How did it win us over? Easy: winning dialogue. Look at three examples of what Justified's writers do with the words they put in their characters' mouths.
(Note: ISLF aims to be a more-or-less family friendly blog, at least in the language department. However, hardboiled characters are rather known for their salty elocution, and those in Justified are no exception. Consider yourself warned.)
In the climax of the pilot episode, straight-talking, straight-shooting and cowboy-hat-wearing U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens is facing down a white supremacist named Boyd Crowder over a meal of fried chicken. The confrontation is taking place in the home of Ava Crowder, Boyd's sister-in-law who recently ended her marriage to his abusive brother with a .30-06 slug to the chest while he ate dinner at the very same table.
RAYLAN: The .45's on the table, I have to pull. Is that how we do it?In "Blowback," Raylan tries to defuse a hostage situation with an ex-con named Cal Wallace who is holding a shiv to the throat of a guard in the U.S. Marshall's office.
BOYD: Well, I appreciate that, Raylan. Yes, I do believe it is my call. What are you packing?
RAYLAN: You'll pay to find that out.
BOYD: Ooh, you got ice-cold water running through your veins. [pause] Well, should we just do us a shot of Jim Beam? Just for old time's sake?
BOYD: Ava, get us a shot of Jim --
[Ava comes in from the hallway with a shotgun.]
AVA: You wanna know what Bowman said when he looked up and he saw me with his deer rifle?
BOYD: Damn, woman, you only shoot people when they're eating supper?
AVA: He had his mouth full of sweet potato. He said, "The hell you doing with that?"
BOYD: Ava, put the gun down, please.
AVA: You wanna know what I said? I said, "I'm gonna shoot you -- dummy."
WALLACE: Hey, you like having a boss?"The Collection" features a scene in which Raylan has a heart-to-heart talk with his ex-wife Winona.
RAYLAN: Can't say I think about it much.
WALLACE: Well, I had a boss once. I hired on roughnecking right after I dropped out of high school. [yells] I brained my boss with a heavy chain! [laughs] This one we used to trick pipe. Well, when I said I brained him, I mean literally you could see brains coming out his nose.
RAYLAN: Didn't you say Simone was the first man you killed? You did that before high school?
WALLACE: Oh, no, no, no. That foreman, he didn't die. I got forty-two months out of it, but that son of a bitch, he held on. [laughs] I don't think he's much of a conversationalist anymore, though!
RAYLAN: Um. [takes off his hat, turns it in his hands] Why did you leave me?The dialogue of Justified is many things, as you tell. Chatty. Idiosyncratic. Raw. Tender. Gut-bustingly funny. But I notice two things especially. First, it's highly stylized, not at all what you'd hear people saying on the street. Second, it does so much more than simply convey information. It entertains, and isn't delight what we're supposed to be fostering in audiences in the first place?
WINONA: You want to talk about that right now? Okay. I didn't leave you, Raylan. You left me when you took that job in Miami.
RAYLAN: You were gonna sell the house and join me. Instead, you ended up banging the realtor.
WINONA: You think our marriage was a bed of roses up until I stepped out? Weren't you just the littlest bit relieved when I took up with Gary?
RAYLAN: Was it money?
RAYLAN: Well, did you want someone who --
WINONA: Raylan, you know me. Do you think I give a shit about money?
RAYLAN: Everyone gives a shit about money.
WINONA: What's going on with you, Raylan?
RAYLAN: I wanna know. Was he funnier than me? Smarter? Does he have more money, a bigger house, bigger dick?
WINONA: Yes, no, no, uh, I didn't measure.
RAYLAN: Wait, run the order of that by me again. [pauses, smiles, shakes his head] I know I played my part. Losing someone like you, it ... I guess it eats at a guy.
(Picture: CC 2006 by Shannon K)