TV Review - Justified: Season Two

I've never been more disappointed in a series than I have been by this one. The first season of Justified was as close to perfect as it could have gotten. This second season totally undermined that. I understand that the makers of the show wanted to do something different or expand things, but it completely turned me off.
Season One was basically a series of stand-alone episodes, each one dealing with a different criminal whom Raylan Givins, a federal marshall from Kentucky, played by Timothy Olyphant, has to apprehend. There was an undercurrent, a continuing storyline, involving Boyd Crowder, played by Walton Goggins (The Shield), a criminal who was connected to Raylan's past who remained elusive.
Season Two moves away from being a series of stand-alone episodes, each dealing with someone different. The continuing storyline as an undercurrent is less an undercurrent and is more of a main thrust. Again, it involves Boyd but only in a minor way. It mostly catches new characters, known as the Bennett family, who were also connected to Raylan's past.
The Bennett family consists of Mags Bennett, the matriarch, played by Margo Martindale, and her three sons, Dickie, Doyle and Coover, played by Jeremy Davis, Joseph Lyle Taylor, and Brad William Henke, respectively. The family is like the local mafia. They control the drug trade, or at least most of it in their county. Mags is the kingpin or queen-pin. Her son Doyle is a corrupt cop. Dickie and Coover are essentially redneck henchmen.
The Bennetts run pretty much under the radar until a man named Walt and his daugther, Loretta, played by Kaitlin Dever, use the land controlled by the Bennetts to grow and sell marijuana. A sex offender named James Earl exposes this when he goes after Loretta. The fallout sends ripples that eventually make their way to Raylan, but those ripples are merely that, ripples. There's interesting writing here, great acting and moments that are really damn good, but it isn't really the show I fell in love with last year.
Of all the episodes in this season, I can only point to one that was similar to the format of last season, and that one was probably my favorite. That episode was the fourth of the second season. It was called "For Blood or Money." It focused on the brother-in-law of Rachel, played by Erica Tazel. Larenz Tate played that brother-in-law named Clinton, and the whole episode was very much in the vein of the episodes of the first season, but that was about the only one. Not that there weren't good episodes, they just weren't good in the same way as last year.
Every episode in the first season pitted Raylan against a villain where he almost every time had to draw his gun. Maybe doing that every episode could get stale, but, to me, that was part of the fun. This season, Raylan hardly ever drew his gun, nor was he put into many of those high-intensity situations. Raylan was mostly involved in a lame plot where his love interest Winona steals some money. The writers, though, became wrapped up in the Bennetts and their plans to squeeze a coal company. For most of it, I didn't care because for a lot of it, Raylan was marginalized.
I hoped by the end that Raylan would have a powerful confrontation between the Bennetts, but it never happened. I suppose it was more realistic that it didn't end in a grand face-off. In interviews, Olyphant has insisted this show isn't a modern-day western. This season certainly made that case, though I wish it didn't.
Three Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-MA.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Wednesdays at 10PM on FX.


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