In an age of constant reboots and revivals, there are some shows that feel entirely natural to restart at any point. Justified enjoyed a successful six-season run on FX from 2010 to 2015, winning Emmys for Margo Martindale and Jeremy Davies and creating a strong fan base. Author Elmore Leonard, who passed away during the show’s original run, penned City Primeval, a Detroit-set mystery that serves as an excellent opportunity to bring his signature U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens back, anchoring an entirely new story that’s just the right amount of familiar thanks to its lead character.
Timothy Olyphant returns as Givens, who is no longer banished to Kentucky but instead living in Miami. While on the road with his daughter Willa (Vivian Olyphant), Givens is drawn into a web of crime passing through Detroit. Clement Mansell (Boyd Holbrook) is a one-man wrecking ball, charging through anyone who gets in his way, and his simple schemes with his partner Sandy Stanton (Adelaide Clemens) get considerably more complicated when he murders a judge in a fit of rage. Despite being the police’s prime suspect, Mansell’s slippery nature allows him to evade capture and continue wreaking havoc on everyone around him.
It’s precisely that structure that makes this new series so appealing. The key isn’t figuring out who’s responsible for the crimes, both for audiences and for the police, but instead the draw is following it all from start to finish to see how Mansell will ultimately get himself caught – or killed. While there are plenty of innocent bystanders and others of questionable morality who become collateral damage along the way, there’s a tongue-in-cheek lightness to the cat-and-mouse game thanks to Givens’ sardonic personality and that distinct tilt of his head under his hat.
Fans of the original series will surely be disappointed to see only Olyphant back in the cast, with other series regulars like Walton Goggins, Joelle Carter, Nick Searcy, and Natalie Zea not joining the lead for this new Givens tale. But he’s in excellent company with the new set of performers surrounding him. Victor Williams, Norbert Leo Butz, and Marin Ireland bring an appropriately exhausted energy to their law enforcement roles and shine in scenes with Olyphant. Aunjanue Ellis, a past Emmy nominee for When They See Us and Lovecraft Country, makes her defense lawyer a very layered and intriguing character, and Vondie Curtis-Hall adds dimensions to Sweety, a bar owner with far too long a history with Mansell. Olyphant’s real-life daughter Vivian also adds humor and depth to her role as Willa, making her onscreen father work hard for their fleeting moments of sincere connection.
Ultimately, the best reasons to watch this reboot are Holbrook and Clemens. Holbrook was a dependable lawman on Narcos and then showed more colorful character interpretations in recent films like Vengeance and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. He imbues Mansell with an unpredictable penchant for chaos, always ready to do the least helpful thing in a situation and make sure the other person leaves his presence wishing they had given him nothing but absolute respect. Clemens, a standout member of the Rectify cast who recently delivered a show-stopping turn in the film The Swearing Jar, grounds Stanton as someone who’s likely smarter than she makes other people think but also has basic interests that aren’t terribly complex.
Justified: City Primeval, like the six seasons that came before it, elevates the crime genre to something that is made infinitely more interesting by featuring a crackling cast of volatile players who could very well turn on each other at any moment. There are also opportunities for unexpected alliances, and it’s fascinating to watch as characters contemplate their fortunes and choose new directions that will take them to drastically different places. Billed as a limited series, this latest slate of Justified content serves as a great argument for more Raylan Givens in any capacity and city.
New episodes of Justified: City Primeval premiere Tuesdays at 10pm on FX and Wednesdays on Hulu through the finale on August 29th.