After what seemed like an endless hiatus (not quite 9 months, but who’s counting?) Justified is back on FX and in perfect form, per usual. New Big Bads are introduced as well as a glimpse at some familiar faces. But new and old alike – there is one thing that they all have in common: chances are they are causing grief for the man in the hat – Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant).

Justified Review

During season one Raylan took on the Crowder family. Season two brought trouble from the Bennett clan. In season three, things are a little different. Instead of a backwoods family dealing drugs or shooting each other, Raylan is going to have to deal with guys in suits. Neal McDonough (an actor frequently found in outings from Justified creator, Graham Yost) plays Robert Quarles, a member of the Detriot mob who has made his way down to Harlan County to deal with certain troubles – like a real estate developer, Emmett, involved in the so-called Dixie Mafia who is late on payments. McDonough’s steely blue eyes are as frightening as ever in this role. And as Quarles coolly kills all that have disappointed him or served their purpose (including Emmett and his secretary whom both he and Quarles were sleeping with) it becomes clear those frightening eyes will serve him well in this role. I look forward to seeing him and Raylan get tangled up soon!

(And speaking of McDonough, I’m just going to go ahead and assume that the character he is playing is the same one that he played in the finale of Terriers. It makes me feel better, okay?)

Quarles isn’t the only bad guy that Raylan will have to deal with in season 3. Jere Burns is back as security system installer and all around shady dude, Wynn Duffy. After Quarles kills Emmett and the secretary, Duffy is left with no choice but to deal with the mob. Something that is sure to set off Raylan, as their previous encounters haven’t exactly been friendly. Jere Burns always plays an excellent villain (see this past season of Burn Notice) and will be just another thorn in Raylan’s side.

But Raylan is busy during most of the episode with another baddie – Fletcher “Ice Pick” Nix (a very creepy Desmond Harrington). And by “busy” I mean not sticking to desk duty – which he is supposed to be on after being shot in the season 2 finale – and helping my other favorite Marshall, Tim Gutterson (Jacob Pitts) find Nix. This culminates in an intense standoff witnessed by pregnant girlfriend, Winona, that ends with Raylan shooting Nix – though notably he seems to only be shot in the shoulder, so I hope we get more of Harrington in future episodes. And how this shooting will ultimately affect Winona’s feelings on settling down (in a non-motel setting) with Raylan is still unclear.

While all those big fancy suits are stirring up trouble in Harlan County, I’m happy to say that Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter), Arlo Givens (Raymond J. Barry) and Devil (Kevin Rankin) are still busy with their drug dealing. Those drugs specifically being the ones they took when they ransacked the Bennett compound after last season’s madness. Bags and bags of marijuana are in their possession, but being the dummies they are – the pot was wet when they put it in the garbage bags for storage so it’s no good. That’s over 100 grand down the proverbial drain.

Meanwhile, Boyd’s busy in jail after getting in a small tussle with Raylan at the Marshall’s office. And by “small tussle” I mean they went through a glass wall. Sigh… boys will be boys. But his current incarceration means Ava’s making sure his orders are taken care of. The scene where she slams Devil’s face in with a cast iron skillet when he said he wasn’t going to burn the pot like Boyd said to… well it is proof that no matter which side of the law she is favoring, Ava is certainly a lot of fun to watch.

And about Boyd being in prison…. Boyd is mad at Raylan because after saving Raylan from Dickie, he promised Boyd (sort of) a chance to get his revenge on Dickie for shooting Ava. But Dickie’s been in prison this entire time. So if Raylan wasn’t going to bring Dickie to him, Boyd was just going to have to go in and get him himself. The look on Dewey and Dickie’s face when Boyd calmly walks past them and in to his new cell is priceless. Next week is sure to bring some hurt for Dickie!

And hopefully, there will be more Boyd/Raylan. Their bromance is the highlight of any episode of this show. The character of Boyd may not have been intended to be around this long, but I love that Yost recognized the brilliance of Goggins and has tapped into what is the greatest dynamic of the show and kept him around. I can’t wait to see what happens with all these characters. The premiere was a fantastic set-up to what is sure to be, if history is any indication, a stellar season.

And there are still more guest stars on the horizon! Mykelti Williamson (Forrest Gump) is still on his way as another bad guy. And Jim Beaver (Supernatural) will be back reprising the same role he had last season working at the mines. I can’t wait.

What did you think of the season premiere? Was it all you had hoped it would be?

Written by Melissa Miller. Find her on Twitter @serrae

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