Justified: City Primeval -- Pictured: Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens. CR: Chuch Hodes/FX
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Tv “Justified: City Primeval” is a shrewd extension of the original and a brilliant story all its own

“Justified: City Primeval” is a shrewd extension of the original and a brilliant story all its own

Justified: City Primeval -- Pictured: Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens. CR: Chuch Hodes/FX

The original “Justified,” developed by Graham Yost from Elmore Leonard’s book, “Fire in the Hole,” stands the test of time for several reasons. His case-by-season approach makes each new investigation as accessible as it is compelling. Starring him, US Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), is a classic cowboy in a modern world, not always bucking the trend but stubbornly adhering to his own sense of right and wrong. Olyphant’s sweet drawl and charming fortitude – spiced with pithy quips and brusque advice – go a long way on their own, though any assessment of “Justified” must give equal weight to Boyd Crowder, embodied with iconic verbiage and verve from the great Walton Goggins.

For six seasons, “Justified” has thrived in two hands; it wasn’t that Raylan and Boyd were always on opposing sides, so much as their lives ran in such coherent parallel to one another that their distinctions were all but erased. In the end, whatever kept them apart boiled down to the thin blue line of the justice system, or what was left of it. Raylan must believe he’s keeping the world from plunging into Boyd’s enchanting brand of chaos, which grows more gnarly as their similarities grow, their actions and desires align, and the US Marshal can’t help but to wonder if what he’s doing is really… justified.

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Call it foresight, call it clarity, call it what you will: “Justified” was a worthy successor to its network’s groundbreaking police program, “The Shield,” when it came to examining American law enforcement. (The series’ annoying flaw may be that it likes its lead character too much, but who wouldn’t forgive that sin?) In a tantalizing expansion, the sequel series, “Justified: City Primeval,” brings the same curious perspective to Detroit. Thankfully, the new season doesn’t overemphasize socio-political buzzwords about police brutality or systemic racism in its cliché-defying, meandering mystery, instead infusing the perpetually cloudy Michigan setting with a beleaguered acceptance of a broken system – one about to be broken a new one. The beats often feel classic “Justified,” but the end result is still jarring: a personal assessment of the current system through Raylan Givens’ resolute blue gaze.

The fact that Mr. Crowder is absent from the proceedings goes largely unnoticed, despite the introduction of a new enemy with very similar vibes. But let’s not jump ahead. “Justified: City Primeval” picks up where the original series began: with Raylan stationed in Florida. Only this time, instead of sitting down for a fateful brunch with a bad boy, he’s escorting his daughter, Willa (Vivian Olyphant, Tim’s real-life little girl), to camp. Apparently the teenager is cared for by her father—he recently broke another girl’s nose—and his out-of-town trip is a form of punishment. But before they can make it to the Everglades, fate intervenes.

Soon, Raylan finds himself hopping from his home state of Kentucky to the lakeside city destined to rise from the ashes – only the Detroit Police Department doesn’t exactly roll out the red carpet. His traveling companion, Wendell (Victor Williams), is largely on top of it. He doesn’t mind getting up to meet Raylan, and he’s not eager to lift a finger more than necessary when it comes to their case. Norbert (Norbert Leo Butz) is on the opposite end of the spectrum. The lead officer is a little too horny under the collar, and his quickness to kick down doors gives even routine journeys an awkward edge. Maureen (Marin Ireland) lands somewhere in between, arguing with the crew casually or indifferently, but Raylan is watching them all, because Raylan is always watching.

JUSTIFIED: CITY PRIMEVAL Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens, Aunjanue Ellis as Carolyn Wilder
Timothy Olyphant and Aunjanue Ellis in “Justified: City Primeval”Courtesy of Chuck Hodes/FX

That goes double for their prime suspect, Clement Mansell (Boyd Holbrook). Nicknamed “The Oklahoma Wildman,” Mansell is introduced as a bat out of hell: he drives into town with a charger he randomly picked up from the gas station, blasts a rock-n-roll tape at full volume, and enters a casino which he already considers his own. There he meets Sandy (Adelaide Clemens), a waitress who has befriended a high roller who made the mistake of leaving his penthouse unattended. Clement and Sandy move, Clement and Sandy make plans, Clement and Sandy get into trouble.

Despite their initial partnership, the waiter isn’t on the same level as the Wildman. He’s trying to escape his boring, diminished life through good sex and better drugs. He’s looking for a fight with anyone and everyone he sees. This doesn’t sit well with Raylan, especially since his daughter has moved to Detroit, and the men quickly embark on a game of chicken. Can Raylan wait to lock Clement up according to the letter of the law? And is the law really an adequate deterrent for a certified Wildman? Is it enough to ensure that his brand of violence, free from conscience but not so blind as to leave him unprotected, ceases to ruin innocent lives?

“Justified: City Primeval” continues the great tradition of the series by introducing exciting new characters who feel part of the story from the beginning. Holbrook gives Clement an eerie awareness; he is never surprised by how far he is willing to go, and rarely are his actions beyond his control. Clemens, a favorite on “Rectify,” does well with her conflicted blonde (hitting dramatic and comedic beats with grounded gusto), and Vondie Curtis Hall – as bartender running back with Clement – positions her expressive visage to endearing ends and intimidating .

Yet the star of the new cast of “City Primeval” is Aunjanue Ellis as Carolyn Wilder. A defense attorney with a tough exterior and a frazzled spirit, Carolyn enters the scene representing Clement. She’s seen it over the years, so she doesn’t flinch at the Wild Man’s defense. Initially, this puts her at odds with Raylan, or so it would seem. Showrunners Dave Andron and Michael Dinner (both “Justified” veterans) are wise to position the two not as adversaries, but administrators. Raylan’s job is to bring people to court and Carolyn’s job is to see that those people are given the best possible defense. They might present different arguments when it comes to Clement, but once they sort out each other’s moral character, they can see that they want the same thing: justice, in whatever form that might take.

Well, almost any shape. “City Primeval” uses Clement as a wrecking ball, smashing through Raylan, Carolyn, and Detroit in general, forcing each to reconsider their roles. Raylan has long struggled with the merits of his work. Her ex-wife wanted him to stop chasing bad guys to be with her, and Raylan couldn’t let go. He’s spent the next few years exploring why, and his beliefs are tested again here, albeit in a new city, with new people to protect, and a new way of doing things that could be better, worse, or the same as that. of which he was a part. of in Harlan County.

While I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a Goggins-sized gap in “City Primeval,” Olyphant remains reason enough to watch. Able to convey a flood of emotion with a single squint, the gray in his stubble suits him, as does the moody noir he finds in Motown. Set under skies so black and blue they might as well be moonlit 24/7, “City Primeval” uses its color palette to better distinguish itself from the original series, as well as to frame Raylan – not just the he’s prevented from finding solace in Florida’s sunny skies, but is running out of ideas on how to handle this case. Small glimmers of light emerge here and there, on bar tables and candlelit houses, but they never last. As complications pile up and the case catches on, Raylan’s old ways may finally reach their limit. Can an old cowboy learn new tricks and, perhaps more importantly, should he?

Grade: B+

“Justified: City Primeval” premieres Tuesday, July 18 at 10 p.m. ET on FX with two episodes. The episodes will air the following day on Hulu, and new episodes will be released weekly.

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