Though lesser-known than some others, Justified was still one of the best shows on TV during its time. Helmed by Graham Yost and based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, the gritty, Southern-set modern Western was full of twists and turns, action-packed shootouts, and of course, some dynamic characters, both good and bad. Looking back, we'll even forgive the less-than-stellar fifth season.
Though the show has seemingly come and gone, we can't help but remember it fondly. So, let's look back on the characters that had the most impact during Justified's six-season run.
Dewey Crowe seems to be your typical bad guy sidekick, in this case, to head honcho Boyd Crowder. He's lacking in morals, not too bright, and, of course, often a hindrance to his boss. Yet, there's just something so watchable about Dewey all the same, especially as played by Damon Herriman. The character often found himself in the most unlikely of scenarios, and often recklessly lived his life, even when it seemed to be going well for him.
Dewey's best interactions were with Boyd and U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens, who tended to treat him just as badly. Dewey might not have gotten the end he deserved, but we still love him all the same.
The deputy U.S. Marshals of Harlan County may have often been overshadowed by Raylan Givens himself, but they each had their moment to shine throughout the course of the series. Tim Gutterson, for example, was involved in many of the show's shootouts due to his military background. But it's Rachel, played by Erica Tazel, who was the calmest and most collected of the group, attempting to soften situations as opposed to launching right into battle as her co-workers tended to do.
In addition, though preferring to talk things out, Rachel holds her own when needed to, including in a climactic shootout towards the end of Season 5. Often seen as the moral compass of the show, Erica Tazel's level-headed performance was one of the show's highlights.
Who would've thought that none other than Sam Elliott would be suited to playing a compelling and menacing villain? Well, Justified proved just that. Though only present for the final season of the show, Avery's impact is huge, bringing about many of the major events of the show's conclusion.
Standing head-to-head with Boyd Crowder, Avery immediately shows himself to be just as formidable, surrounding himself with strong allies and attempting to seize power in Harlan County. Sam Elliott's famous southern drawl is somehow perfectly suited with the character's venomous stares, showing just how wide of a range the veteran actor has.
The butcher of Harlan County, Limehouse often drove many of the events of the early seasons of the show. Though often in the sidelines, Limehouse always knows more than he lets on, which leads to him controlling many of the characters around him. It also leads to shifting loyalties, making his ties often difficult to predict. As he says himself at one point, "I like to back the winning side."
Limehouse may have primarily been a part of the show in Season 3, but he pops up at opportune moments throughout. Played by Myketi Williamson (who you may know as Bubba from Forrest Gump), it shows the versatility of the actor, as he was always one of the more gripping characters of Justified.
Seen mostly in Season 2 of the show, but also showing up in later episodes, Dickie Bennett is the character you would get if you took Dewey Crowe, made him a little smarter, and then added in past history with series protagonist Raylan Givens. He makes for a compelling character, whose eccentricities are played to perfection by Jeremy Davies (who also won an Emmy for his performance).
Due to Dickie's past history with Raylan, Dickie holds a strong resentment towards him, leading to many violent confrontations between the two and also causing Dickie to act recklessly. This leads to him being one of the most chaotic members of the Bennett family, and also to him being cast out by his ruthless mother. Through all his endeavors, though, we can't help but see him as one of the show's most well-developed characters.
Speaking of the Bennetts, we'd be remiss not to mention Mags herself, played by Margo Martindale, in a performance that also rightfully earned an Emmy. Mags is the head of the Bennett family, and she soon emerges as one of the more ruthless villains of the show, especially once we learn about her past history.
Though seemingly only looking out for her family, Mags is willing to do anything both to help them and to punish those that go against her. Martindale, who would go on from here to star in Graham Yost's other show, Sneaky Pete, gives one of the best performances of her career.
Wynn Duffy is a character that is seemingly behind nearly every nefarious turn that the show takes. As a mafia middleman, he isn't afraid to get his hands dirty, and this often leads to confrontations with Raylan (which tend to end in a bloody fashion). But Wynn is not one prone to turning away from a fight.
Always looking out for number 1, Wynn often ends up aligning with multiple characters, including Boyd, Robert Quarles, and even Raylan at one point. Wherever the tide may take him, it was hard not to be entertained by Jere Burns' charismatic portrayal. In addition, he is one of the only non-deserving villains of the show who seemingly gets off scot-free.
Ava Crowder is a character that had one of the most developed story arcs on the show. Beginning as a timid character with good intentions, even sharing a fling with Raylan at one point, she eventually switches sides, becoming romantically involved with Boyd Crowder in addition to emerging as one of the show's primary villains.
Though initially seeming unlikely, eventually Ava's transition from good to bad becomes one of the most believable character arcs of the series. Ava may have a good heart, but she's corrupted by Boyd and willing to fight to get what she wants. Coming face-to-face with Raylan at multiple points throughout the series, Ava proves herself a more than worthy opponent.
It was all too tempting to put Boyd Crowder at number 1 on this list, and really, the two can be interchangeable, but this is, in the end, Raylan's show. Still, Boyd proved himself such a compelling character all the same. In a role that put him on the map, Walton Goggins' searing portrayal is easily one of the show's highlights. The character, who originally was supposed to have a one-episode arc, eventually became the show's primary villain, whose stand against Raylan forms the major story thread of much of Justified.
What makes Boyd so intimidating, though, is not that he's willing to dispatch people at a second's notice (he is), but the fact that he is such a likable person as well. He holds down firm relationships, including a romance with Ava, only kills as a last resort, and he even backs Raylan at multiple points, despite clearly being on the opposite side of the law. Goggins' performance, though perhaps underappreciated in its time, will likely go down in history as one of TV's great villains.
In the end, though, it all comes down to Raylan. Owing much to Timothy Olyphant, the character is an iconic Western anti-hero, complete with dashing good looks, a revolver, and even a cowboy hat to boot. Much of Justified revolves not only around its villains' plots but around Raylan's interactions with them. He's firmly on the side of good, but he's not afraid to muddy the waters all the same, leading to some questionable acts throughout the show.
Though Raylan may always be the quintessential Western antihero, he's more multi-faceted than most of them, and the show uses this well throughout. Whether talking down bad guys from even attempting to draw on him or forming a romance with his ex-wife Winona, Raylan's charisma is second to none. It also helps that he's faster on the draw than most people who stand against him.