Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Justified, "Riverbrook": You, me and Dupree

A review of the second episode of "Justified" coming up just as soon as I talk to a one-time exotic dancer...

Of the four episodes of "Justified" I've seen, "Riverbrook" was definitely the weakest of the bunch - not bad, but a definite comedown from the thrills, chills and laughs of the pilot, and not as strong at working without an Elmore Leonard safety net as the third or (particularly) fourth episode.

Again, you can't underestimate how big an issue that is. Graham Yost borrowed large chunks of Leonard's dialogue from "Fire in the Hole" for the pilot, and while I think it would have been folly to try creating Leonard soundalike dialogue going forward(*), there's definitely less snap to a lot of the banter in this one.

(*) Jason Smilovic and company did okay with that on "Karen Sisco," but in general Leonard's authorial voice is so distinctive that a bad imitator would stick out much worse than not trying to copy him at all.

There were still some very funny moments, like the party guest calling for "Freebird," or Art giving Raylan a hard time about losing his gun, badge and hat to Cooper the bank robber. And some cool running gags, too, like Tim the ex-sniper telling Raylan about he learned to create "stories" about each of his potential targets, until the idea caused some snipers (and, it's implied, him) to have some killer's remorse, which led to the great payoff where Tim described his story about Dupree: "Yeah, if he does anything out of line, I get to shoot him."

My problem with the episode, I think, came largely from the Cooper/Dupree/Shirley side of things. Given the nature of a Marshal's job, and the way that Leonard himself structures most of his stories, the bad guys have to be as important to every story as the good guys. And that can work if Raylan's quarry is played by someone as instantly-colorful as Walton Goggins (who returns briefly as Boyd at the top), or if the writing for the guest characters is really spot on (as it is in the fourth episode). But Cooper was never a compelling enough character for me to want to spend long stretches of the episode with him, and away from Raylan. Tim Olyphant sets such a high bar that the show is going to need to be really smart with how it writes and casts the guest stars, or else the show is going to tip heavily to one side.

(That, or they'll need to rethink how they apportion screen time, and that has its own pitfalls; if we're not in any way invested in Raylan's targets, then things get repetitive.)

What did everybody else think?

29 comments:

Zach said...

Agreed, a bit of a come down from last week. I'm curious what happens with Boyd going further in the show.

I was a bit surprised to see how easy Dupree took Raylon hostage, thought there would be a scene where Raylon was able to get out of the sticky situation.

I did like though they finally revealed why he wore the hat. "I just tried it on one day and it fit."

Phil Freeman said...

Yeah, this was a drop in intensity from the pilot, but I still enjoyed it in more or less the same way I enjoy an episode of Human Target. If they can keep even the second-tier episodes of this show at the same level of quality, with other episodes that are as good as the pilot, I'll be very happy.

itwasi said...

I really liked this episode. I like the humor, how Raylan didn't go all lone cowboy to catch the escaped convict but called it in, and how the other Marshall's are skilled and competent. If this is the least of the first episodes than damn this show has me.

However, when the other Marshall was telling his sniper tale, that was just begging for Leonard style dialogue.

The Cork in the Bottle said...

I'm surprised anyone watched Justified after watching Lost tonight. Massive brain overload still not abated....

Anonymous said...

Although last week was a more "dramatic" episode, I actually feel more confident about the show after this week. That's because I enjoyed the hour (personally, I thought the actor who played Cooper did a great job) even though there really wasn't that much at stake for Raylan. Last week, I was worried that Raylan would need to have a personal relationship with every anatagonist to keep things interesting, which ultimately would strain credulity.

oz

p.s. I also liked the fact that they didn't make a mini-cliffhanger out of Raylan regaining his hat, which a lesser show might have done as some sort of lame Indiana Jones homage.

JoeBobHalley said...

Chris Ellis was terrific, as was the dude who played Dupree. I think of him as a thin younger Randy Quaid.

There was some direct Elmore dialogue. The car scene with Dewey Crowe, Raylan saying, "you understand how I see your people?"

Joelle Carter is riveting. The looks she gives Raylan: "Can we just makeout a little?"

True, not as strong as the pilot, but good stuff.

Yellowdog said...

I don't even watch police procedurals and I already love this show. Olyphant is a great character, the writing is funny and witty, and it's interesting to see a police show in the country instead of the city for once. I'm hooked and I'm glad to see that it's a hit.

Oaktown Girl said...

It's late and I haven't done the checking into it, but I'm pretty sure the prisoner Raylan was escorting from the prisoner hospital at the beginning of the episode was played by the same guy who was the prisoner in the very opening scene of the Deadwood pilot. If so, that was a real nice touch.

It's poor video quality, but here's the YouTube link to the Deadwood scene. Maybe someone has time to confirm if it's the same actor or not.

mikeb302000 said...

Thanks for that link to the Deadwood opening scene.

I haven't seen Justified yet, but I think Olyphant will always be Seth Bullock to me.

Andrew said...

I want more of the serial plotlines and less of the one and dones. The Shield struck the perfect balance here, and I hope Justified trends towards that.

Chazz Goodtimes said...

