Other than medical dramas, cop shows seem to be the most prevalent genre on TV. I'm never really excited when a new police drama comes along, since we get around two to four new ones every year, with most of them bordering on mediocrity. They usually follow the tried and true method of troubled detectives that don't exactly play by the rules. It's hard to ever find a detective in a police show that has it all together. Most of them are pretty unstable human beings.
Enter Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant). Now this is an interesting cop in a very unorthodox series. Raylan is a cowboy stuck in the big city world of Miami. He wears alligator skin boots and a sturdy cowboy hat to work every day. He talks in short, intimidating sentences. A man of few words. That makes him all the more interesting. Raylan's calm exterior is matched equally by his bubbling anger-filled interior. See, Raylan has given a certain criminal 24 hours to get out of town or he's going to personally kill him. This isn't your normal "I'm going to kill you threat." Raylan treats it with a sort of southern charm that makes it palatable, but threatening at the same time. When the criminal refuses to leave, Raylan makes good on his promise.
Since this all went down at a popular, high-scale hotel in Miami, the US Marshal service decides to get Raylan out of the limelight for a while so the investigation can happen. They send him to his hometown in Kentucky. It's the last place Raylan wanted to go, but he's stuck here now, with all the people he knew from his childhood. He's forced to revisit old acquaintances and soon finds out that people aren't exactly the same as when he left. One of his past workmates (Walton Goggins) has turned into the premiere Neo-Nazi of the town, his ex-wife has married someone else, and here's Raylan, thrust back into this situation that he never wanted to be in again.
What makes 'Justified,' based on a short story by the inimitable Elmore Leonard, such an engaging cop drama? Timothy Olyphant's portrayal of Raylan. That's my short answer. This is a police officer that you haven't seen in many movies or TV shows. He's cool, calm, and under control, but you can just tell an immense pool of anger is simmering below the surface. Instead of using outright violence to get answers, Raylan is cordial with the people he meets and learns more about them from talking with them than he'd ever learn from bashing their skulls in.
'Justified' has a very different feel to it. This isn't a cop show that works on a formula. This is a show with rich characters that are easy to connect with. The writing is also fantastic. Raylan treats everyone with kindness and respect, but you never forget for one moment that he means business. This isn't Vic Mackey tracking down the bad guys by beating the information out of a local snitch. This is a man who logically discusses and thinks through what he's about to do. Often, we as the audience have no idea what Raylan is planning, until he does it, then we find ourselves saying, "Yeah, that makes perfect sense."
'Justified' isn't about lingering cliff hangers, and it doesn't rely on baiting its audience into watching the next episode. Instead, it's populated with a believable cast, a fascinating angle on the cop drama, and one of the best leads on TV right now. I never thought I'd care much for 'Justified' as I wrote it off as being another addition to the long line of cop shows. Boy was I wrong.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Justified' finds its way to Blu-ray in a three-disc set. The discs are packed in an oversized keep case, much like the one used to house season seven of '24.' I have noticed that the swinging arm in the middle of the case, which holds discs one and two, has a tendency to catch under the lip of disc three which is in the back in its own hub. This can be frustrating at times. Disc one contains five episodes, but discs two and three have four episodes each. One really nice feature is that each disc lists, in text, the special features that can be found on that disc.
There's little bad to say about 'Justified's look on Blu-ray. 'Justified's 1080p video presentation looks very good for a TV show.
It thrives when it comes to fine detail. Each tiny hair on Olyphant's goatee is visible during close ups. It's easy to see beads of sweat on characters as they toil under the hot Kentucky sun. Colors are bright and bold. Greens and browns play a prominent role whenever Raylan finds his way out into the Kentucky countryside (which is actually California). Blacks are a little flat, with some scenes featuring a few crushing shadows here and there, but that's only when the scene becomes very dark. During the first episode, when the two white supremacists blow up the church with a rocket launcher the shadow delineation is superb.
Even though the first disc is packed with five episodes, I didn't notice any compression noise hampering the overall viewing experience. Digital anomalies of every kind are kept at bay, including banding, aliasing, and blocking. This is a clean, well-done transfer. One of the best looking TV shows I've seen on Blu-ray so far.
'Justified' comes complete with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that rivals the performance of the video presentation.
Even though 'Justified' isn't all gunfights and explosions all the time, this audio mix still packs a punch. First, the dialogue is presented cleanly and clearly through the front and center channels. There are a lot of low-voiced conversations were Raylan calmly explains what's going on. He's so soft spoken anyway that it's nice to have an audio mix that gives his softer dialogue a more prominent place to flourish. I know I said that 'Justified' doesn't live off of gunfights and explosions, but when the audio mix is called on to perform in that area it doesn't disappoint. When that rocket zooms into that church and explodes, you'll feel it. The rear channels are given a bit of work to, creating some great ambient sound. When Raylan travels out into the Kentucky countryside birds can be heard chirping and cicadas singing. The cityscape and busy US Marshal office feature a wide variety of urban ambience to let us know exactly the kind of place Raylan is in. The rears also harbor quite a few panning effects as helicopters circle overhead.
Much of 'Justified's audio mix relies on the subtle conversations between characters, and there it really excels. Even with a more subdued soundtrack, this mix is still able to excite and enthrall when it needs to. Fans of the show will be very happy with this.
Yost takes control in most of the commentaries as lead voice. He asks questions to the other participants and they respond with their answers. The first commentary they talk about how much of a problem the hat was in the show. It wasn't the hat that Elmore Leonard wanted, but it was the hat that fit Olyphant.
I also liked when Olyphant showed up to comment on the "Hatless" commentary. It's always nice when the main star comes by and gives a commentary.
Everyone on the commentaries has great chemistry with each other. Yost does a great job keeping the commentary focused. These commentaries are going to be great sources of information for fans of the show.
If you were like me, and you were thinking that 'Justified' is just another cop show, then I implore you to reconsider. It's more than a cop show. Raylan is one of the most fascinating characters on TV. Learning what makes him tick is one of the most enjoyable parts of watching the show. The video and audio are both tremendous for a TV show on Blu-ray, and there's a great assortment of extras to round out this set. I would recommend this show to anyone. This Blu-ray comes highly recommended.