Justified: City Primeval TV Review

Timothy Olyphant is back and better than ever as Raylan Givens in this sequel to his Elmore Leonard FX series.

PLOT: Having left the hollers of Kentucky 15 years ago, Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) now lives in Miami, a walking anachronism balancing his life as a U.S. Marshal and part-time father of a 15-year-old girl. His hair is grayer, his hat is dirtier, and the road in front of him is suddenly a lot shorter than the road behind. A chance encounter on a desolate Florida highway sends him to Detroit. There he crosses paths with Clement Mansell (Boyd Holbrook), aka The Oklahoma Wildman, a violent, sociopathic desperado who’s already slipped through the fingers of Detroit’s finest once and aims to do so again. 

REVIEW: Justified is one of the best television series of the last twenty years. Boasting a stellar leading turn from Timothy Olyphant and a great performance from Walton Goggins, the FX series aired from 2010 to 2015 and crossed over with the Out of Sight-inspired series Karen Sisco (led by Carla Gugino). Justified was and remains one of the best crime series of all time. It featured excellent performances from Natalie Zea, Damon Herriman, Kaitlyn Dever, Joelle Carter, Nick Searcy, Margo Martindale, and many more over its six seasons. Reviving the series would be a tall order to equal the quality of the original run. Still, I am happy to tell you that Justified: City Primeval is as good as ever thanks to Timothy Olyphant‘s presence as the irascible Marshal who fits right into the urban decay of Detroit as well as he ever did in Miami or the hollers of Kentucky.

Appearing in three novels and one short story, Elmore Leonard’s character of Raylan Givens is a lawman who follows the rules but is not afraid to bend them when the situation calls for it. At the end of Justified, Raylan relocated to Miami to raise his daughter with his ex-wife Winona. At the beginning of City Primeval, Raylan Givens is still working as a marshal and living in Florida. While no longer with Winona (Natalie Zea), Raylan is co-parenting their daughter Willa (played by his real daughter Vivian Olyphant). A chance encounter with some criminals on the road brings Raylan to Detroit, where he gets involved with a corrupt judge and a career criminal named Clement Mansel. Played by Boyd Holbrook, Mansell is better known as The Oklahoma Wildman and serves as Raylan’s main adversary over the course of this series. While it is tough to replace Walton Goggins as Raylan’s foe, Mansel comes pretty damn close.

Based on Leonard’s novel of the same name, City Primeval keeps the core characters and story from the book while adapting it to feature Raylan Givens. Along with Mansel, the series also retains attorney Carolyn Wilder (Aunjanue Ellis), one of the major new characters in the story. Ellis, who was fantastic in Lovecraft Country, amongst other series and films, is a strong presence and serves as the counterpoint to both Mansel and Raylan over the eight episodes of this series. The cast also includes Norbert Leo Butz, Vondie Curtis Hall, Marin Ireland, Adelaide Clemens, and Keith David, but the three main characters are the key to this story. While Justified featured season-long arcs that wrapped up each year, a narrative carry-over connected them. Here, there are elements from Justified that connect to this story, but City Primeval works as a standalone series that complements the original run while expanding it organically.


Keeping the series at eight episodes (Justified seasons all consisted of thirteen episodes each), Justified: City Primeval works as a cohesive story segmented into chapters. There are not nearly as many subplots as an ongoing series but still enough character development to warrant investing in the new additions to the cast. It helps that relocating Raylan to Detroit puts the lawman in yet another unfamiliar setting with rules and power hierarchies he knows little about. But Raylan, donning his trademark hat and Southern drawl, never misses a beat in figuring out who to trust and who to point his gun at. Boyd Holbrook’s unsettling Clint Mansel helps the danger feel immediate here as his unpredictable nature keeps City Primeval from losing momentum. The series also works because Timothy Olyphant and his character are older, wiser, and have a different outlook than they did a decade ago.

Series showrunners Dave Andron and Michael Dinner have also made a series that is very much about fatherhood. Justified explored Raylan’s career as much as it did his failures as a husband, but he had many opportunities to serve as a father figure over the course of the show. Now, Raylan is contending with the challenges of Detroit while navigating the difficulties of being a dad to Willa. Timothy Olyphant and his daughter Vivian bring several layers to their father and child dynamic, giving us a new look at the marshal we have never seen before. In Justified, Raylan had nothing to lose. In City Primeval, Willa is everything to him. This evolution of Raylan Givens is unique compared to the style and writings of Elmore Leonard, but Andron and Dinner channel the prolific author’s tone well. Justified: City Primeval is pitch perfect Leonard in every way, right down to the cool characters and the bullet-ridden action.

Justified: City Primeval is the best revival of any recent series, managing to honor the original series and forge a new path forward. The finale leaves the door open for Raylan Givens to return while also tying up the character’s arc should this be the last time we see him. I implore everyone to stay attentive to your screens for the final ten minutes of this series, as it put a massive smile on my face. Justified: City Primeval is a stellar limited series, a worthwhile continuation of the original, and a wildly successful homage to the late Elmore Leonard. If you have not watched the original Justified, you can still enjoy City Primeval. Still, I encourage you to rewatch the original series to benefit from everything this brilliant drama echoes from its predecessor.

Justified: City Primeval premieres on July 18th on FX.

Justified: City Primeval



Source: JoBlo.com

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Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.