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.