5. Justified

Network: FX
Stars: Timothy Olymphant, Walton Goggins, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter, Margo Martindale, Jeremy Davis, Joseph Lyle Taylor, Brad William Henke, Raymond J. Barry, Kaitlyn Dever

Last year, in its premiere run, Justified proved itself to be a damn good show; in 2011, it became a great one. Two key factors played into the FX series’ dramatic improvement, all-important alterations that largely benefited the top-notch performances from lead Timothy Olymphant (as charismatic lawman Raylan Givens) and co-star extraordinaire Walton Goggins (as soulful antagonist Boyd Crowder). The first was a central plot, something that eluded the show’s heads in Season One; the second, casting Margo Martindale as this season’s villain.

Justified’s first season often fumbled its way through a procedural approach, developing its main characters while chasing down a new criminal every week. But this year, Martindale’s Mags Bennet, the queen bee of a rule-breaking family of hillbilly degenerates, supplied both Raylan and Boyd with a mutually disruptive entity. As a result, Justified had its focus, and Season Two handled its storyline with admirable grace, subtlety, and unpredictability.