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Justified started as a show about a misplaced Deputy U.S. Marshal, re-acquainting himself with his southern Kentucky roots. Over the past three seasons, Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) has fallen back into the rhythm of Harlan County, Kentucky, giving us a much closer look at some of the area’s most colorful residents.

Season 3 introduces us to new villains Ellstin Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson) and Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough), as well as reintroduces us to some fan favorite villains, including Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns), and none other than Raylan’s father, Arlo (Raymond J. Barry). Over the course of three seasons, Justified has gone from a sort-of procedural following the antics of Raylan and his marshal family solving crime and bringing down a firm hand of justice and has become a program that is just as much about the antics, strategy, and feelings of its villains.

Key to this concept is the transformation of Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter) from Raylan’s scared and youthful girlfriend to pimp and badass murderess (well, if it’s for a good cause). Her move from one extreme to the other has been compelling to behold, a product of careful crafting from the writers over the years. Ava’s transformation is completed toward the end of Season 3, when we see her beat the crap out of one of the women in her employ in order to save her haphazard family of criminals. She’s officially involved in all of Boyd’s comings and goings, and they’ve become the Bonnie and Clyde of local crimes.

It would have been difficult for the crew to top last season, which featured a bonafide clan, a coal mining deal, and plenty of bootlegged liquor and grassroots music. Season 3 works so well because it doesn’t even try to compete with its former work, even when the season is informed by it. Season 3 of Justified is a whole new animal, and instead of bringing out some new beasts within Harlan, the show brings in an outsider, one who is as unwanted as rain during hay baling and who sticks out like a sore thumb. This is Quarles, a harrowing madman who waffles between maintaining borderline levels of control and acting out on the edge. His own mob crew in Detroit no longer wants him, but the big question is whether or not Quarles can find a niche in Harlan or whether the law or Harlan homeboys will smugly kick him out.

If there is any grievance fans could take with this show, it’s that it could stand an extra couple of episodes. While the 13-episode format each season allows for a tightly woven storyline, down to the details of Raylan’s former wife favoring the same pair of black pumps, it seems like there could be room to open up the plotline for a couple of extra episodes, if time and the budget allowed for it. Wishful thinking or not on my part, the world would likely benefit from a little more Justified.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s set is nicely put together, with the extras on each disc often correlating with the episodes within, although this occasionally backfires for the viewer. For instance, on the first disc, the deleted scenes section features only one short segment, and since viewers often return to the deleted scenes at the end rather than check out the section at the end of every episode, the set probably could have benefited from lumping those scenes together. There’s commentary for roughly half of the episodes, and they vary in quality due to the variety of people involved. Most of them feature a couple of cast members as well as a couple of crew members, which means there is a nice balance of information and experience to be found within.

The “Crossing the Line” segment discusses a lot of the components in Season 3 that are mentioned in this review, but with more depth and insight from the beginning of the creative process. Additionally, the story behind Quarles’ tiny arm gun is discussed. Finally, segments on Limehouse’s digs and the stunts during shooting—explosions, whoa--as well as surprisingly amusing outtakes round out the special features.

Justified: The Complete Third Season’s DVD set is much like the show itself, full of surprises and certainly worth a watch. It’s easy to nitpick over the little things, but for the quality of the programming and the cost, Justified should easily fall within this year’s best TV sets.

Length: 541 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: 12/31/2012
Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, Joelle Carter
Created by: Graham Yost

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