Earlier this year, I asked Twitter for suggestions for great TV. Many in the romance community suggested Justified. This show, which just concluded its six series run, stars Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens, an old-school U.S. Marshal who returns to the place of his troubled childhood in the deadly poor towns and hollers of Eastern Kentucky. Like many–Thomas Wolfe was indeed right–Raylan’s return to the people of his past is full of tragedy, heartbreak, and betrayal. The show began as it ended, showcasing the complicated relationships between Raylan, Boyd (Raylan’s nemesis), and Ava. The three, brilliantly portrayed by Olyphant, Walton Goggins, and Joelle Carter, made for addictive watching. Lexxi and Laura (they are social media friends of mine) were among those who suggested the show to me last year–for which I thank them–so I asked them whether they thought Justified had a great love story in it. This Pandora’s Box is their answer.
(Warning: This blog may contain spoilers.)
Laura: Justified is obviously not a romance, but the vast majority of romance readers who watched it loved it (except those for whom the violence was too much). I’ve been considering why that is. Do you think there was a great love story on Justified that might have drawn them in?
Lexxi: Strangely enough I think there was but it was unrequited. I think Boyd sincerely loved Ava but I don’t think Ava ever got over Raylan. So I guess it was really more of a triangle that does not resolve in a happily ever after for any of them. Although Raylan and Ava do seem to find some peace.
Laura: I agree that Boyd truly loved Ava, but I don’t think Ava loved anyone but herself, really. I think she cared very much about both Raylan and Boyd, but her number one priority was Ava. She teased and flirted a lot with Raylan and tried to play on his feelings for her, but I don’t think she really believed he would change. And when Ava kills Delroy, and then plans to kill—or have Boyd kill—Ellen May, I think it sort of seals the deal of her as both stronger and less romantic than Boyd.
In fact, in many ways, despite everyone talking about Raylan as the hero, I think that’s debatable. I think it would be just as easy to see Boyd as the hero, albeit a violent one. At the beginning of the series, it is Ava’s action—shooting her husband—that sets the stage for Boyd and Raylan to come up against each other. It’s worth remembering that Boyd doesn’t start out as all that bad a guy. He “finds God” at the beginning of the series and then goes a wee bit overboard, blowing up meth houses, etc. Yeah, it’s violent, but until Ava kills Delroy, Boyd’s violence has a perverse morality. It’s not until the Ellen May mess that Boyd really goes over to the dark side.
Lexxi: Well, other than his hat, Raylan doesn’t really have any other heroic traits. He uses his friends, his co workers, and pretty much anyone to accomplish his goals. He’s not a good husband to Winona and sacrifices his marriage for his job. He constantly puts Art and Rachel’s careers at risk. And his pursuit of Boyd depends on whether or not it meets Raylan’s immediate goals. With the exception of Loretta and Constable Sweeney, I don’t see where Raylan really does anything to help anyone. He even delivers a gangster to the ganster’s boss so he can be executed. None of his actions are heroic. So, for me, Raylan is more of an outlaw who finds himself on the right side of the law. Similar to Lucas Hood in Banshee. And looking back, I don’t think Raylan really changes over the course of the series.
What do you think? Am I being to hard on Raylan?
Laura: I am laughing so hard right now. “Other than his hat…” I don’t watch Banshee, but in many ways Raylan does remind me of another Lucas, Lucas Davenport in the Prey series by John Sandford. And Sandford said once that he though Lucas might be a sociopath. I agree, Raylan doesn’t change much. He’s charming, suave, and willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants. I do think that over the series he grows up a bit but his fundamental personality doesn’t really change. I think the thing that’s Raylan’s saving grace is his sense of responsibility to people he considers weaker than himself. He’s willing to throw Art to the wolves because he’s pretty sure Art can take care of himself, but he really does care about Loretta and he even is even tries to get the Marshal service to let Ava go after she’s given them minimal information.
So if Raylan’s not really heroic and the great love story is unrequited, what do you think Justified has to recommend itself to romance readers?
Lexxi: Raylan is a true alpha male, similar to what you find in romance novels. Hollywood prefers beta male leads so it’s hard to find a true alpha on television who isn’t also a criminal. So I think that has some appeal. Plus Timothy Olyphant could read the phone book and make it sexy and charming. Then there’s Boyd Crowder. If you like bad boys in serious need of redemption, then Boyd is your man. He’s the charming outlaw that really wants to do better. He just hasn’t found the right woman to help him walk the straight and narrow. (Like Arlo, Raylan’s father, did. Raylan’s mother kept Arlo straight but then died.) I think romance readers who like westerns might find Justified appealing, because that’s really what it is. A modern day western. Plus the hat. You’ve gotta love Raylan’s hat.
Laura K. Curtis has always done everything backwards. As a child, she was extremely serious, so now that she’s chronologically an adult, she feels perfectly justified in acting the fool. Her first book written at age six, was released in (notebook) paperback to rave reviews and she’s been trying to achieve the same level of acclaim ever since. Although she’s published three romantic suspense novels, a contemporary romance, and several short pieces of crime fiction, her mother still thinks nothing measures up to that first book. Laura lives in Westchester County, NY with her husband and a pack of wild Irish Terriers, which has taught her how easily love can coexist with the desire to kill. Her latest book is Echoes.
Lexxi Callahan writes sexy, contemporary romance novels set in the deep south. Lexxi stays online so you can usually find her on Twitter @callahanlexxie. Solving for Nic, the second book in her Southern Style series, was released in December of 2014 and book three is expected later this year.