Air Date: 2010
Writer: Graham Yost
Creator: Graham Yost
Stars: Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter, Natalie Zea
Premise: A U.S. Marshal is transferred to his hometown, where many of the criminal elements are former friends and family.
Raylan Givens may wear a Stetson, but Justified is not set in the old west. No, "Fire in the Hole" begins in present-day Miami, so you can imagine the viewer's surprise when it opens with U.S. Marshal Givens sitting across from crook Tommy Bucks, threatening to make good on an old promise to kill him if they ever crossed paths again. Surely this is just requisite tough talk before the arrest right? Nope. Raylan counts down to three, baiting Bucks to draw ("They always draw," he'll say later), and giving Raylan a justified excuse to gun him down right there in public. And now, Justified has your attention.
Thankfully this isn't some USA procedural, content to keep the awesomeness relegated to that moment and coast on a killer performance of a dry-humored, quick-witted Marshal who's clearly battling some inner demons. No, after that treat Justified dials back from the big city, as Raylan is transferred for his troubles back to his hometown in Harlan County, Kentucky—and we get to see the setting and people responsible for those demons. Later, at least.
The first episode of Justified just keeps with the awesome, pitting Givens against his ultimate nemesis and former friend, Boyd Crowder. We'll later learn that Boyd is something of a chameleon, and in "Fire" he's taken up with a bunch of white supremacists that let him do what he does best: blow shit up.
Adapted from the Elmore Leonard story of the same name, showrunner Graham Yost and co. don't miss a beat translating the author's unique perspective, flavor, and, most importantly, dialogue. Boyd and Raylan bounce off of each other so beautifully that the episode abandons the source material at the last minute, sparing Boyd during their tense, climactic stand-off, turning his and Raylan's frenemy state into the heart of the show.
The star of the hour is still Timothy Olyphant, who in a final scene that sees Raylan pay an unorthodox visit to his ex-wife, solidifies the show as a must-watch. From the Miami rooftop to his dinner table face-off with Boyd, Raylan's been unflappable, almost action movie cool, projecting control and confidence that no matter the situation, no one's quicker with the piece than he is. Then his ex-wife remarks that he's "the angriest man she ever knew" and the intrigue of Raylan returning to his hometown jumps another notch. You can't wait to find out what—and who—made him into the man he is today. In a word: sold. —FT