Air Dates: March 16, 2010 – present
Stars: Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, Joelle Carter, Jacob Pitts, Nick Searcy, Natalie Zea, Erica Tazel, Raymond J. Barry, Damon Herriman, David Meunier, Jere Burns, Brent Sexton, William Ragsdale, Jeremy Davies, Margo Martindale, Kaitlyn Dever, Mykelti Williamson, Neal McDonough
In its 2010 premiere run, Justified proved itself to be a 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 in the first season. 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 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 found its focus, and season two handled its storyline with admirable grace, subtlety, and unpredictability.
One of these days, the privileged few who vote on Emmy nominations will wake up, acknowledge the cowboy hat, and give Timothy Olyphant a statue. Each season so far, Olyphant, as US Marshal Raylan Givens, has continued his small-screen reign of excellence. Charming, imposing, and able to crack wise better than most of his TV peers, Olyphant holds the Kentucky-set series down without falling behind his equally proficient co-stars. —MB