Justified is one of my all-time favorite shows, and not just because it stars Timothy Olyphant.
As soon as I discovered it—by accident, mind you—and downloaded the pilot, I was hooked. Exactly what a pilot is supposed to do, right? Hook you with an amazing story, great characters, and stellar writing so you go out and watch the rest of the series.
Which I did.
Justified stars Timothy Olyphant as U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, loosely based on an Elmore Leonard character from his short story “Fire in the Hole.” Set in Kentucky, both Lexington and the rural surrounds, the flavor of the community shines. It’s violent and fast-paced and different from all the other crime shows out there.
Did I mention it stars Timothy Olyphant?
Walton Goggins, who plays Boyd Crowder, is no slouch either, a bad guy/sometimes good guy who has his own moral code, including a sense of loyalty that is parallel to his sometime nemesis Raylan Givens. There’s lots of gray area in Justified which makes it even more intriguing.
I have a pet peeve, however. Her name is Winona.
Winona is Raylan’s ex-wife. She cheated on him with the realtor Gary before the show starts, and so they’re already divorced and she married Gary. That right there just irks me to no end—yeah, I get that Raylan was distant, and has a dangerous job, and doesn’t talk a lot about his feelings, but she cheated on him, so she’s pond scum from the beginning as far as I’m concerned and would need to REALLY make a transformation before I would accept her back into Raylan’s life.
Except, every damn thing she did just made me hate her even more.
She stole money from the evidence room and one (brilliantly written) episode had Raylan trying to get the money back before anyone found out. He risked his life and career to protect this stupid woman. I get that she’s his Achilles’ Heel—but I wish she was just smarter.
And then Gary gets in with some bad dudes and Winona calls on Raylan to help her new husband get out of trouble, which Raylan does. Later, Winona cheats on Gary with Raylan.
So we have a two-time adulteress. Isn’t once bad enough?
So Gary leaves, Winona’s getting another divorce, she and Raylan start living together (sort of) and she gets pregnant. She wants Raylan to quit his job and teach other Marshals at Glenco—even though Raylan IS his job, and just asking him to do it makes me hate her even more (as if I didn’t already hate her.) If she can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. She’s never really shown Raylan that she loves him—meaning, when the going gets tough, when it’s hard to love someone, you need to be there. Not go cheat with your real estate agent because your husband is distant and won’t talk about it.
At the beginning of season three I was even more frustrated with Winona. She was so wishy-washy about everything. Stands by him no matter what, until she decides not to. She leaves, comes back, leaves again—and I hope now it’s for good.
The creators said prior to the launch of season three that they knew they had to redeem Winona in the eyes of viewers, and they really wanted to, but I don’t think they understood that she was already toast. And everything she said and did just made me dislike her even more.
Now, she’s gone and I hope she stays gone. (As an aside, this has nothing to do with the very talented actress, Natalie Zea, who played Winona.)
So, who does Raylan need?
First, Justified is at its heart a modern-day western about cops and robbers, and no one is all good or all bad. (Well, except maybe Robert Quarles. He’s pretty much all-bad, and he does all-bad so very, very well.) It’s complex and violent and just a whole lot of fun. But all shows are better with a love interest, so I’ve been thinking about what Raylan needs that would add to the show.
And it’s not what they’re doing.
Raylan now lives above a bar and he’s fallen into bed with the blonde bartender. I understand that he has a thing for blondes, but I just want him with someone who challenges him. Someone who may be his female equal in some ways.
In season two, there was great sexual tension between him and a coal company executive Carol Johnson played by the talented Rebecca Creskoff. She was only in three episodes, but wow, I could have seen them together—a lot of natural conflict, terrific sexual tension, and for once a love interest for Raylan who is independent and not needy. I would love for them to bring her back, even for an on-again/off-again role.
If that’s impossible, when season four starts, I’d like to see a new woman in town. A woman who knows how to shoot, who’s neither all good nor all bad, and who challenges Raylan like no one else. A federal prosecutor? A protected witness? I can think of a dozen ideas to play around with. I hope the show writers are playing around, too.
What do you think? Have you watched Justified? Did you like Winona? And what about Ava and Boyd? Gotta love how that’s developed. Who would you like to see pop up as Raylan’s love interest? (And no, you can’t say you’d be happy to do it …)
Allison Brennan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of eighteen novels and many short stories. A former consultant in the California State Legislature, she lives in Northern California with her husband Dan and their five children.