Tag Archives: Timothy Olyphant

Justified – “Save My Love”

“Save My Love”

March 23rd, 2011

I only recently caught up with FX’s Justified – after reviewing the premiere, I actually hadn’t seen a single episode, unable to find the time on Wednesday night to check in on what has been a pretty great second season. However, I was able to catch up over Spring Break, and spent Monday evening checking out last week’s episode, “Blaze of Glory,” and then following it with “Save My Love.”

Watching them together (they were on the same disc sent by FX) is a really unique experience, and I’m curious to know how viewers who waited a week between episodes responds to the transformative power of “Save My Love.” While I thought “Blaze of Glory” was fine, it was an example of a fairly simple storytelling method: a secondary character (Winona) gets mixed up with a primary case, the two storylines converging for a brief moment before eventually being resolved on their own terms. While the episode had a Justified feel, the material with Art hunting his old nemesis (slowly) being particularly charming, it didn’t really show us or tell us anything about the people involved. It might have said something about Winona, but the “resolution” sort of kept that from being fully investigated.

However, as you have no doubt figured out, “Save My Love” not only offered a stellar example of how serial convergence can function in a procedural setting, but it also dramatically transformed the ending of “Blaze of Glory.” It’s a stealth two-parter, undoing the resolution in a blink of an eye and marching on forward with an unending sense of tension. It’s an obnoxiously tight hour of television, but it also very much depends on both the series’ serial development up to this point and the lack of serial development in some of this season’s episodes.

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Season Premiere: Justified – “The Moonshine War”

“The Moonshine War”

February 9th, 2011

“You never go outside…you know that.”

There are two reasons I decided to forgo a pre-air review of Justified second season, despite having access to the first three episodes in advance. The first reason is that I legitimately did not have time to watch all three episodes, making writing a comprehensive review of the likes of Sepinwall or Ryan somewhat pointless. The other reason is that I sort of feel as though my coverage of the first season established my opinion about the series, addressing the lingering concerns about the procedural structure and embracing the series’ complex conclusion. Considering that my opinion on those efforts is entirely unchanged based on “The Moonshine War,” to repeat it would be redundant.

Instead, I want to focus my limited time on “The Moonshine War” itself, a compelling premiere which is surprisingly subtle given the explosive finale that was “Bulletville.” While the title implies a war, this is very much an introductory survey, a short but stellar glimpse into another corner of Harlan, Kentucky, and the battle brewing within. It’s a strong foundation for the season’s serialized arc, but despite the somewhat manufactured circumstances it never feels like a blatant new beginning.

It feels like a return to Kentucky, and a return to a world which is as rife for drama as it was at the conclusion of last season. And, frankly, I’m pretty darn excited about it.

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Season Finale: Justified – “Bulletville”

“Bulletville”

June 8th, 2010

I think an “I told you so” is in order (albeit a little bit late, as I didn’t get to the finale until this weekend).

I wrote at length earlier this spring about how Justified’s gradual serialization was nothing to be alarmed about, and could actually result in a stronger serialized core to the series by allowing us to spend time with the characters outside of the demands of long-term storylines, and “Bulletville” is the definitive example of the complexities of this form of narrative pleasure (or the pleasure of this narrative complexity – works either way).

Perhaps the best way to describe it is a sort of abstract serialization: while there are parts of the narrative which present clear actions and consequences, there are others which build on small moments, actions which have no immediate ramifications but which at some point in the story merge with serialized arcs and contribute to a meaningful image of setting or character.

In its first season finale, Justified did everything they needed to do to bring it all together: in fact, there was so many moving pieces here that parts of the series which one would have presumed to be central in a finale like this one (especially if the show were as generic a procedural as some presumed it to be) were left to small moments, actions within a larger whole, leaving “Bulletville” to mirror the events of the series’ pilot but with newfound, and pretty fantastic, complexity.