I agree that after last week's great start this episode was a bit of a let-down but overall I found it very enjoyable. Two things-

1. After all the ass-kicking Raylan handed out last week I was glad that this episode showed he is, in fact, a fallable character as the escaped cons got the drop on him at the gas station.

2. When Raylan says to Dewey Crowe, that you "have to ride the rap," I"m pretty sure Riding the Rap is the title of a Leonard book that I've read (to be honest a lot of his work blends together for me) but nothing else about the episode seemed familiar.

Dick Polman said...

Not as strong as the pilot, but definitely strong enough to have fun with. It stayed true to the Elmore spirit. Most importantly, Cooper/Shirley/Dupree were classic Elmore-style archetypes - sporadically dangerous doofuses who are as addled by lust and jealousy as they are about money.

Anonymous said...

They had me at "Chinatown."

AuntiePam said...

Oaktown Girl, that guy reminded me of Clell Watson too, but IMDB says it's a different actor. Clell did make an impression, didn't he?

I loved this episode for the reasons [b]itwasi[/b] listed, and I really, really liked Cooper and would love to see him again.

I don't mind that the dialogue isn't always snappy, as long as it's realistic, like Raylon's "Shit" as the door closes on him. I also like his boss, and chuckled at "You're a biter" -- it's something that someone, somewhere has said, not contrived, just down home wisdom.

Yellowdog said...

It seems to me that too many people are worried too much about how faithful it is to Elmore Leonard. Just enjoy it for what it is.

Oaktown Girl said...

AuntiePam - thanks for looking that up. Too bad it's not the same actor, because that would have been really, really cool.

Hatfield said...

"Sir, could you please get the f*** outta here?"

Thanks for the reason, Oaktown Girl.

Anonymous said...

And some cool running gags...
This made me pause and wonder if Doug E. Doug made an appearance again in THIS episode.

Add me to the list of folks who agree that this week's episode was a come down from last week. But, I already know by episode 2 that I'm in love with Olyphant as this character. The way he looked at Eva when he walked into his motel room and saw her there? GOOD LORD.

I also really enjoyed the CHINATOWN nod. Hilarious.

Christy

rexmism said...

This is very annoying in this day in age, but I can't for the life of me find the name of the actor that played Cooper. He looks extremely familiar. Anyone know?

Phillip said...

"You make me pull, I put you down."

Anyone else bothered by the fact that this code didn't last 5 minutes into the second episode?

Hatfield said...

Rexism, his name is Chris Ellis.

Rosser said...

I'm a fan of this show already because in true FX fashion, it's wild-ass and fun. Timothy Olyphant and Walt Goggins are awesome.

One thing that is killing me...Raylan shot Elmore in the heart. I know they kept saying he missed and blah blah but that gun shot in ep 1 and treated wound in ep 2 is right where the heart is! Really bothering me...

tribalism said...

It was nice to see antagonists who don't possess all the predictable characteristics and cliches we see on so many other law enforcement shows. That said, Walton Goggins as the antagonists in the premiere was definitely a much more satisfying match-up for Raylan.

If anyone is interested, more of my thoughts on this episode are available on my blog where I go into detail about why Boyd is a great villain as well as why Douglas Cooper and Cousin Dupree were so different (in a good way) from the crooks we usually see on TV. Click my username for the link.

PatM said...

Might be alone, but thought it was better than the first.. Tim seemed to be more comfortable with the character and I actually liked the bad guys, simply because they were more beleivable.

A.H. said...

I didn't see the first episode, but tuned in to this one after all the positive press.

I can't understand the appeal. This was an incredibly dull hour of TV.

Anonymous said...

Olyphant's a major cutie. I will keep watching!

ePastor James said...

Justified is easily my new favorite drama of the 2009-2010 season. I hope it does really well. Timothy Olyphant deserves some fucking awards recognition already!

Also, I lovelovelove Kristin Bauer. She's hilarious. She had a few good moments in this episode, and I am so excited for her to be bumped to a cast regular for season 3 of True Blood.

(I have to admit that when I saw the opening credits list the guest stars, I became all giddy @ Chris Ellis, thinking it was the drunk cop from TB. But my mind meshed Nelsan Ellis and Chris Bauer together, haha. [Chris Ellis was terrific, imo.] But Todd Lowe was totally in the pilot! TB LOVE!)

Your only flaw Alan is not appreciating Nurse Jackie enough <3.

Erik said...

My God, that was horrible. Take all of the worst parts of police procedurals, and then add Timothy Olyphant, who is just horrible in every role I've ever seen him play. Can he do anything but stare and look angry? He messed up every scene he was in in Deadwood.

The pilot was just as bad - are we to believe neo-nazis and other far-right extremists are totally sociopathic and codeless, just killing each other for the fun of it? Dull, clich├ęd, and stupid.

VenetianBlond said...

That "because it fit" is an old saw, and I'm surprised people point that out as a standout line. I've usually heard it as, "because it fits my head." Remember Horse Whisperer? Same thing with boots, "why do you wear those boots?" "Because they fit my feet." Maybe it's because I'm from the mountains, too.