The Emmy Award-winning Justified returns for its fifth season with Dewey Crowe (Damon Herriman) heading north to invest a $300,000 settlement from the Marshals Service in a brothel owned by Boyd Crowder, but it isn't long before his cousin Daryl Jr. (Michael Rapaport) and the rest of their Florida crime family arrive to cash in, too. As Daryl looks to consolidate the business in Harlan, Boyd's efforts to help Ava (Joelle Carter) fix her murder trial run aground, forcing him to reach out to ruthless crime bosses from Lexington, Detroit, and even Canada and Mexico. With the Crowes complicating life in Harlan, Boyd enters into a series of ill-fated alliances that threaten to bring him down and expose Raylan Givens' involvement in a mobster's questionable death. With Raylan's future in doubt, a revenge attack catches Art (Nick Searcy) in its crosshairs, unleashing a federal investigation that throws the Crowes into turmoil and threatens Boyd.
"You've got yourself a dark twisted mind, don't you Raylan?
Getting hooked into a television show is like a long drawn out love affair with a cast of characters that you get to meet up with on a weekly basis for anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour. If these people are entertaining and fun, you start to feel like you're part of the group as they grow and become distinct individuals. If a show is worth its salt in any way, each new season should in some way expand on the characters in unexpected yet believable ways while allowing the audience to follow along. 'Justified' has established itself as one of the best shows on television with compelling characters, great action, rich family drama, and a bitter sense of humor. Season five maintains all of the best elements of the show while also working to lay the groundwork for the sixth and final season.
Perpetual screw-up criminal Dewey Crowe (Damon Herriman) and Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) have had a rough and tumble and wildly entertaining run. After Dewey was coerced into committing robberies because he believed his kidneys were removed, he believes he's due some amount of compensation from the U.S. Government. After earning a fast $300,000 settlement, Dewey thinks he's on easy street, that is until the leader of the Crowe clan cousin Daryl (Michael Rapaport) has it in his mind to pull out of Florida and set up shop in Harlan County. In addition to Daryl, Danny (A. J. Buckley), Wendy (Alicia Witt) and young Kendal (Jacob Lofland) make their home in Dewey's back yard - much to Dewey's dismay.
While Raylan is slowly drawn into the Crowe clan's criminal aspirations, he's still trying to put a lid on Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) as well as repair his already strained relationship with his ex-wife Winona (Natalie Zea) so he can actually be a part of his baby daughter's life. When Boyd and Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) form an alliance to import Canadian drugs into Harlan County. Where Wynn Duffy is motivated by lining his pockets with a steady flow of cash, Boyd is in desperate need of cash in order to bribe the right officials in the right places in order to ensure that Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter) gets out of jail after being incarcerated for moving the body of a man she killed.
As Raylan tries to untangle himself from one knot, he finds himself caught up into a bigger mess as the remnants of some of Harlan's worst criminals come to town looking to take things over. With the Crowes on one side and Boyd and Wynn Duffy shoring up their side of things with help from outside money, it becomes necessary to make a deal with one evil to clear out another. As Raylan and Boyd enter into a fragile alliance in order to remove their mutual Daryl Crowe problem - Raylan's Chief Art Mullen (Nick Searcy) begins to suspect Raylan's involvement in the death of a mob hitman.
After the amazing second season, 'Justified' has maintained its status as a top-tier drama with rich characters and fantastic plotting. That said, the show has had an issue with trying to top or outdo that amazing Emmy-winning second season and that drive is on full display with this fifth season - to the slight detriment of the final product. Seasons Three and Four saw some solid new villains show up on the scene, some great special guest appearances, as well as some tense stories. Season Five tries to grab all of those elements and succeeds, for the most part, but a relatively non-threatening villain, some overly complicated dramatics, and a number of loose ends keeps this season from running as efficiently as past years.
Another issue facing season Five is the fact that season six is known to be the series finale. With that big final story arc just on the horizon, there is a decided lack of tension to this season. There are some amazing elements for sure, and Michael Rapaport does an amazing job as Daryl Crowe, it's just the primary story of the Crowe clan doesn't really add anything worthwhile to the psychological and ethical chess match between Boyd and Raylan. While I do appreciate this as an attempt to incorporate the late amazing Elmore Leonard's stories and characters into the series, they just don't fit the overarching story that's been built to this point. Boyd's predominant preoccupation with Ava's situation in jail and his quest to get her out while she deals with a sleazy prison guard proves to be a big distraction at times. While the resolution to that particular issue and the strain it holds on Boyd and Ava's relationship leads to a perfect setup for season 6, it feels stretched entirely too thin for how much time is spent on it. As with the entirety of the Raylan/Boyd/Ava relationship, the main draw is seeing these three characters and the respective actors who play them share some screen time but for too much of this season they're kept apart to do their own thing and those separate stories just aren't strong enough on their own.
Overall 'Justified The Complete Fifth Season' works and proves that the show is still a fierce force of television production, it also shows that you can eventually have too much of a good thing. While this season is certainly a bridge season to the finale run, it still proves to be a great time and a treat to the fans. I appreciate that it tried to bring in some new elements and the expanded mythology of the Crowe clan can be a bit fun at times in that deliciously violent sort of way. 'Justified' is a great show that I will be sad when it ends, but I'll also be happy knowing that it is ending while it's still a good show and before it slips into the dregs of mediocrity as so many prolonged television dramas tend to do.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Justified: The Complete Fifth Season' arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Sony Pictures packed onto three BD50 Region Free discs. Housed in a standard blue 3-disc Blu-ray case, each disc opens directly to their respective main menus. This set also comes with an Ultraviolet Digital HD voucher for the entire season.
