Tuesday saw the release of Justified: The Complete First Season on both DVD and Blu-Ray. The best new series of 2010 comes home in a three-disc, thirteen-episode Blu-Ray set just a week before it returns to FX for season two, and I have a look inside that BR release for you (now that I’ve finally stopped watching it long enough to write about it!)
If you haven’t started watching Justified yet, I have no idea where you’ve been. This is an amazing series, my favorite new series from last season, and one of my favorites of all time. If Human Target hadn’t also debuted this past season, I would have been obsessed with this show; as it was, it’s like having two children and trying to decide which one I love more.
I fell in love with Justified for the same reasons I love Human Target: it’s a show driven by an outstanding lead performance that’s sharply written and bitingly funny. Having now seen pretty much everything else he’s done, I feel comfortable in saying that Tim Olyphant has found the role of his career in Raylan Givens; he is the character, and I’m still bitter that he and Walton Goggins were robbed of Emmy awards, let alone nominations. The two of them turn in impressive performances episode after episode, backed up by an eclectic yet interesting supporting cast. Despite the genre, Justified isn’t so much about good and evil as it is about fathers and sons, coming to a satisfying conclusion that will only leave you wanting more by the final frame.
If there’s one weakness with this show, it’s the obligatory romantic subplot that becomes more tiring the longer it goes on. Raylan gets mixed up with not one, but two women, Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter) and his now-remarried former wife Winona Hawkins (Dirty Sexy Money‘s Natalie Zea), and I don’t care about either of them. Neither character interests me (in fact, the subplot just serves to have them all making groan-worthy decisions) and neither actress really strikes a believable chemistry with Olyphant; beyond that, when there are so many other compelling things going on, I really don’t care about who Raylan is sleeping with. However, the subplot seems to be pointing in one direction by the end of the season, and there’s too much that works about Justified for me to let one part of the show ruin the rest of it for me.
There are two marvelous performances here, backed by some great writing that not only is entertaining, but also emotionally compelling and far more hilarious than some comedies I’ve seen on TV. It’s impossible to be totally flawless, but Justified is near perfect.
The Blu-Ray Discs
Justified looks great on Blu-Ray; it’s a massive improvement over the standard-definition broadcasts, and comparable to the high-definition broadcast versions. The picture is clear – although there are some darker scenes where things get muddled, but you can only improve so much from the source material – and audio comes through well. It’s not as impressive as the transfer for Human Target, but it comes close (especially considering that Justified is a show that has much darker shots than Human Target).
Specs-wise, this is a 1:78:1 1080p HD widescreen transfer (even the special features are in HD). There’s a 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track for the episodes, but only a standard stereo track for the special features – honestly, my untrained ear doesn’t notice much difference, so I can’t imagine it’s a huge deal for the average TV viewer. The set also comes with English subtitles on the episodes, but not on the special features. There’s no foreign language support.
There is no booklet, but the information you need can be found on the labels for each disc, which contain episode numbers and a list of which special features are on that disc (the features are spread across the set). Disc menus contain episode selection, a “play all” and subtitles/audio options. There’s no scene selection, but you can choose to play each episode with or without its respective recap.
Weirdly, the special features menu on my disc two showed options for features not listed as being on that disc. Clicking them, it just tells me to insert disc three – so why bother putting them on the menu for disc two?
The Special Features
There’s a pretty great collection of special features here; I wouldn’t call it loaded, but Sony has done a great job of providing a ton of content. To my knowledge, it’s the same on both the DVD and Blu-Ray versions.
- Four commentary tracks (on “Fire In The Hole” with Graham Yost, Nick Searcy, Gregg Sutter and Michael Dinner; on “Blowback” with Graham Yost and writer Ben Cavell; on “Hatless” with Tim Olyphant, Natalie Zea and writer Dave Andron; and on “Bulletville” with Graham Yost and Fred Golan)
- The Story of Justified – This is as close as you’ll get to a conventional “making of” featurette. Elmord Leonard, Graham Yost, crew and cast members talk about how the show we know and love came to be.
- Justified: Meet the Characters – Several of the actors briefly discuss their characters and, in the case of Raylan, the other actors weigh in on what they think makes him tick. It’s a pretty short feature, skimming the surface of these complex people.
- The Marshals – Pretty self-explanatory.
- Shooting for Kentucky – Explaining how the series shoots in California and makes it look like Kentucky. If you’re a behind the scenes nerd like me, you’ll love this one.
- What Would Elmore Do? – Of course, you can’t do a series based on the works of Elmore Leonard and not devote some time to talking about Elmore Leonard.
- “Long Hard Times To Come” (Justified Theme) Music Video
- Season Two: A Look Ahead
Some of the special features are longer than others, but they’re all at least fairly informative, if not wholly interesting. I am excited about the commentary tracks, which equate to roughly one every four episodes, but I would’ve liked to see more, if only because this show has such a great cast. We know from Deadwood that Tim Olyphant is a riot on commentaries, and I’d have loved to see him do more than one. I would’ve also liked to have seen some of the actors who are missing, like Walton Goggins, Erica Tazel, or Joelle Carter. Yet what we have here is still pretty darn good.
Here’s a weird note while we’re on that subject: Tim Olyphant gets bleeped on his commentary track. Censoring home video releases has always baffled me; I can understand censoring a broadcast version, but on the home version, people should have the option to hear the uncensored audio. Given that the show is rated TV-MA, it seems even weirder that they bleep him – as if we don’t all know what he was saying anyway. (Hilariously, in the middle of said commentary track, Tim actually gets into a discussion with writer Dave Andron about what he can and can’t do on audio commentaries.)
The Bottom Line
It’s the best new series of 2010, and one of the best series I’ve ever seen on television, period. The fact that it comes in a good set is just a bonus. I consider it a deal when I can find a DVD season for $20; at just over $20 for a Blu-Ray edition (on Amazon, anyway) – what are you waiting for?