Justified Returns with One Fierce Family Feud

This Wednesday at 10/9c, when FX’s Justified launches its second season, it should come as no surprise that the new episodes hit the bulls-eye in a way that would make the drama’s sharpshooter protagonist proud.

When last we tuned into the Southern-fried drama born of short stories by Elmore Leonard, U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (played by Timothy Olyphant) received a somewhat unexpected assist from arch-enemy Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) in bringing down a band of drug runners.

Season 2 picks up just moments later, with Raylan debating Boyd’s fate. Shortly thereafter, we get caught up on Raylan’s complicated love life, and then get introduced to Mags Bennett (Million Dollar Baby‘s Margo Martindale), a prickly matriarch poised to be this season’s big bad.

Jeremy Davies (Lost), Brad William Henke (Lost, again) and Joseph Lyle Taylor (100 Centre Street) round out the pot-peddling Bennett brood, which we quickly learn has a history of bad blood with Raylan’s own kin.

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Surveying the Bennett storyline, Justified executive producer Graham Yost says, “We had been kicking around from the beginning of the first season the notion of feud culture in Kentucky. We never ended up getting into it [in Season 1], so we thought, let that be the spine of this season.”

Specifically influencing the character of Mags was a story the writing team came across during a trip to Kentucky’s actual Harlan County. “One of the stories we heard about was this woman, Mags Bailey, who had been a legendary criminal matriarch,” Yost shares. “[She] did things like pay for her kids to go to law school so that her family would have lawyers. And that intrigued us.”

In turn, Martindale found herself champing at the bit to take on this big, bad momma. “I’ll be 60 this summer, so it’s great to be able to be a villain at my age,” the actress says.

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Another theme for Season 2 is the notion of second chances. “Raylan and [ex-wife] Winona (Natalie Zea) have a second chance, so what are they going to do with that?” Yost poses. “Raylan, to a degree, has a second chance with the marshal service — can he do his job without pulling his gun? And Boyd also has a second chance.”

Indeed, the character of Boyd Crowder was a very short-lived one in Leonard’s novels. Yet Yost says the Justified decision to keep him among the living was not the creative choice that most ruffled Leonard’s feathers.

“Elmore was far more concerned about [Raylan’s] hat,” Yost reports with a laugh. “I mean, we had this back-and-forth about different hats and what kind of hat he should wear. Finally, Elmore said, ‘OK. You do what you want.'”

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Are you a Season 1 Justified fan psyched about the show’s return? Or are you a new viewer curious to check out one of TV’s finest dramas?