stand in front of you all now in much the same way. For years a few of you have faithfully read my reviews. You all know my favorites, the rest and the worst. It’d be a real shame if I went on ranting and never took a moment to quietly see what y’all have to say. That’s important. Bein’ pals is a group effort else we’re just a gang of miscreants with a mal appropriated mouthpiece that never lets another open theirs. Everyone’s got a voice and while we all use them in different ways not a damn one is any better than any other just for being louder. So for a week I’m gonna go silent on the subject of that there western genre instead hoping you will do the kindness of sharing with me, here or on Facebook, what your favorite western is. Or the one that should be avoided at all cost. Or one of both flavors if’n you’re feeling inclined.

Know how very much I appreciate you, the dedicated, that have kept with me for so long. Hell, I don’t even know how many of you are really out there but figure if I just sit still for a bit, I might just find out.

Gracias, mis amigos, muchas gracias.