Tuesday, February 22, 2011

And we're back . . .

 . . . so I just finished watching the 1st season of Justified and I was ultimately unimpressed.  Before I get to my big thesis, some stray observations:

1) Walton Goggins is brilliant . . . most of the time.  But a lot of his performance as Boyd Crowder is straight out of the Billy Bob Thorton handbook, (minus the head cocked slightly to the side) and Billy Bob Thorton creeps me out because he looks like this guy who's dating my mom.

2) Enunciate, Mr. Olyphant.  I'm from Oklahoma City, and half the time I can't understand a damn thing you say.

I Hate You Like Anakin Skywalker Hates Sand
  3) Ava is now number three on the list of TV Women I Utterly Loathe.  Rita (Dexter) is number two, and Mara (The Shield)  has the proud place as Public Enemy #1.  For the record, Corinne (The Shield) is Number Four.

But my real problem with the show, I realized (other than that it's boring as sin) is that it, like Dexter, The protagonists don't have anything to care about, therefor, they lack vulnerability and connection.

In the first episode of The Shield we learn two things about Vic--he has a family and his team is also his best friends, and he will do anything, literally anything, to protect them. Later on, when Shane takes center stage, we feel for him because we believe he's doing all these bad things to protect his friends, his horrible, shrewish wife and his newborn son. These characters, as horrible, unlikable and damned as they are, are real in the sense that they are vulnerable, they have people they care about, they have something to lose.
Raylan and Dexter don't have these things.

The first season of Dexter is so great because despite Dexter's "I can't care about anything because I'm a monster boo hoo hoo" attitude, he does care about someone--the mysterious killer who keeps leaving dismembered Barbies in his freezer. He is fascinated, so we are fascinated. By the second season, though, the novelty has worn off, and his fascination/caring/murdering Lila is just half-heated leftovers of the season before.
In Justified, Raylan is such a badass that he lives in a motel. He can pack up and go at any point. Sure, he bangs Ava, and Wynonia, but generally, the audience gets the sense that he doesn't give a fig about anyone or anything other than his stupid cowboy hat.
THIS in contrast to Boyd.  There's a scene where the other prisoners have him pinned up against the wall, and he's clutching his Bible, but not in an overwrought community-theater/Frightened Inmate #2 sort of way, like "please don't hit me, I'm a man of God!" . . . he's holding it tightly to his skinny chest, with a look in those small, dark eyes that says, "I'm scared, but I have faith that my God will protect me." And sure enough, someone comes to his rescue.
Point is, Boyd has something to care about, so we care about him. It's a small, beautiful scene, and Goggins plays it sublimely.

Neither Could Kenny Johnson in a Leather Jacket

Sons of Anarchy tried to give the main character something to care about, (a premature crack baby) which was a good start, but it's such a poorly written show that even a half-dead baby couldn't save it.

HOWEVER, the reason people love Justified and Dexer is because they are pure wish-fulfillment. "I wish I could murder bad people!" "I wish I could wear a cowboy hat and shoot bad guys!" "I wish I didn't have to care about my nagging wife and my yelling kids." "I wish I lived in a motel and could just pack up and leave." Dexter and Raylan are living out our fantasies, and we've confused that with good writing because it makes us feel placated instead of making us feel something that might confuse or hurt us.

So keep your sexy badasses . . . and I'll keep my handsome screw-ups.

1 comment:

  1. And just let me know when you want to highlight Overlooked Handsome Screwups (or other folks) on or before a given Tuesday morning, and post your citation on your blog so I can link to it...and if you post a link to my links post, that speeds the plow! Thanks.