Justified Season 1 Episode 1 recap

In case you haven’t been watching Justified, here’s a quick primer on who’s who and what’s what.

Raylan Givens: Deputy US Marshal and all-around badass. Reassigned to his home state of Kentucky after he killed a dude in broad daylight over lunch at a hotel with a room full of witnesses. Body count through two seasons: 16 dead, 3 wounded—he’s trigger happy. Involved in television’s oddest bromance with…

Boyd Crowder: Dug coal with Raylan as a teenager, became a white supremacist after leaving the military. Ditched the Aryan Brotherhood to be a preacher after a prison conversion. Tried to go straight but couldn’t shake his criminal roots as the son of Harlan County’s former crime boss, Bo Crowder. Currently banging…

Ava Crowder: She killed Boyd’s brother, her husband, because he abused her. She used to bang Raylan but dumped him and eventually found a liking for the new, less racist, post-prison Boyd. Left in season two with a serious gunshot wound. Raylan isn’t pining for her, though, as he’s trying to reconcile with…

Winona Hawkins: His ex-wife. After ending things with Ava, Raylan successfully seduced Winona away from her sad sack husband Gary, coincidentally for whom she left Raylan six years ago. Knocked up by Raylan and issuing ultimatums re: his job, which is an issue with…

Art Mullen: Raylan’s boss. Raylan covered up a serious error in judgment on Winona’s behalf in season two, creating a rift with his generally easy-going chief. Art looks and sounds like a good ole boy but he’s sharper than he lets on. Which is a problem for…

Arlo Givens: Raylan’s dad. A career criminal and estranged from his son, he’s one of the only criminals besides Boyd not in jail after two seasons. Raylan’s already shot his dad once and one of these days, he’s probably going to kill him.

And now you’re caught up! On to season three…

We open with Winona getting pulled over and informed that Raylan’s been shot. So we’re starting exactly where we left off in season two. Winona and Art’s hospital exchange is a latent apology—Art knows Winona is to blame for Raylan’s aberrant behavior last season.

Jumping ahead three weeks, Raylan is struggling with his healing wound. I appreciate that he isn’t immediately bouncing back, as movies and TV shows so often show victims of serious gunshot wounds up and running around two days later like nothing happened. Aww, Art and Raylan got their groove back!

Seriously, the great joy of watching Justified is the chemistry between Walton Goggins and Timothy Olyphant. Every scene between Boyd and Raylan is a live-fire exercise. Boyd picks a fight with Raylan and gets arrested for assaulting an officer. Boyd is not this dumb. Why did he want to get arrested?

Enter the new villain for season three: Detroit crime boss Quarles (Neal McDonough). I was worried that no one would be able to top Mags Bennett, one of the best and most interesting villains on television in a long while, but Quarles is a fish-out-of-water in Harlan and looks like he’ll shake things up after two seasons of home-grown Kentucky criminals. Quarles is the kind of guy Raylan tangled with before moving back to Kentucky so it’ll be interesting to see how being back on his home turf has affected his approach to an all-business crook, as opposed to the “remember that time in high school” crooks he’s been dealing with.

Creepy fellow called Nix has a black hat. Raylan famously wears a white hat. Complicated symbology, this.

Oh, Quarles is going to be fun. Fun like all bad guys on Justified are fun—high body count and an inevitable showdown with Raylan.

Boyd’s dumbass lieutenant, Devil, is trying to sell the Bennett weed—which is rotten—they jacked during the raid last season. Ava’s obviously going to have to get this sh*t under control herself. Devil and Arlo Givens are too dumb to manage long without Boyd calling the shots.

Aww, Raylan and Winona pillow-talking about finding a family home is adorable. Winona’s contribution to the show is debatable—Raylan is inherently a loner and would probably function fine without a steady love interest—but I do like that she consistently brings out a softer side to him. It’d be too easy to turn Raylan into a gunslinger caricature. I mean, he’s already like, 83% a gunslinger caricature. Winona just saves him from being entirely a caricature.

The creepy, black-hatted Nix is a hardcore psycho, but he does have the best line of the episode so far: “You understand why I’m not paying for that pizza, right?” That poor, poor pizza guy.

Deputy Gutterson! He’s so cute, and always has the funniest exchanges with Raylan. He manages to drag Raylan off desk duty in order to chat up Winn Duffy, that skeevy “Dixie Mafia” dude Raylan keeps threatening to kill.

The thing about Duffy is that he clearly thinks he’s going to be able to outrun/outfox Raylan yet we all know at some point, he is going to kick Duffy’s teeth down his throat. I really can’t wait until that happens.

Ava visits Boyd in prison to get instructions re: the rotten weed. Why did Boyd want to go to prison? There’s a point to this.

Black hat and white hat meet in the elevator. Tense, vaguely threatening—this is what Justified does best.

Emmett Arnette, the Dixie Mafia boss, has a secretary who fed info to Raylan for Quarles. I predict Arnette and the secretary, and at least one more person, will die in this episode. That would be at least five dead for the season premiere. This show is like a video game!

Art rakes Raylan over the coals for not recognizing/apprehending Nix in the elevator. The Art/Raylan relationship is second only to Boyd/Raylan.

Ava is settling into her role as Boyd’s gun moll. Her character floundered once her fling with Raylan ended, but this episode gives her something useful to do—run Boyd’s fledgling criminal enterprise while he’s in jail.

The sting operation to bring down Nix is a bust. He escapes, mainly because he can only be brought down by Raylan. The black hat and the white hat must have their final showdown. Because apparently, we’re watching a Sergio Leone movie tonight.

Raylan wants to name his kid “Felix”. That is all.

Black hat ambushes white hat in the hotel room. Winona is caught, too. Black hat plays his “count down” game from before, but white hat is wise to his ways and pulls a slick move to get the upper hand. White hat bags his first kill of the season.

And Quarles kills Arnette and the secretary. Body count of five (watch guy, pizza guy, black hat, Arnette and secretary). Is it scary that I called that? I watch this show too much.

We end with the hapless Dewey Crowe in prison, chatting up Dickie Bennett…when Boyd walks by. Ah, the plan. This is the plan. Dickie Bennett is gonna get shanked for sure.

Raylan’s body count so far: 1

Attached - Timothy Olyphant at the TCA on Sunday and the AFI Gala on Friday.