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Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Drama Acting

Handicapping the 2010 Emmys: Drama Acting

June 3rd, 2010

On the drama side of things, there’s fewer trends that we can follow through to the nominees than there are in comedy. There, we can look at Glee and Modern Family and see some logical directions the awards could take, but in Drama there’s really only one new contender (The Good Wife), and the other variables are much more up in the air in terms of what’s going to connect with viewers. Lost could see a resurgence with voters in its final season, or it could be left in the dust; Mad Men could pick up more acting nominations now that its dynasty is secure, or it could remain underrepresented; Breaking Bad could stick to Cranston/Paul, or it could branch out into the rest of the stellar cast.

That unpredictability isn’t going to make for a shocking set of nominations, but I do think it leaves a lot of room open for voters to engage with a number of series to a degree that we may not have, so it’s an interesting set of races where I’m likely going out on some limbs.

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Procedural Pacing: Why Justified’s Non-Serial Episodes are…you know…Justified

Procedural Pacing: FX’s Justified

April 8th, 2010

Over the past few days, there have been a number of pieces being written about FX’s future, as the network recently announced that they were moving away from their “edgy” persona in favour of something more akin to USA Network’s brand identity (Jaime Weinman has a great piece on the subject). It isn’t that the network will look no different than USA or TNT, but rather that they’re looking to be a slightly edgier version of those networks as opposed to the cable equivalent of HBO. The mantra may remain the same, in other words, but the point of comparison is shifting so as to take advantage of the current marketplace (where USA is tremendously successful and FX is doing just alright).

And I feel as if the ratings “drop” for FX’s newest series, Justified, has somehow gotten caught up in this particular announcement; James Hibberd of The Hollywood Reporter’s TheLiveFeed posits that the show’s dropping ratings are the result of the fact that the series began with a pilot and promotion (the latter of which is a fair point, and one that I can’t entirely fairly judge being north of the border) that looked like a serialized series more akin to the channel’s past but has over the next few episodes become more “procedural,” a term that Hibberd uses as if it were a four-letter word for those expecting something “serious.”

I haven’t written about Justified yet, but I’m quite enjoying the show, and more importantly I’m finding the show to be enjoyable entirely independent of whether or not it is delving into highly serialized storylines on a regular basis. In fact, I’d argue that it is integral to the show’s long-term future that they spend time giving us a sense of what Raylan Givens does for a living and how those stories may normally develop. Just because an episode uses “procedural” storytelling does not make it a procedural, nor does that preclude the series from becoming more serialized in the future. So long as the procedural stories the show chooses to tell are interesting, and so long as the stories seem designed to reveal more about characters and about the show’s universe, then the atmosphere and character development gained are well worth the lack of “serialized” material.

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Summering in Deadwood: “Sold Under Sin” (The End of Season One)

DeadwoodTitle

Summering in Deadwood: “Sold Under Sin”

Season One, Episode Twelve

[A note before we move on: friend of the blog Todd VanDerWerff is going through the show from a different perspective than I am, having already seen it, and is recapping the show for The A.V. Club. You can check out his thoughts on the first three episodes there – I am sure they are far more entertaining than my own.]

Just as I expected, there was a moment in Season One of Deadwood where my ability to successfully stop after each episode to blog about it, or to find enough time after watching a disc to sufficiently try to summarize where things were going to that point, pretty much disappeared. This isn’t a sign that I have become disinterested in the show, or even necessarily that I was so engrossed that I couldn’t take the time to stop. Rather, it was a combination from some “real world” commitments and the fact that this show may have some of the most unique pacing I’ve seen in a drama of this nature.

Admittedly, I’m used to watching The Wire in terms of my epic ensemble HBO shows go, and as such I got used to a single plotline denoting a season, and that plotline representing the plot that you could sort of follow your way through. In the process, you learn things about each character, the process serving as the main impetus while the characters react as seems necessary, often times to tragic or at the very least suspenseful results.

