It wouldn't be a stretch to say that 'Justified' features some of the best writing on television. In fact, I'd be so bold as to say that it does indeed feature the best writing on television.
I remember watching a documentary about the different dialects of America in my Linguistics class. The documentary discussed how we judge the intellect of people simply by the way they sound. Depending on accents we form preconceived notions of how smart people are. This documentary debated the idea that Americans as a whole think people with Southern sounding accents are dumb. Maybe that's just the way Americans' minds work, but 'Justified' uses this to its advantage.
Its characters are unassuming, but buried under their polite Southern accents are boiling pots of Appalachian rage. Every line spoken in 'Justified' has two meanings. People are cordial and polite on the outside, but don't let that fool you. They veil their threats with words making even a "Hi, how ya doing?" sound menacing and uneasy. That's part of why I like 'Justified' so much. It's hard to ever get a direct read on these characters. At just the moment you think you know them something is changed drastically, causing you to question your allegiances all over again.
In the first season Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) had his hands full with the Crowder family trying to take over Harlan County with their numerous illicit activities. With the help of a newly converted Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) Raylan was finally able to rid the world of papa Crowder and much of their illegal activity.
With the Crowder gang broken and gone, a power vacuum has risen. Stepping in where the Crowders left off are the Bennetts led by Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale). Mags is flanked by her three boys Coover (Brad William Henke), Dickie (Jeremy Davies), and Chief of Police Doyle (Joseph Lyle Taylor). They're aiming to put a strangle hold on Harlan County's criminal element.
'Justified' should be lauded for something else. Its strong female characters are a refreshing sight in a world of television that doesn't normally allow that kind of female behavior. Mags is a tough, scary gang leader. She's just as, or even more, ruthless than the men that surround her.
Goggins indeed steals the show, again. You never know exactly what Boyd is up to or what his angle is. He's constantly surprising you. It's simply an enjoyable performance to watch because you constantly are trying to figure out what exactly is going on in his head. Has he turned over a new leaf and left the life of crime behind him? Was his conversion to Christian ways as pure as he says it was, or is it all a ruse? The mystery behind Boyd's true intent is just one of the many pleasures to be had in season two.
As I stated above, the true gift of this show is its brilliant writing. I'm convinced that there isn't better dialogue on TV. Delivering this kind of material takes experienced actors, ones who can pull off the double or even triple meanings that come with a seemingly simple line of dialogue. The dialogue here means everything. It isn't just used for expository ends. It's one of the few shows that uses its dialogue to actually explore its character's deeper emotions.
'Justified: The Second Season' is every bit as good as season one was. You feel like you're in a constant state of unease as Givens comes head to head with Mags Bennett. Though their conversations may seem polite and respectful there's always that threatening undertone of "I'm going to blow your brains out at any moment."
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Justified' is distributed on Blu-ray by Sony. It comes in an oversized keepcase with three discs. There's a swinging hub in the middle of the case that houses two discs back to back. Disc one has five episodes, while the second and third discs have four episodes each. No booklet is included to tell you about each episode or its special features. The back of the case states that this release is good for both A and B regions.
Continuing with the visual success of the first season on Blu-ray, the second season has an almost identical look to it. The 1080p picture, while at times can be gritty, looks outstandingly good for a television show.
It's the fine detail in each well-lit scene that will first catch your eye. Closeups are revealing, shining light on pores, fine facial hair, and the striking beauty of stars like Joelle Carter and Natalie Zea. Colors are bold, especially the lush greens of what is supposed to be the Kentucky countryside ('Justified' is actually filmed in California). Browns are earthy while the free-flowing blood is as crimson as they come.
If I do have a couple complaints they are the same things I had a problem with during my review of the first set. Dimly lit interiors suffer from quite a bit of crushing and noise. Much of this is due to 'Justified's intentionally gritty look, but there are times in Art's office where shadows simply swallow up characters without remorse. The other concern, which is a light one, is that some of the scenes where Raylan is driving around look like terrible green screen effects. There's one nighttime shot in the car near the end of the season where color seems to have been sucked out, and while the background is black, the car and the people inside it have turned a light metallic grey color. If I remember right though, the green screen problems were part of the first season too, and I remember the showrunners talking about trying to make them look better as time went on. Even though they were aware of the problem, it still persists in this season.
Those two relatively small complaints aside, 'Justified' season two looks great on Blu-ray. There are no compression artifacts to speak of. No banding or aliasing to distract or ruin your viewing experience. If you were satisfied with the first season on Blu-ray you'll be happy with this.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix works just as well as its solid video counterpart. This season of 'Justified' seemed to be a bit more action packed that last season. More gunfights, fighting, and explosions which in turn led to a lively high-def soundtrack.
Dialogue is the most important, doubly so when we're talking about 'Justified.' Missing one line of dialogue could be disastrous since so much of the character and plot development is hidden away in cleverly written lines featuring gobs of Southern slang. So, it's a good thing that dialogue is always clear and comes cleanly through the front and center speakers depending on directionality.
Rears aren't active all the time, but when they are you'll be glad they're there. Not only do they provide decent ambient sound inside crowded courthouses and town meetings, but they also are home to some very specific and important sounds that have to do with the plot as a whole like gunfire, the pop-pop-pop of firecrackers, or the wailing of sirens coming up from behind.
The bass is heavy and used on occasion, the sub especially thumps for the hip-hop-influenced theme song. It also makes its presence known during fire fights and large explosions. It isn't constantly rumbling, but when called upon it does its job well.
This season is a little lighter on special features. There are no audio commentaries this time around which is a real bummer, but seems to always be the first thing that goes if a studio is trying to cut down on bonus features.
'Justified' is unlike any other show on TV. It's the writing that really sets it apart. It never feels a need to condescend to its characters simply because they may sound like they aren't intelligent. They play on our inherent prejudices and have actually ended up creating some of the smartest characters on TV. What a great show. With the solid audio and video presentations this show and this season come highly recommended.