As with the rest of the series thus far, this 1.78:1 1080p transfer for 'Justified: The Complete Fifth Season' is a real beauty, but not quite a sparkling example of HD perfection. Detail levels, as can be expected, are immaculate and provide a rich sense of the show's intricate production design from the rough hollers of Harlan County to Raylan's office in Lexington. Facial features, costuming, and scenery details are on full display. The show maintains the warmer amber tones of the previous seasons while also providing a cooler and more drab coloring for the few scenes that take place in Detroit or involve the Canadian mob. Blacks are in strong order and provide a nice sense of depth to the show - especially in the sunny outdoors scenes. Where this season, more than I had noticed in previous suffers in its respective Blu-ray outing is with some slight, but noticeable compression artifacts. Throughout some video noise creeps in and there is some banding on display. While not a terrible effect and it certainly doesn't dominate this season's amazing HD image, it does pop up knocking this score back a point or two.
One of the things I've always loved about 'Justified' is the shows rich sound design, and 'Justified: The Complete Fifth Season' does not disappoint in this arena. With each episode getting full DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio tracks there is so much to hear and appreciate with each track. Sound elements have plenty of pop and presence and never overlap each other allowing the background ambients, the dialogue and the show's score to maintain their presence. Imaging holds up and even surpasses previous seasons a bit as there is a lot going on at all times in this season with unique environments like a prison yard, a Florida swamp, as well as the rough and tumble joint known so well to fans as Audrey's. As the track largely keeps to the midranges, levels are spot on allowing you to appreciate scenes of action-packed gunfire and then delicately segue to a conversation.
Audio Commentary: Episode S5E01 A Murder of Crowes has a fantastic audio commentary with show creator Graham Yost, episode director Michael Dinner, writer Fred Golan, and actor Damon Herriman who plays the lovable Dewey Crowe throughout the series. It's a solid commentary track and I wish these guys had been assembled to do commentaries for all the episodes.
Deleted Scenes: (HD 9:03) A collection of five deleted scenes for various episodes found on the disc. Some of the moments offer a little more light on a particular scene, but overall they're throwaway exposition for material that comes up again later in their respective episodes.
The Big House: Prison Set Tour: (HD 8:52) Production Designer Dave Blass tours the closed California prison facility that has since been turned into a well-used Hollywood stage allowing for a number of shows and films to be shot there.
Getting the Shot: (HD 7:00) A look at the shooting style and process of cinematographer Francis Kenny. It's a solid, if a bit brief, look at what goes into creating the show's unique look and feel and maintaining that continuity throughout an entire season.
The Onion Eulogizes Elmore Leonard: (HD 2:59) Actor Patton Oswalt reads the touching but slightly funny eulogy for the late great writer.
The Coolest Guy in the Room: (HD 36:12) The cast and crew of 'Justified' take a look back at the amazing career of writer Elmore Leonard whose short stories and novels served as the basis of the show and provided a lot of inspiration. A really awesome heartfelt piece.
King Lear: (HD 4:11) A look at shooting the very complicated scene. A bit short, but when you put it in context of the particular scene it's actually a really cool watch.
Season of the Crowe: Making Season Five: (HD 21:42) A great look at what drove the show to expand on the Crowe family legacy, increasing actor Damon Herriman's role within the show beyond a few sporadic appearances as well as a look at how these characters intersect within the show's primary story arc.
Deleted Scenes: (HD 5:25) Another collection of short scenes that didn't make the final cut of their respective episodes. Nothing groundbreaking here but still some good writing and performances to see.
Audio Commentary: Episode S5E13 Restitution featuring co-writer Fred Golan, co-writer Dave Andron and actresses Joelie Carter ad Alicia Witt. It's a great commentary that deals with the closing of a storyline and the setup of the story that leads into the final season. It's also cool to hear from these actresses and their respective roles throughout the season.
Deleted Scenes: (HD 2:06) Only two deleted scenes here and there really isn't much to report since they're so brief that it's hard to feature where they would fit within their respective episodes.
Writer's Diary: A Week of Starvation: (HD 22:06) Writer Chris Provenzano take a look at what went into shooting episode S5E12 Starvation. There is a lot of behind the scenes material here and it's a pretty great feature. I wish one had been set up for the finale episode Restitution as well, but this is still a worthwhile watch.
Raylan Givens: Two Roads Diverge: (HD 3:14) This is a pretty great look at how Raylan Given's life could have gone as reflected by actor David Koechner's Deputy Greg Sutter and Eric Roberts' Agent Miller. Where Sutter is a calmer, family-oriented guy, Miller is a cold-blooded agent who has given up his entire life to his work. It's an interesting dynamic that serves the show well.
The Wall of Death: Season Five Body Count: (HD 2:42) This is a brief but kind of fun look at the kill count for this season and how throughout the pre-production and production process the creators decide what characters die and how.
'Justified: The Complete Fifth Season' may not reach the show's peak of season 2, but it's still a very strong season and fans should love it. If you're new to the show, this is the wrong season to jump in on. There is entirely too much backstory and setup. As with the previous Blu-ray releases of each respective season, Season Five looks fantastic on Blu-ray with a thundering DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track to match. Add in a bunch of extra features, some of which are dedicated specifically to the late great Elmore Leonard, and you have the makings of a highly recommended Blu-ray release!