Justified: City Primeval Series Premiere Review: How They Do Things in Detroit

We’re a long way and a long time from Harlan County, folks. Justified: City Primeval Season 1 Episode 1 & Justified: City Primeval Season 1 Episode 2 set up our favorite U.S. Marshall for an intense new case, but it’s not just the criminal who’s new and different.

The fifteen years that have elapsed have mellowed Raylan Givens, and fatherhood has clearly taught him some anger management strategies that hunting criminals never drove home.

In addition, he’s working a case in Detroit, so he has no connection with people and no history with the criminal he’s hunting while simultaneously trying to supervise a teenage daughter who has a disturbingly poor sense of self-preservation.

The original Justified series managed to plumb the depths of Elmore Leonard’s Raylan Givens literary adventures, even inspiring the writer to create a whole new book in 2012 the showrunners then incorporated into the third season.

Despite his son, Peter, penning Raylan Goes To Detroit in 2018, this new limited series is based on a completely Raylan-less novel by Elmore, which originally featured Detective Raymond Cruz hunting down Clement Mansell.

Much like how Raylan’s life and career in Harlan revolved around his nemesis/frenemy, Boyd Crowder, the action of City Primeval is driven by Clement “Oklahoma Wildman” Mansell’s chaotic and violent choices.

Clement is a villain fashioned after Batman’s Joker.

A capable criminal who understands how to leverage information and has no qualms about utilizing extreme brutality to expedite his goals, he is a creature of mercurial moods and motivations.

I tried to hold up a guy in Whitefish a few weeks back. Put the gun to his head, and he asks me if he can Venmo me. I mean, I got so damned depressed, I went straight to the nearest bar and just drank myself stupid.


The issue with chaotic evil like that is the unpredictability of his actions gets tedious.

The savagery is shocking and the sadism disturbing, but it’s a one-note type of discord.

We witness Clement Mansell steal a car, hook up with his girlfriend, chase down and kill Judge Guy and his assistant in what amounts to road rage, and — in flashback — massacre an entire stash house full of drug dealers as well as his own goons.

And that’s before he creeps on Raylan’s daughter.

But there’s no clear end game to any of it.

Let’s assume he steals the car for the cassette deck so he can listen to his demo. Maybe he needed to ditch the convertible boat he used to cruise into the gas station.

Killing the Wrecking Crew was purely a financial gain. But what does killing the judge in such a spectacular manner do for him?

And why draw even more attention to himself by involving his attorney before the law’s even laid eyes on him?

I supposed there is a narcissism angle. He complains to Sandy that there should be a bounty on someone who kills a judge in such a vicious manner.

You know what else I’ve never been a fan of? Reggae. It all kind of sounds the same to me. Tell you a fun fact. Did you know that if you play reggae too fast, it becomes a polka?


So he wants to be known for his crime but not have to serve time for it. Getting away with killing the Wrecking Crew in 1997 probably fed into his blossoming megalomania.

And that leads to defense attorney Carolyn Wilder.

In a city as big as Detroit, it feels like it’s more than a coincidence that she’s on the speed dial of the guy who tries to carjack Raylan in Florida, the guy Raylan’s looking at for the judge’s murder, AND the guy who Raylan questions about said murderer.

Defense attorneys’ careers are built on shifting allegiances and complicated moral codes.

Carolyn: Why can’t anybody just do the right thing?
Sweetie: It’s a little early for the big questions, isn’t it?

The idea that everyone deserves the best legal defense is noble.

That noble-mindedness ultimately prevents true justice from being served when evil-doers get good lawyers.

Raylan: Counselor, you good?
Carolyn: He’s a beauty.
Raylan: He kills people.
Carolyn: You know my job, Marshall. And I know yours.

Carolyn wants people to do right. And she does right by her conscience by defending her clients to the best of her very considerable ability.

She isn’t blind to the truth of the people she represents but will fight to protect those she cares about.

In this case, it’s not about defending Clement as much as protecting Sweetie. Sweetie is her people, part of the community she accused her ex of turning his back on and betraying.

In any other circumstance, she and Raylan would stand shoulder to shoulder. They’re cut from similar cloth. She is to her community what Raylan was to Harlan County. They believe things can be better but also know where things stand.

I suspect Carolyn’s struggle will be more interesting to watch as the story unfolds. The nature of her job means she can’t wear the white hat, but it’s what she wants to wear.

Raylan Givens is very much a tourist to the situation.

While he has the vocal cadence and the aw-shucks demeanor of old, the only thing he shoots in the entire premiere is the tires on Tyrone’s pickup truck.

Seriously, point to any consecutive two episodes in the OG series where Raylan doesn’t shoot at least one person. I mean, he shot multiple people during the episode where he took a day off work.

With a teenage daughter who knows how to push every button and a job that never picks a convenient time to call, Raylan’s life hasn’t gotten less complex since we last traveled with him.

Willa is the major complication, as he needs her out of the way while he deals with the likes of Clement. Now that Clement’s made contact, Willa will be Raylan’s Achilles Heel as the showdown nears.

Her little wander through the rougher areas of Detroit doesn’t fill the viewer with confidence in her street smarts. However, the fact she gets back to the hotel safely makes me wonder if she was born with the luck her dad has never had.

Raylan: You, stay on the premises.
Willa: What if I want to go out?
Raylan: When I suggest that you get off your phone and go outside, I get rolled eyes, but now you want to go out?
Willa: Teenage girls are complicated.

Her interest in visiting Harlan is heartbreaking. How out of place does she feel in Florida that her Kentucky roots are calling to her?

Wouldn’t it be interesting to have her hitch her way back to Harlan only to be taken under the wing of Loretta McCready? Although, knowing Loretta, she’d just as likely send Willa back to Florida in a moonshine barrel.

Honestly, the jury’s still out on the usefulness of having Willa along for this ride. Interacting with no one but Raylan, it doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that she will cause problems.

Weigh in below on whether the Kentucky swagger suits the Motor City or if you think it’s not a mash-up worth the watch.

Did the premiere leave you with questions?

Who’s “The ‘Stache” Winona’s accompanying on holiday? How exactly did Clement find Raylan’s hotel so easily? Does Sweetie suspect what his restroom ceiling conceals?

Hit our comments with your thoughts and theories! Let’s talk!

Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is a lifelong fan of smart sci-fi and fantasy media, an upstanding citizen of the United Federation of Planets, and a supporter of AFC Richmond ’til she dies. Her guilty pleasures include female-led procedurals, old-school sitcoms, and Bluey. She teaches, knits, and dreams big. Follow her on Twitter.


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