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Leaving Harlan Alive: A fond farewell to Justified.

Updated on April 14, 2015

How I found Harlan County.

Several years ago, while trying to find something to watch on TV, my sister and I stumbled upon a movie called "A Perfect Getaway".
Despite the title, "A Perfect Getaway" wasn't a romantic comedy about a vacation gone awry, but a thriller about newlyweds trapped on an island with a serial killer.
The movie may not have had the biggest budget, but it was extremely well written, and the actors will very charismatic.
I have a theory about acting.
I say that any role where you forget about the actor and start thinking of them as the character is a job well done.
Well, in this movie, it seemed like everyone became their character.
Chiefly, there was Niko, one of the four biggest characters in the movie.
Niko was a veteran of a secret task force he only described as "God damn American Jedi", and man, was he charismatic.
The way he strung his lines together or boisterously bounced around in all his alpha-male swagger made him a very likable character.
I have this thing where I get very picky about actors.
I'm not big on Robert Downey Jr, but I'll give anything with Cillian Murphy a shot. Regardless of how corny, I'm always down for an "Ahhnold" eighties movie marathon.
Well, the way that Timothy Olyphant's Niko character jumped off the stage had me hooked immediately.
So two weeks later, while perusing the TV section of Walmart's electronics section, probably looking for the newest NCIS or perhaps How I Met Your Mother, I stumbled upon a very peculiar cover. The silhouette of a man with a cowboy hat and a gun caught my interest, so I picked the case up.
A glance at the cast and twenty dollars later, I had purchased the first season of Justified.
I ran home and popped in the first DVD while I played some stupid video game on my computer.
For those of you who have never watched Justified, I'm about to spoil the first scene.
Despite the cover claiming the show took place in Kentucky, the opening shot is clearly of Miami, with tanned bodies in bikinis strolling around and tropical music playing. A tall man in a blazer and a cowboy hat strolls pass them with purpose and swagger. He takes a seat at a table with Peter Greene (of The Mask and The Usual Suspects fame) and begins chatting.
It was at this point that I turned my game off and was hooked.
I would try to describe just how amazing this scene is, but I don't think that my words could do it justice, so...

Talk about bad-ass.
It was at this point that Raylan, who is a U.S. Marshall, is banned from Miami and sent back to Lexington, Kentucky, where he is from.
That's where the fun begins.
It is at this point where Raylan returns to Harlan County, where we're introduced to a seemingly never-ending line of amazing characters.
From his ex wife, Winona, to his estranged father, Arlo, and to perhaps the most underrated character in the history of television, his childhood friend, Boyd Crowd.
Obviously I'm not going to spoil things for you, because if you haven't watched it yourself, I don't want to rob you of an amazing journey.
Raylan Givens is the closest thing we've gotten to a bad-ass cowboy since Eastwood was in his youth, and the show's southern charm is irresistible to the most "civilized of folk."
Everyone from Raylan's co-workers to his most fearsome foes will grow on you so much that you want them to die just as much as you hope they'll never leave.
Seriously, if you haven't watched it, the show is over, go find the first season, thank me later.

Saying my goodbyes.

These days, it's hard to find a show that you can really sink your teeth into.
Sure, some people like "The Walking Dead" and I won't act like I haven't binge-watched "Game of Thrones", but the reality is that with Netflix and Hulu around, I don't plop on the couch to watch a show very often.
Justified was different.
The dialogue was so beautifully musical and poetic, the action was awesome and made sense, and each character got the attention and development that they deserved.
I've thoroughly enjoyed every episode of every season and most of the TV-watching world don't realize what a great loss they've suffered by the show ending.
Elmore Leonard's Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder got the portrayals they deserved by two insanely talented men, and the writers did an awesome job helping, and even carrying the show after Mr. Leonard passed.
This is a show I'll watch, re-watch, and watch again many times as I grow old, and I'll never stop loving it.
Justified never got the mainstream attention that it definitely deserved.
It was never spoofed on Saturday Night Live. It didn't get a video game. And it never got the big awards that it absolutely deserved.
But what it did do was perhaps even better.
It reached out in touched people in a way that no other show had.
The good guys were bad.
The bad guys were good.
And no matter what, Raylan never lost that damn hat.
There's so much I want to say about this show, but I doubt I'll ever be able to verbalize just how much it means to me and how incredible it was.
I feel blessed for being able to have watched it.
I don't even know how to end this, as when I do, I'll have to accept that Raylan and Boyd are finally gone, and will haunt my DVD case forever.


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