There's an old Far Side cartoon where a cowboy lies dead in a dusty street, another cowboy standing over him with a still-smoking gun. "OK, stranger," the shooter says. "What's the circumference of the earth? Who wrote 'The Odyssey' and 'The Iliad?' What's the average rainfall of the Amazon Basin?" Across the panel, an old codger shouts, "Bart, you fool! You can't shoot first and ask questions later!"
I secretly suspect that Justified, FX's darkly loopy cop procedural, was based on that cartoon. It's curiously funny and a bit surreal. There's always a dead body somewhere. And Deputy Raylan Givens, like Bart, tends to shoot before it's perhaps strictly warranted.
Oh, Raylan's smart enough to ask most of his questions first. He's a U.S. Marshal, after all, and I'm assuming most aspiring marshals learn that lesson on the first day of Interrogation 101. But Raylan's own degree in marshalology came with an emphasis in firearms, and he was likely voted "most likely to be suspended for the use of excessive force" by his peers. Not that Raylan would see it that way. No, every time he pulls the trigger, he believes the deed is—well, justified.
And some would agree. Raylan, after all, is going after dastardly evildoers who rarely ask questions at all. Their worlds are filled with murder and mayhem, their messages sent with sprays of blood, their contracts terminated with heavy bludgeoning instruments of death. Set mainly in an impoverished corner of Kentucky, each season gives viewers another backwoods crime spree for Raylan to shut down, another cast of malicious murderers to bring to justice—one way or another. If an ancient Egyptian deity weighed the souls of Raylan against those of the folks he's fighting, there'd be no contest as to who would earn a trip to the afterlife.
But with all due respect to ancient Egyptians, the afterlife doesn't work like that. And while FX might've occasionally asked viewers to question Raylan's bloody modus operandi in past seasons, it seems to be increasingly inclined to give the gun-twirling marshal a pass. Perhaps in television's age of the antihero—when many viewers have rooted for a serial killer and embraced a death-dealing mob boss—a good guy with an itchy trigger finger is practically a boy scout. And if he should shoot the little old lady after helping her cross the street? Well, accidents happen.
Thus, bodies pile up like snow in a polar vortex. Curses fall like rain in a Kentucky downpour. Sexual content is perhaps a bit more sporadic, but that's like saying Hurricane Camille was a bit calmer than Katrina. When it's there, it's there with a sensual vengeance.
Still, Justified has been nominated for a handful of Emmys, and with some reason. The acting is sharp, the writing crisp, the story arcs compelling. But that doesn't keep viewers from being perforated with a hail of content concerns that might just leave them lying prone in the street.
"A Murder of Crowes"
Raylan flies to Florida to investigate the murder of a dirty cop—one that has something to do with the Crowe family, a member of which in turn has been awarded a $300,000 settlement for flagrant abuse already meted out by Raylan. It's worth noting that Raylan's ex-wife and baby live in Florida, but he doesn't visit them.
We see and hear about quite a lot of violence done by Raylan, of course. At least nine people are murdered, often shot with splashes of blood that sprays killers and/or bystanders. One man is gruesomely killed by being pummeled with the butt of a gun. A man in a blood-covered apron totes a chain saw into a back room; we hear the saw rev up and an unseen victim scream. A guy stabs his own brother; we see blood leak from the victim's mouth. Another man has part of his ear shot off. A chicken is skewered with a hook and devoured by a crocodile. Someone purposefully causes a car crash.
Naked people swim in a pool. We see women nude from the rear, and a guy covers his privates with his hand. Several sex dolls show up in an apartment. Folks drink and smoke. They say the s-word 20 times. We hear "d‑‑n," "a‑‑," "p‑‑‑," "p‑‑‑y" and "g‑‑d‑‑n" two to six times each. Jesus' name is abused once.