Though it not talked about as frequently as shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, the FX series Justified was one of the best shows of the last decade. Based on the character created by Elmore Leonard, the series follows U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens as he returns to his hometown in Kentucky where he faces off with old friends and new enemies.
The show feels like a modern Western with intense action and sharply written dialogue. But the real highlight of the series was the complex and entertaining characters. Despite being a show about cops and criminals, it was never that simple when it came to who was the most likable.
10 Wynn Duffy
Wynn Duffy was introduced in Season 1 as a slimy and sadistic villain of the week. He was a loan shark who had no problem viciously beating anyone who refused to pay or threatening to kill their entire family.
Following his guest appearance, Duffy kept popping up throughout the series as he climbed the criminal ladder. While he may have softened a bit over time, he remained an unsettling creep who was loyal to no one.
9 Arlo Givens
As the show explores Raylan’s life in Harlan County, we meet his father Arlo, and suddenly a lot of Raylan’s aggression makes sense. Arlo Givens is something of a notorious criminal in his community — though he never had much success with it. Instead, he spends most of his time drinking and being cruel to his family.
When Raylan was young, Arlo was abusive towards him and his mother. As an old man, Arlo didn’t soften much. Though some of his good deeds are revealed, he tries to kill his own son on several occasions and even succeeds in offing a state trooper.
8 Dewey Crowe
While some shows like to create criminal geniuses for the hero to take on, Justified always had a lot of fun exploring the fact that most career criminals are pretty dumb. Dewey Crowe is an excellent example and made for one of the funniest characters on the show.
Though it is fun laughing at how stupid Dewey is, that doesn’t erase his bad traits. He is an ignorant racist and even killed his best friend. Though he may seem like a lost puppy at times, he’s much less innocent than his stupidity would have you believe.
7 Rachel Brooks
Though Raylan is the main U.S. Marshal we follow, he’s far from the best when it comes to doing the job. That title is reserved for Deputy Rachel Brooks, a determined and serious law-woman who takes charge whenever needed.
Rachel is smart, strong, and calls Raylan on his bad behavior. The only problem with is that the character is written as quite boring. She is meant to be the straight, by-the-book Marshal, which makes her a lot less interesting than everyone else on the show.
6 Winona Hawkins
Another key person Raylan left behind in Kentucky was his first wife, Winona. When he returns to his hometown, Raylan reconnects with her in a very up-and-down relationship.
Throughout the series, Raylan and Winona fight, get together, break up, have a baby, and get back together again. She is the one who can most effectively go toe-to-toe with Raylan and is quite charming doing it. However, there was a storyline in which Winona stole evidence from the Marshals. Along with sullying her reputation, it was a pretty contrived storyline.
5 Art Mullen
Raylan must be a pretty frustrating person to have as an employee, which might explain why his boss Art Mullen is yelling all the time. Art is an experienced and dedicated Marshal, but he doesn’t seem to have the best control over his office.
He lets Raylan get away with a lot and can be prone to fits of anger. But in the end, Art is a good man who really cares about the people who work for him. He would put his own reputation on the line to protect them at all costs.
4 Tim Gutterson
The other key member of the Marshals’ team is Tim Gutterson. Tim is an experienced military sniper whose training and skills often come in handy for their dangerous work. However, he takes a very laidback approach to danger.
Like Raylan, Tim is a hero with a lot of personal demons. He avoids talking about his time in the war and drinks too much. But when he is needed, he is always on top of his game. He also makes a great buddy cop duo with Raylan as the two aren’t opposed to cracking jokes no matter how dangerous the situation.
3 Ava Crowder
It’s hard not to fall in love with Ava the moment she is introduced. She appears in the pilot episode when Raylan comes to see her after she shot her abusive husband while he sat at the dinner table.
From there, Ava continues to grow into a complex and entertaining character. After a brief fling with Raylan, she finds love with her dead husband’s brother and becomes his partner in crime. However, Ava continues to show she is an independent person and becomes the emotional center of the show’s final season.
2 Boyd Crowder
It says a lot about how charming Boyd Crowder is that he can make the show’s main villain one of its most likable characters. Boyd is introduced as a neo-Nazi who moonlights as a bank robber. However, that is all a ruse to use ignorant white supremacists to carry out his own criminal plans.
Boyd goes through a redemptive arc in which we are never sure how sincere he is. While he can be a terrifying outlaw at times, he is also a brilliant, hilarious, and deductive character who is a joy to watch.
1 Raylan Givens
Raylan Givens is far from a perfect hero, but he certainly is an entertaining one. From the opening scene in which he guns down a gangster who he told to get out of town, it is clear Raylan is a cowboy who wandered into modern times.
Raylan can be known to stretch the law when he deems it necessary and he certainly has anger issues, but he is also one of the coolest characters in television history. His dead-eye aim with his gun makes him a total badass no matter who he is having a showdown against.
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