Justified – A TV Series Review – Part 2 – Season 1

Justified – A TV Series Review – Part 1

I just finished watching the last two episodes of Season 1.  This is some kind of crazy show.

I guess I better preface my opinions by saying I haven’t been a member of the audience during the much touted “golden age of cable television” that’s been going on for the last decade or so.  I never cared about “The Sopranos” and I didn’t care about “Madmen” although I watched a few episodes a while back.  Likewise, I started watching the “Breaking Bad” episode where he is burning his money on the barbecue and then throws it into the swimming pool.  All I saw was Hal from “Malcom in the Middle” in his underwear making funny noises that weren’t particularly funny.

So maybe I’m not up on what’s current in TV Land.  Take that as given.

This is some kind of crazy show.  Apparently, Kentucky is located in the Twilight Zone where endless criminal activity and gun play is completely routine.  Timothy Olyphant’s character (Raylan Givens) is literally submerged in family, friends and strangers who all seem to be at each other’s throats twenty-four, seven.  Over the course of those two episodes at least sixteen people were shot dead.  And this is ignoring beatdowns, kidnappings, arson, non-lethal shootings, and even shoulder mounted rocket attacks.  And the cast of characters are almost exclusively highly conflicted and dangerous individuals.  Perhaps the only exception (and it’s a little early for me to be sure of this) is Ray’s boss, Art Mullen, the Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal (played by Nick Searcy).  He is, of course, surrounded by the insane happenings but so far seems to be operating as a sane law enforcement agent trying to manage his team and stay within the law.  But I’m sure in the course of the show’s six-year run he must crack.

Season One documents Ray’s return to Kentucky.  And the circumstances highlight Ray’s already unorthodox perspective on law enforcement.  He has a code of behavior that allows him to supersede normal legal protocol when he determines that someone isn’t just a normal criminal.  In other words, if someone has figured out how to game the system to commit acts that Ray cannot allow to occur he is determined to use extra-legal activities to curtail them.  He takes the law into his own hands.  That’s the premise of the show.  In his mind, he’s justified.  I guess we’ll find out if the world confirms this or changes his mind.

So as of the end of season 1 I am enthusiastically a fan of the show.  As I said the character are conflicted and most of them are not good people by any definition of the word.  But several of them have been shown to be interesting.  Of special importance seems to be Boyd Crowder, played by Walton Goggins.  Boyd’s criminal family is the focus of much of season one’s action.  Boyd is both a career criminal and Ray’s boyhood friend.  They worked together in the Kentucky coal mines.  And it seems apparent they are meant to be two sides of a coin throw.

The show maintains a very active pace with rarely a dull moment.  Ray’s romantic life is, so far, the least interesting part of the show but perhaps with additional insight into the motivations and back story of the main women in his life we’ll get a better understanding of why we should care which of them is his leading lady.  Of course, that is assuming any of them lives long enough to develop a domestic back story.

And as a point of information on the female reaction to Justified, Camera Girl (or more formally, Mrs. Photog) is also enthusiastically a fan of the show.  But she is more blood thirsty than I and less philosophical.  So that makes it less surprising to me.  Stay tuned and I will update this as I view the succeeding seasons in the coming weeks.

Justified – A TV Series Review – Part 1

There’s not much left on TV for me to watch anymore.  I remembered hearing over the last few years from several reviewers who were not progressives that “Justified” was pretty good.  Well, last week my Netflix queue was completely empty so I added season one of Justified to my queue. With some trepidation, photog and camera-girl settled in this week and watched the first two disks.  And eight or nine episodes into the season we still haven’t seen a bad show.  It’s actually very good.  Timothy Olyphant is the protagonist playing a US Marshall named Raylan Givens.  He’s been sent back to his home state of Kentucky after shooting a drug lord in Miami under questionable circumstances.  This puts him in contact with his family, friends, associates and enemies.  And the amount of overlap between all of these categories in the episodes I’ve seen is quite remarkable.  And here we run into the expected stereotyping of the Appalachians.  For instance, Ray’s father is married to Aunt Helen.  I’m not far enough into the story yet but it appears she was Aunt Helen before she was married to Ray’s father Arlo.  So, the incest and inbreeding jokes can’t be far off.  Also, one of Ray’s old friends from his time as a coal miner is now a bank robber who dabbles in white supremacy and shoulder launched rockets.

Needless to say, Ray’s personal and professional lives become extremely entangled and pretty early on he finds himself sleeping with a woman he shouldn’t be.  He had been investigating her for shooting and killing her husband.  Subsequently she is his witness in his shooting of her brother in law.  Add into the mix that the brother in law is also that coal miner / bank robber friend of Ray’s and it starts getting extremely complicated and confusing.  Also, Ray’s father is a criminal.  Ray’s ex-wife is married to a man in hock to mobsters and Ray’s boss is starting to think he’s unstable.  Oh, and the investigation into that drug lord he shot is getting complicated by all the other guys Ray’s been shooting since he got to Kentucky.  And finally, the drug lord’s friends really, really want Ray dead.  It’s a really fun show.

I’m only about half way through season one and so it’s hard to say where this will all be by season six but so far this is a crime drama that’s well written, filled with action and includes characters that while far from unconflicted are quite sympathetic for the audience.  Timothy Olyphant is the obvious star but the supporting cast is quite strong and fun to watch and listen to.  I especially enjoy Nick Searcy as Ray’s boss, Art Mullen.  He brings a dry wit and long suffering attitude to the job of overseeing Ray’s overcomplicated work-life balance.

So, that’s my first installment.  I will be watching a bunch more of these in the next few weeks and will give an update on my recommendation.  But so far, I’d have to say watching Justified is definitely justified.

