Justified: City Primeval opens with Raylan Givens in a car, transporting somebody to an unknown place, aimlessly bantering to pass the time. There’s a soft twang to the background music, his iconic Stetson hat centering every shot. A car chase ensues. The scene casually evokes dozens of throwaway moments from Justified, the 2010s show on which this eight-episode sequel is based.

That modesty is very much the point, a statement of purpose for a project adding itself to TV’s reboot pileup with a smaller built-in audience than its resurrected siblings, perhaps, but also with less to prove.

After all, this is a revival for FX the cable network known for smart, nuanced, fairly niche Emmy plays like The Americans and Fleishman Is in TroubleJustified was never the most popular or flashy crime drama on television, but as anchored by Timothy Olyphant’s Deputy U.S. Marshal Givens and enlivened by various brilliantly portrayed antagonists – including Walton Goggins’s Boyd Crowder and Margo Martindale’s Mags Bennett – the show ranked among the genre’s most consistently, quietly excellent.

It had the added benefit of its propulsive Elmore Leonard source material, a short story in which Raylan returns to his rural Kentucky hometown, fashioning out of that simple setup a range of plots both episodic and, increasingly, serial in scope. Episodes were treated like episodes that is, tightly structured but the six seasons built on one another, toward a searing conclusion to the series-long feud between Raylan and Boyd, childhood buddies on opposing sides of the law.

So why bring Justified back? That first scene from City Primeval, in its effortless cool, flips that question on its head: Why not?

In City Primeval, Raylan stumbles into a season-long crime saga just as he’d often get pulled into strange, at times surreal investigations back home, one episode at a time. The difference here is that he is not home. During the opening road-trip sequence, the passenger in question is Raylan’s 15-year-old daughter, Willa.

Her dad observes that she can talk her way out of things as so many fugitives previously have in his car, but she’s not on her way to prison frather, he’s taking her to a behavioral summer camp. Like her father, she’s got some anger issues to work out.

A carjacking gone awry derails the plan, sending Raylan to Detroit to testify in the case. Soon, they’re ensnared in a much larger conspiracy involving the murder of a judge, the extortion of an Albanian man, and the complex alliances of a community with which he’s very unfamiliar.

That shift in setting proves crucial to City Primeval’s success. We’re getting to know this world just as Raylan is, and the show developed by longtime Justified EPs Michael Dinner and Dave Andron is confident enough to let that be its fulcrum.

Olyphant’s commanding turn hasn’t skipped a beat the sexy swagger, the dry humor, the subtle shades of vulnerability infusing his every interaction. Raylan’s still got the hat and the instincts; his impatience and mild superiority complex still occasionally get the best of him.

He remains a great, just-flawed-enough TV protagonist. The idea to situate him in a new world one derived from a Leonard novel in which Raylan isn’t even a character keeps him interesting and surprising.

The Justified universe has always afforded great, unsung character actors the chance to shine. This is where both Goggins and Martindale earned their first Emmy nominations and where the likes of Kaitlyn Dever, Mykelti Williamson, Jeremy Davies, Neil McDonagh, and Mary Steenburgen delivered some of their richest performances. City Primeval beautifully carries on that tradition.

 Keith David has an absolute ball playing a slimy authority figure in the premiere. Boyd Holbrook takes on the show’s central antagonist, an unhinged killer whose crime spree collides with Raylan’s investigation, and runs wild with the part. Adelaide Clemens, who worked wonders on SundanceTV’s Rectify, sharply plays his girlfriend and accomplice, Sandy.

And while it can feel like the Detroit police officers helping Raylan out are a little overqualified, it’s hard to complain about Norbert Leo Butz, Marin Ireland, and Victor Williams sharing the screen as they try to catch a bad guy.

The real spark of the season, however, is Aunjanue Ellis. The Oscar and Emmy nominee gets a meal of a role as Carolyn Wilder, a defense attorney with conflicting loyalties. Ellis is the kind of actor who’s been around for awhile and is just beginning to land parts like this a juicy showcase for someone with status. She fits perfectly into the Justified milieu.

Carolyn is on the opposite legal side of Raylan, with her first scene a fiery cross-examination of the Marshal that leaves him hapless and maybe a little turned on. From there, the chemistry between Ellis and Olyphant reaches an unexpected sizzle; I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s something that went into the scripts more explicitly after the pair started sharing scenes with the heat dial nearing a 10.

There’s something moving, and maybe rare, about watching two actors in their 50s and with decades of experience find that crackle together. One moment in the third episode follows Carolyn alone in the courtroom, wandering toward the judge’s chair she secretly aspires to.

The scene stays silent as she sits in it and delivers a powerful expression of steadfast ambition amid systemic dysfunction. Olyphant, while seamlessly hitting those comforting Justified beats, leans into his age too, ready to reveal his newly silver hair whenever he takes that Stetson off.

Getting older, in this case, proves integral to City Primeval’s satisfying character work. Raylan meets his match in Carolyn, for one thing; for another, this is a sign of basic mature storytelling. Finally, a reboot that doesn’t cling onto the past, but embraces the chance to grow up.

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