But what I’m learning watching “Sold Under Sin” is that Deadwood operates differently: yes, each season represents more one large storyline than any small selection of storylines contributing to a whole, but what sets Deadwood apart is that there isn’t really a plot to speak of. While the show’s finale shows the outside world infiltrating this lawless camp more than it has before, the show has been clear from the beginning that this was an inevitability, rather than anything we would find surprising or that would bring forth surprising behaviour from these characters.

On some level, this would be a complaint about another show: I can’t think of a single characters whose path has fundamentally surprised me, or gone in a different direction than I expected, and the show has relied almost entirely on nuance and performance in terms of its characters fulfilling predetermined destiny more than charting their own path. The show’s plot, meanwhile, has moved so slowly that a majority of its more explosive conflicts are left entirely absent from the finale, left smoldering while smaller and more recent conflicts prove the most dramatic in the episode. If we were to judge this finale based on these qualifiers, expecting dramatic shifts in character or plot resolution, “Sold Under Sin” is an abject failure.

But, just to be clear, this isn’t a show that should be judged on those qualities: those acting nuances are just plain compelling, the performances coming alive in this episode as in every episode right in line with Milch’s particular brand of dialogue, and the smoldering embers of conflict in the town are so full of potential that it was all I could do, even finishing the finale as the sun rose, to keep from popping in the first disc of Season Two.

And isn’t that the right way to judge a show, especially one which has clearly not yet begun (and considering its cancellation might not end) its journey?

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Summering in Deadwood: “Deadwood” (Season One, Episode One)

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Summering in Deadwood: “Deadwood”

Season One, Episode One

For those of you who don’t know, I came into television fairly late in life: rather than a lifelong obsession, my love for television really only arrived in 2004, with Lost and Veronica Mars amongst other shows providing a sudden awareness of the breadth of television available. Sure, there had been a few shows that had been appointment television before that point, but suddenly there was a desire to watch everything that was out there, a desire which eventually drove me to start this blog and, well, the rest is history.

However, in the process, there have been shows I’ve missed, a problem that takes longer to rectify when you’re watching so many shows currently airing and perhaps worst of all, also dealing with commitments to the real world. A lot of these shows happen to have aired on HBO: being both young and Canadian, my access to shows like The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, or The Wire was limited by resources, and there just wasn’t the drive to start catching up on them. Now, however, I find myself entering into a critical discourse wherein these shows (in particular The Wire and The Sopranos) are scarily prevalent, and so I’ve felt obligated to play catch up, and have picked up the DVDs whenever I’ve spotted a sale. As a result, last year I caught up on Six Feet Under (well, until I got frustrated and stopped mid-5th season), and spent a whirlwind few months with perhaps the best piece of television I’ve ever born witness to, The Wire.

This summer, after an informal twitter poll confirmed what I was likely to choose if left to my own volition, I shall be confronting the fourth part of this HBO twenty-first century grouping, David Milch’s Deadwood. It’s a show that I’ve heard extremely good things about, but also one that I am fairly ignorant of: I knew the basic premise, and knew the actors from various roles since the show ended (supposedly) prematurely, but my sense of the show’s general direction or message is pretty well a clean slate. I feel as if that’s a pretty good way to go into the series, although one that will admittedly make this post and others potentially less interesting for those who have already seen the show.

Summering in Deadwood is not going to be an overly formal review format, outside of my usual verbosity; I don’t expect I’ll review every single episode, focusing instead on likely some quick Twitter notes and reviews of the episodes which stand out for any particular reason, whether they be plot, character, or some sort of response which feels as if it is worthy of some discussion.

And to start things off, “Deadwood” is certainly worthy of some discussion.

[WARNING: I haven’t seen the show, and have not gone beyond the episode being written about – as a result, PLEASE refrain from spoiling anything to follow, although some subtle teases are allowed presuming they don’t ruin any surprises to come.]

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