Justified: City Primeval Review

Justified: City Primeval
Having left his old stomping ground of Harlan, Kentucky, a few years previously, US Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) is working in Miami. However, after a pair of car thieves interrupt a trip with his discipline-challenged daughter Willa (Vivian Olyphant), Givens ends up in Detroit, wrapped up in a case surrounding a judge and unpredictable criminal Clement Mansell (Boyd Holbrook).

by James White |
Published on

Streaming on: Disney+

Episodes viewed: 8 of 8

Though it was much praised during its original run (2010-2015), Justified was never quite seen as prime Peak TV material in the same way as, say, The Sopranos. Which is unfair: when it was on top form, it was absolutely fantastic, full of memorable villains, clever stories, and, at the quietly swaggering centre of it all, Timothy Olyphant's Marshal Raylan Givens. A lawman with an itchy trigger finger and conflicted feelings about his upbringing, Givens became one of the best examples of crime writer Elmore Leonard's work on screen, surrounded by loyal friends and often facing off against one of the most charismatic villains in TV history – Walton Goggins' Boyd Crowder. With six seasons under its belt, Justified could have happily ridden (well, driven) off into the sunset, confident that it would be remembered warmly, if not in tones of reverence.

Justified: City Primeval

Yet in an age where every vaguely recognisable movie is fuel for a remake or a legacy sequel, along comes Justified: City Primeval, run by Dave Andron and Michael Dinner, both of whom wrote on the original run of the show. And it's a relief to discover that this is an entertaining and well-focused example of bringing a series back. Raylan regularly skirted the rules when it came to law enforcement, and his particular bag of tricks is even more controversial in the era of police brutality and racism. Yet he's also a man with a strict moral code, and the spin-off examines both of these concepts while maintaining everything that makes the character work. Ditto Olyphant's return to the role, with a little extra wisdom but all of the attitude still intact. He knows he's far from perfect, but when he's working a case, there's no stopping him.

The new show keeps to the original's workable formula, with the city setting making for fresh new ground to tread.

The nepo baby conversation rears its head via Olyphant's real-life daughter as Raylan's 15-year-old and Vivian Olyphant's work as Willa offers perfectly fine teenage energy (and she naturally plays well against her dad), but when she's shipped back off to Miami a few episodes in, we don't really miss her not-all-that-convincing rebel without a cause.

Elsewhere, King Richard's Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor is a standout as ambitious lawyer Carolyn Wilder, putting her own career (and life) at risk as the legal eagle behind Clement Mansell, Boyd Holbrook's volatile criminal. Mansell isn't up there with Crowder (or Margo Martindale's excellent Mags Bennett), but he's a watchable counterpart for Raylan's Old West-feel cop.

A big part of what made the original series work was the spin it put on some familiar crime genre tropes – Givens' world is populated by bribe-happy officials, troubled women and dopey henchmen (in City Primeval's case, there is an Albanian crime family that becomes involved). And the new show keeps to that workable formula, with the city setting making for fresh new ground to tread. If the team can bring back Raylan (and his hair) in these manageable, effectively small doses (the miniseries ends with one almighty sequel tease), then it will be a welcome return for the cowboy marshal and a chance to finally achieve the recognition he deserves.

It may not match Justified at its prime, but this fresh exploration of Marshal Givens works on a level that will serve to keep veteran viewers happy indeed. And yes, the mane is still intact.
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