Apr 18, 2023
City Primeval: High noon approaches
Back in 2010, FX brought us one hell of an entertainment drama series in a show about a charming but stubborn U.S. Marshal with his own methods of ensuring justice, Wild West-style. Justified won several awards during its run, including two Emmys, a Peabody, and the American Film Institute TV Program of the Year prize.
If you’ve never seen the hit series, now is your chance to binge all six seasons before its sequel revival season returns this summer with eight new episodes. Justified originally ended its run in 2015 but this past January, FX announced the show will be returning this summer for a limited series run with a sequel titled City Primeval. Here’s a recap of the original series followed by everything we know about the sequel and what to expect.
Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens, played by the inimitable Timothy Olyphant (The Crazies), is a bad-ass gunslinger who hunts criminals in his own way, with no regard for crossing legal lines. This, along with his bold, brash, no-bullshit attitude, puts him at odds with the higher ups in the U.S. Marshals Service, and after a pretty sweet (but illegal) gunslinging incident in Miami goes down in the opening scene of episode one, Givens is reassigned to his hometown Kentucky district full of hills, hollers, and hoodlums ... and memories he wants to forget.
(For the layperson, a holler (or hollow) is the area of ground space between hills, in this case in Kentucky … it's unclaimed territory, if you will.)
Developed by executive producer Graham Yost, the original series is based on a character from the late great American author Elmore Leonard and his novella “Fire in the Hole”. Leonard also wrote classic crime stories that turned into feature adaptations, such as Get Shorty, Be Cool, Rum Punch, and 3:10 to Yuma, among many others. To date, Justified is one of the most critically acclaimed shows of this century, along with Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, and Better Call Saul.
In addition to Olyphant, Justified also features Walton Goggins (Sons of Anarchy, The Shield, The Righteous Gemstones), Nick Searcy (NCIS, The Old Way), Joelle Carter (Home Before Dark, Chicago Justice), Natalie Zea (The Detour), Jere Burns (Breaking Bad), Jeremy Davies (The Black Phone, Twister, Lost), Margo Martindale (Sneaky Pete, Cocaine Bear), and many other recognizable faces. While Olyphant and Goggins were nominated for Emmys for their roles, Martindale took home the award for Best Supporting Drama Actress for her role as the tough as nail Mags Bennett.
Her portrayal in Justified is unforgettable, and after experiencing her there, you're gonna want to jump over to Sneaky Pete on Amazon and check her out her in that. Jeremy Davies, who plays one of Mags’s sons, also took home a guest Emmy, and you’ll see why after you visit the story. Each character has so many unique qualities, they bring the storyline to life with their rich dialogue and memorable idiosyncrasies.
The series centers around a long-standing conflict (and inevitable anticipated showdown) between Raylan Givens and career holler criminal Boyd Crowder, played by an equally as charming Walton Goggins. The banter between these two is so much fun, you just can’t help but love and root for them both. In fact, I guarantee you’ll fall in love with every single character in these stand-alone, season-long arcs that offer up the perfect balance of comedy and drama. The show is written and acted out that well.
Justified originally ended its run in 2015 with its sixth season, but this past January, FX announced the show will be returning July 18 for a limited series run. Here’s everything we know about the sequel and what to expect.
Justified: City Primeval is based on one of Elmore Leonard’s other novels, the 1980 crime drama “City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit”. The book itself does not feature Raylan Givens, but the story was updated by Leonard's son to include the character. It's set in Detroit and follows a dangerous criminal by the name of Clement Mansell, aka The Oklahoma Wildman, played by Boyd Holbrook of The Predator and The Sandman.
The show’s creative team, which reunites much of the team from the original series, was reportedly excited to explore Raylan as a stranger in a strange land after spending years in the familiar, crime-ridden hollers of Eastern Kentucky—Harlan County, to be exact.
“We weren’t trying to recapture the show we [previously] did,” explained co-showrunner Michael Dinner at the Television Critics Association winter press tour. “We were trying to recapture Elmore’s tone. This is a book that we really loved. We loved the characters in the book. We thought it would be interesting to pick up with Raylan and catapult him into this story and see him some years down the road. … What we’ve done is true to the show but not the same show.”
