Justified lost some momentum last season on what was a subpar villain and set up (Michael Rappaport — a man who exudes NYCness in his pores — playing a scary southerner was about as good as you’d imagine), and, based on the first three episodes, this season has more focus on the original characters, particularly the trifecta of Raylan, Boyd, and Ava. Olyphant does yeoman’s work in a role that’s often more complicated and subtle than it appears at first glance, and Goggins delivers every line like he’s very, very tired of being the smartest man in the room. There is a new threat in town, embodied by Garrett Dillahunt (late of Raising Hope and yes, Deadwood) looking too hot for Kentucky in a backwoods beard (or Brooklyn, depending on what you’re drinking), unhinged and questionable as a veteran trying to pull some land deals in Harlan.
Ultimately Justified is a procedural, and a very good one at that, but it’s the little things that make it special: its attention to people’s financial status (Boyd didn’t get an iPhone until he was a successful criminal); character actor moments, the way that criminals are dumb, and often hilariously so (which is very Leonard); and the pas de deux between Raylan and Boyd is one for the ages. Two men that want to be each other, in some ways, obsessing over each other, they are forever intertwined, and it’s likely to end with one of them in the grave. One way or another, Raylan and Boyd will never leave Harlan alive, but based on the first fourth of the season, it’s going to be a lively ride and true to the spirit of the late Leonard’s work. Having mainlined Justified on sick days and through cold winter nights, I’ll miss Boyd and Raylan when they’re gone.