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Character Development: Raylan Finds His Swagger, Justified “Kin” 

Photo credit: Prashant Gupta/FX
Photo credit: Prashant Gupta/FX

Raylan Givens is one of my all-time favorite TV characters but he’s been off his game this season, settled into a casual relationship with Lindsey, distracted by impending fatherhood and trying to amass a baby fund for Winona, and unrooted from a fixed agenda against Arlo or Boyd. If I didn’t know better, I’d say Raylan had been bored, but it seemed like even bored might have been an effort. While the manhunt for Drew Thompson certainly gave Art (and later, Tim) a “marshal stiffie,” it hadn’t really had the same effect on Raylan. He seemed to be ambling along without a purpose of his own.

Two episodes back, he lost the girl and found out he may never had really had her, and he got the ever-living snot knocked out of him for his trouble. Last week, in ”Kin,” the Feds jumped into the Drew Thompson case and it looked like Arlo was about to spin a deal for his freedom. As soon as Art finished his sentence and Raylan locked eyes on Arlo, we knew there’d be none of that. And just like a light turning on, Raylan stood up a little taller, did a u-turn out of the Marshal’s office and set off to make sure that didn’t happen. Raylan got his swagger back.

He had no trouble handcuffing Josiah Cairn (a hilariously crusty Gerald McRaney) to his car and driving him around and around until he got his answers. He was willing to hike up a mountain alone (with Tim staying at the bottom as backup—he’s not stupid) to go straight into the lion’s den, and if Bob was right, maybe get himself eaten.

To add to our joy, once he got up the mountain, he found himself locked up with Boyd, trading barbs and fighting side by side only to leave him handcuffed to a tree on the way back down when he no longer required his services. This was my Raylan back. He suddenly gave a sh-t again, and it was a joy to watch Timothy Olyphant slip back into that skin.

I love that now that Raylan has an agenda, he’s found his purpose. There’s so much to be tapped about what’s made Raylan Raylan and how much of that has been in defiance of Arlo and his wicked ways. If keeping Arlo locked up, plus untethering himself from a complicated romantic entanglement are what it takes for Raylan to keep his newfound swagger, I’m in, and I hope they drag it out a while.

Justified is all new tonight at 10 pm/9c on FX. Here’s a sneak peek at “Foot Chase” (hah!).

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