Dinner served as executive producer on Justified during its original run and went on to produce and direct for Sneaky Pete and fellow FX crime drama Mayans M.C. Sharing the directing role with Dinner is Dave Andron, who is known for being the co-creator and show runner for FX’s Snowfall, which is coming to an end later this year.
Justified: City Primeval picks up 10 years after the original series ended. Givens is long gone from his hometown of Harlan and now lives in Miami with his 15-year-old daughter Willa, who is played by Olyphant’s real-life daughter, Vivian. He balances his life between U.S. Marshal and part-time father, but a chance encounter on a lonely Florida highway sends him to Detroit where he crosses paths with the violent, sociopathic desperado The Oklahoma Wildman, who’s already slipped through the fingers of Detroit’s finest once and is looking to slip away again. Givens also has the pleasure of going up against the desperado’s big-time powerful lawyer. Together, these three characters set sail on a collision course a la Elmore Leonard style, and it’ll be a nailbiter to see who makes it out of City Primeval alive.
"While the setting and characters will are new, it’s still very much Justified in nature," said executive producer Sarah Timberman. “It’s an extension of the show in a kind of storytelling mode even though it’s Detroit. A hallmark of the original show was that you’d spin out into Margo Martindale and Kaitlyn Dever’s world, and you’d just live there and just leave our regulars. And they became the regulars.”
The revival reportedly does this as well with characters played by Vondie Curtis-Hall (Daredevil), Aunjanue Ellis (Lovecraft Country) and Adelaide Clemens (Rectify).
“You really get into these other lives over these eight episodes, and it’s really fun to watch,” said Graham Yost.
And although the math doesn’t exactly add up, it has been 15 years since Raylan left Harlan for Florida, and Willa was only four at the time. The choice to finagle the timeline a little ultimately came down to dramatic considerations.
“The age that she plays—15 going on 16—there’s a short window that Raylan has,” said Director Michael Dinner. “He’s at a point in his life where that road is pretty short in front of him. … He’s facing mandatory retirement in the marshal service.”
Olyphant continues, “We were attracted to the idea that this is a ticking clock. Raylan is about to lose [Willa] no matter what [because of her age].”
City Primeval is also rumored to address what has happened to some of our favorite characters from Justified. Allegedly, early in the revival’s development, the producers didn’t want to bring back any character from the show’s original run, but they eventually reconsidered and decided that as long as it made sense organically within the story, they would explore the idea. However, no deets have been released yet on who might show up or be addressed, but producers have confirmed through FX we will find out what has happened to some of the show’s finest (Wynn Duffy, anybody?).
Director Michael Dinner has spoken out on the changing perception of law enforcement as it relates to depicting that in the show. Since Justified went off the air in 2015, there’s been a giant reckoning regarding police brutality. The complications presented by putting a law enforcement officer like Raylan, who (very much like Dexter Morgan in Dexter) is not a bad man but obviously lives by his own code, in Detroit and surrounding him with Black men and women are well understood by producers.
“We’re not beating the drum [about race], but it’s certainly front and center,” said Dinner. “The world has changed. And Raylan’s world has changed. … It was important for us to try to get it right, to try to get what Raylan’s life is like in a changing world."
Olyphant added, “We’re not a show that cheerleads for law enforcement. Part of what makes Elmore Leonard’s world, and our world, something a little different is the characters are self-aware a little bit. They’re aware of their flaws and they’re aware of their shortcomings. And they’re aware it’s complicated.”
While the sequel series revival is meant to stand on its own and be an extension of the Justified universe, creators have alluded to the presence of Easter eggs for longtime fans. My recommendation is that if you have not seen Justified, now's the time to give it a go before tuning into City Primeval. It makes for a fantastic binge. You'll be glad you did, and you'll notice it’ll enhance your revival experience that much more. Here’s the original trailer from Season One. Enjoy the holler, my friends, and be sure to catch City Primeval on FX July 18 and FX on Hulu July 19.
Keeley Brooks is a big ole movies, television, and streaming nerd with a voracious appetite for content and an uncontrollable urge to write about everything she watches. Even if it sucks. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.