“Justified” fans, I think you’ll be happy enough with the new revival miniseries, called “Justified: City Primeval.” But WARNING: You can’t go in expecting “Justified”-level excellence. The new show, which premieres Tuesday on FX and Hulu, is not as sharp as the original of 2010-15, which was a sly western hybrid led by Timothy Olyphant’s pithy US Marshal Raylan Givens and a cast of eccentric Kentucky criminals. It does feature a few complex new characters, an engaging sociopath in Boyd Holbrook’s Clement Mansell, and, most important of all, more Givens, a character Olyphant wears as comfortably as his Stetson hat. His portrayal remains one of the TV world’s gifts to fans of slick lawmen.
But yeah, it’s a mixed bag, always enjoyable but never outstanding. One of the negatives of the eight-episode series is the Detroit setting. The story is based on an Elmore Leonard novel that does not feature Givens, but he has been written into the story and brought to Detroit for reasons that are a bit fuzzy. He quickly gets caught up in the murder of a local judge, which brings him into Mansell’s orbit so that they can embark on a twisty cat-and-mouse-like relationship. Also in the mix: Mansell’s lawyer (played engagingly by Aunjanue Ellis), a conflicted woman who gets close to Raylan, and Mansell’s criminal partner (Vondie Curtis-Hall), a bar owner who’s in deeper than he likes.
There are one or two disappointing twists in the story line, not least of all the addition of Raylan’s teen daughter, Willa, played by Vivian Olyphant (Timothy’s daughter). I suppose she’s on the show to make a point about how Raylan is getting older, but the material is creaky, to put it nicely. Also, the overall crime plotting — which includes an Albanian mob — is a bit loose, and it doesn’t build to the kind of crescendo you might be hoping for. The pieces do come together, but not with the kind of satisfying intensity and complexity of the original series.
Throughout, though, it’s a treat to watch Raylan and his reactions to other characters. He’s as cynical, fast-thinking, and shrewd as ever, and that counts for a lot. I’m betting that, after this miniseries, we’ll be seeing more of him.