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TV Review: Justified – “Save My Love”

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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.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome is the creator and writer of It's All Been Done Radio Hour, a modern scripted live comedy show and podcast in the style of old-timey radio serials, and the founder of the Columbus-based entertainment network, IABDPresents. He is also the Chief Television Critic for Seat42F.com and a long-time contributor for Blogcritics. Plus, he works fiction into his space time. Visit http://iabdpresents.com for more of his work.
  • Ka Mai

    Thanks for the +ve review. I love the series so much. Actually one thing you mention is that you are worried the relationship between Raylan and Boyd could be compromised by the Bennett takedown. ie Both of them coming from different sides.

    Actually this confrontation is possibly inevitable, however, I personally would trust the writers and actors to bring this scenario to life in a very plausible and satisfying way. One thing I am loving with Justified is the natural and realistic way things play out. Not forced, not melodramatic. Exciting, poignant and conclusive. Plausible and therefore believable. I would suggest just laying back and enjoying the ride! Ive not been let down yet – the show just improves with every episode like a fine malt!

  • Ka Mai – You are very right. The writers are brilliant. I am not worried it will be mishandled; rather, they have built up tension in the inevitable confrontation, as they should. I am looking forward to it!

  • Rufus

    Love the review. A few points. I disagree with you on the subject of Winona. I think she is the worst person for him. She left him for a salesman who “wanted things”, like she does. She isn’t willing to let anyone know that they are now seeing each other as she wonders if they can be happy together. Then the money. She takes her own sweet time telling Raylan the truth about just how much money she stole ($211,000.00). Raylan is so good at his job yet lousy with relationships, making him very human. Ava is willing to accept Raylan (there was a crush that was never realized til season one)but her murder conviction makes her someone who his employers deem unacceptable for him to continue to date. Winona is someone who may love sneaking around with Raylan but I think she just may love things a bit more. Her theft a good reason for him to walk away.

    Then we have Boyd. I think that Mine executive (Carol) would do better to listen to what he said about her tempting him back to his outlaw ways. This episode moves everyone into place for a final confrontation that makes me wonder just who Boyd will take sides with. The last people who took him for granted are dead, what makes Carol any different?

  • Rufus – You make some excellent points. I can think of no argument against them. 🙂 I really hope Boyd chooses the ‘right’ side, and perhaps it’s my optimism, but I think he will. He took out his previous ‘co-workers’ because they were going to hurt him. Carol surely only sees him as cannon fodder, so I doubt he will protect her more than he has to. But I don’t want him back in jail!

  • Rufus

    Jerome- I’m right with you when it comes to Boyd. Remember he was reading Of Human Bondage and the sum of that book for me was how people come to accept the good and bad after so many struggles throughout their lives. Boyd is 40 and I think that he really wants to change and the fact that Ava is looking at him as someone she can talk to is proof of that…okay he is still a thief and caused some death…;)

    We have two female antagonists this year who are every bit as nasty as Bo. Mags has a plan that has Carol looking for a final solution. Thing is that Boyd is now in the mix and look what happened to the last people who took him for granted.

  • Rufus – Yep. Very true.

    I adore Mags! She is such a great character, and I enjoy the actress playing her. So far, every scene she has been in, I am just entranced. Obviously, she’s bad, but I love having her on the show.