The Pitch: A famous filmmaker once said, “Films are never completed; they’re only abandoned.” (George Lucas often gets credit for the quote, but he attributes it to another famous filmmaker.) Doesn’t matter who originated it because those words carry a very different meaning in our current Hollywood landscape.
Stories are rarely if ever, finished these days, because there’s always a reason for more once the curtains close. Maybe these stories resurrect for creative reasons. More often than not, the motivation starts and ends with someone’s bank account, but sometimes it’s both. Either way, we live in a world where no one dares utter the phrase “And then they lived happily ever after…” because there’s a good chance that beloved piece of pop culture will find its way back into our lives sooner rather than later.
Enter Justified: City Primeval, the next chapter to FX’s Justified, which ended its six-season run in 2015. Starring Timothy Olyphant as U.S. Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens, City Primeval has the unenviable task of carrying that acclaimed show’s weight on its shoulders and adding more chapters to a story that stuck the landing with aplomb eight years ago. Not only that, the eight-episode limited series features an older Raylan in Detroit and not in Kentucky, which strips the show of a familiar setting and characters that fans came to adore like a warm blanket: New city, new characters, and none of the trappings that made Justified, well, Justified.
And yet, against all those odds, Justified: City Primeval exceeds even the highest expectations. Rather than recreate what came before, this series finds its footing by keeping true to the world — and rules — author Elmore Leonard created, while still finding new challenges for the U.S. Deputy Marshal who rocks the Stetson and treats every situation like he’s Gary Cooper in High Noon.
The City: The Justified writing staff wore rubber bands with “WWED” (What Would Elmore Do?) etched as a reminder. City Primeval, created by two of those writers, succeeds because they carried that mantra forward. Full stop. The events in the series unfold for the same reasons they did in the 2010 series: greed, ego, stupidity, recklessness, and, of course, luck. The show’s criminals, most notably Clement Mansell (Boyd Holbrook), often find themselves on the wrong end of the barrel thanks to stupid actions at the wrong place at increasingly wrong times.
The show underlines this point by establishing a petty inciting incident that gets Raylan from Florida to Detroit. And the only reason the sociopathic Mansell gets on Raylan’s radar is that a set of proverbial dominos just happened to fall in the Marshal’s direction.