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Friday, March 25, 2011

Justified will "Save My Love"

     I should review FX's Justified more often, as it is one of the best shows currently running. Quite arguably, the best. I don't, though, because it is so, so good, and I like to just relax and enjoy it, without sparing to effort to analyze too much. And how much fun is it to read a review that keeps repeating, 'perfect!'? But we're halfway through season two, so it is time for some sort of update, so time to put on my thinking cap and do my best to lend some insight. I can tell you, this review will be sort of a love fest. I can't think of anything negative to say about the series, one of the few shows on the air that holds that special status.

     This week's episode, "Save My Love", involves almost a comedy of errors, though without any obvious comedy. Winona (Natalie Zea) admits to Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) that she has stolen not just one hundred dollar bill, as she told him last week, but a whole bag full. He helps her sneak the cash back into the courthouse, but a series of events keeps the noose tightening around both of their necks, as they are delayed time and again from returning the money. Raylan's marshal co-workers and some federal agencies become aware of, and curious about, the money, making the urgency more desperate, and culminating in a finale that leaves open the possibility that the story is not yet over. Though it may be finished. I just don't know. Art's (Nick Searcy) face is inscrutable!

     The chemistry between Olyphant and Zea is flawless. I think they make a better pair than Ava (Joelle Carter), whom Raylan was with for much of last season. Ava represents Raylan's past, as she knew him when he was much younger. Raylan was married to Winona in the past, yet Winona gets who Raylan currently is better. Raylan went way back to childhood in romancing Ava, and now is moving up to his young adult life with Winona. Is it a cycle he is trapped in, or will they move forward? Winona's bad deeds further helps the pairing, as up until now, she sometimes seems too good for Raylan, who crosses legal lines frequently. Now, Raylan is almost too good for her, as he would never steal money. Only Winona's regret saves her, and her want to put the money back, and not just so she stays out of trouble.

     This is also an enjoyable outing because Tim (Jacob Pitts), Rachel (Erica Tazel), and Art all get involved in the missing cash caper. Oftentimes, one or more of Raylan's fellow marshals are not featured in any episode. To have all three, and to see them interact so much with Raylan, even being his opponents in this instance, though they don't know it, is a special treat. Each brings something unique to the table, and they are not interchangeable. It's almost a shame to waste such talent on characters not present every week, except they really inform a complete world for the series, even when they are not on screen.

     Adding to the good times, Judge Mike Reardon (the great Stephen Root), who was in one episode of season one, is the one stealing away Winona's opportunities. Raylan's co-workers are main characters, but to keep the other half of the couple busy, the series chose to use a truly fantastic actor, playing a somewhat eccentric judge. Any chance to see Root is a pleasure, and he does not disappoint here. In fact, I cannot think of anyone better to bring in. He is comic relief, but also a driving force. I hope to see Root pop back up more often.

     Boyd (Walton Goggins) is added to the mix when he arrives at the courthouse, too, now serving as a security guard for Ms. Jones (Rebecca Creskoff, Hung), after having lost his job at the mine. Apparently, Ms. Jones intends to use Boyd to help her take down the Big Bads of this season, the Bennett family. This means Boyd and Jones will likely soon be in conflict with Raylan, who is keeping his own eye on the Bennetts. Please, please don't let this ruin Raylan and Boyd's sort-of friendship, which is my favorite relationship on Justified, showing serious growth and change constantly. But until then, Boyd gets to escort her to court. Jones asks Raylan if Boyd is trustworthy, and his answer will be a high point of the season, if not the series. It certainly is a memorable segment of this episode, attempting to vocalize Raylan's murky feelings for the former con.

     Boyd and Jones happen to be in Judge Reardon's court, where Winona is serving as court reporter, and Raylan's co-workers lurk just down the hall, bringing all the characters in the same vicinity. A bomb scare has the marshals protecting Reardon, and looking for his would-be killers. The twists to get every single one of the featured players into the same story would seem unrealistic and unnecessarily acrobatic in most shows. Somehow, Justified accomplishes this effortlessly, every bit falling into place completely naturally.

     There is not even the slightest urge to call anyone involved on any trickery here. Brilliant writing, backed up by amazing actors who bring to life such specific, well defined characters keep all the moving parts running smoothly. It's why there is nothing negative to write about in this review. Everything is so top notch, that try as I might, I can't even find one little fault to pick at. If that's not a glowing enough recommendation to get you to tune in, I have failed as a TV reviewer.

     Watch Justified Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. ET on FX.

Article first published as TV Review: Justified - "Save My Love" on Blogcritics.

For an alphabetical list of all of Jerome Wetzel's Current Season Reviews, please click here.

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