A Eulogy for Grimm – Part 2 – The Series Finale

A Eulogy for Grimm – Part 1

 

Spoiler Alert.  If you haven’t seen it and don’t want to know, don’t read this.

So, last night I watched it.  Oh, Good Lord.  The only theory that could deflect shame from everyone involved in this fiasco is if the writers had all been fired and instead the Producer’s teenage daughter wrote it, while attending a school dance, while texting her best friends, while breaking up with her boyfriend, during a hurricane.  Even as an ironic joke or as part of a drinking game (let’s say a tequila shot after each important character is brutally slaughtered) it’s unwatchable.  Rather than belabor the point with countless examples of awful television viewing let me cut to the chase.  At the climax of the show the hero is about to betray the world to the devil by surrendering to him this ultimate weapon when he is stopped by a young woman snatching it away.  He then chases her down, beats her into submission and is heading back to surrender it again when his dead mother and dead aunt calling to him from heaven shame him into a debate about fighting back.  But he’s so broken from the beating he’s been given by the devil that the only way he agrees to fight is if his mother and his aunt will fight for and with him.  Think about this for a moment.  A grown man has to be helped in a fight by his mother!  And in fact, most of the damage in the battle is done by his dead female relatives.  This truly represents the low ebb of masculinity on broadcast TV.  After the victory, there’s a sort of alternate reality scene change where all the main characters are alive again and don’t remember any of the climax as if it didn’t actually happen.  Nick starts hugging them all and seems pretty close to blubbering and it’s reminiscent of Dorothy awaking in her bed in Kansas.  “You were there and you were there, and there’s no place like home.”  Good Lord.  Then the very final scene is twenty years in the future and his son and his baby mamma’s daughter (by his mortal enemy and police chief boss) are now Grimms getting ready to head off with Mom and Dad for some good old American Wessen slaughtering.  Good clean fun.  Good Lord.

I confess I liked this show when it first came out.  My only defense is that it was in the early Obama years and I needed something absurd to allow me to think that maybe none of what was going on in the world was real.  After all, if a whole American city could be composed of monsters without any humans suspecting then maybe somehow the world would manage to escape the Obama presidency without mortal damage being done.  Silly me.  Luckily, now we’re in the age of Trump and I don’t need fantasies to distract me.  The reality is bizarre (and entertaining) enough.  So, farewell to Nick and Juliette.  Farewell to Monroe and Rosalee.  Long may you inhabit Wessen-infested make-believe Portland Oregon which is a distinct improvement over the actual horror of SJW infested Portland.

A Eulogy for Grimm – Part 1

A eulogy is supposed to be praise spoken over the deceased at his funeral.  It literally means “good speech” in the Greek.  So technically I suppose this should be called a kakology* because I won’t be saying too much good.  Maybe what this should be called is a post-mortem.

I started watching Grimm when it premiered in 2011.  When it began I thought it was fun.  The special effects were alright and the conceit that just about everyone in Portland Oregon was a monster (called Wesen) hadn’t yet become a reductio ad absurdum.  Also, I hadn’t grown to despise most of the characters yet.

I’ll give my analysis for what went wrong with Grimm.  I think the problem with any of these urban fantasy TV series is the open-ended aspect of weekly TV.  While it is possible to advance the “mythology” component of the show toward some long-term plot line in a way that can be sustained for several seasons, the single episode plot component needs to have some interesting writing each week to prevent the show from seeming repetitive and boring.  I mean, how many ways are there to have the protagonist (Nick, the Grimm) skewer the monster du jour with a sword or a pitch fork or a lawn dart?  Eventually the look of boredom starts showing up even on the well-paid actors’ faces.  This is similar to the problem that occurs on all long-running TV shows but it’s especially dangerous to these fantasy shows because the action is already incredibly close to ridiculous from the get go.  It doesn’t take much to achieve the reductio ad absurdum I mentioned earlier.  After all, hiding the prodigious body count of terminated monsters (who revert to human form upon being deep sixed) is kind of hard to justify over the course of years.  And with just about every individual introduced in the series being a Wesen it seems laughable that they haven’t already taken over Portland and massacred Nick and his friends.

Another problem is the lack of likeability of most of the main characters.   Nick’s girl-friend (Juliette) becomes a Wesen and eventually murders and beheads his mother.  And after Juliette is killed (and then re-animated as an emotionless zombie named Eve) Nick becomes intimate with the Wesen (a hexenbiest or witch named Adalind) that was responsible for Juliette becoming evil.  Her ex-lover (Sean who also happens to be the chief of police and Nick’s boss) goes from being an enemy to an ally to a mortal foe of the good guys,  He is also the step father of Nick’s son.  Basically it’s hard to really take any of the relationships seriously or even remember how we got to where the story stands.  However, over the course of the series, the only character that I didn’t come to despise was Monroe.  Regardless of how idiotic the script that this vegan werewolf clock repairman was given, the actor managed to inject humor and interest in the character.

And finally, the biggest reason Grimm stinks is because the plots are all the same.  The variations for why Wesen were murdering the few humans that exist in Portland or each other were wholly unimportant and extremely boring.

I stopped watching the show a year ago.  When I heard it had been cancelled and only a half season was being produced this year I started watching again.  I wanted to see if a short span allowed the writers to sharpen up the plots and give us something worth watching.  So far it hasn’t.  This Friday (March 31st) is the series finale.  I’ll report back afterwards to document whether they could even salvage that.  I’m not very hopeful.

 

*I prefer transliterating the Greek letter kappa into English with the letter k instead of c.

 

A Eulogy for Grimm – Part 2