Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Great Characters Make Great Stories

Two sides of the same coin.
John Daniel Davidson has a piece in which he talks about the "literary genius" of Justified, it's good and worth a look, but I think it could be more accurately titled "Great Characters Make Great Stories".
In the world Yost and Leonard spun out of one of those “oddball tales,” Boyd is no more a villain than Raylan is a hero; each man is a kind of shadow of the other, ill-suited to their assigned roles and unfit for the wider world. Cold and remorseless, justified in all his killings, Raylan is knotted up with anger and violence. His moral conscience amounts to allying himself with the law, though he ignores it when it’s convenient and flouts it openly to protect an ex-wife he loves but refuses to be with.

By contrast, Boyd exudes a kind of joie de vivre amid his many depredations while betraying a moral sensitivity far more developed than Raylan’s. He does wrong but doesn’t try to justify it to his conscience. In season three, Boyd kills a man on his crew, Devil, after learning of the man’s plans to betray him. While dumping the body, Boyd quotes something his father used to say: “Once you make up your mind to kill a man, ain’t nothing left to talk about.”
For me, what really makes Justified a great story is the complexity of Boyd and Raylan. Neither man is the classic one-dimensional hero or villain, and their interactions are the best part of the show. It's almost like they are each other's alter-ego, and I could almost see Boyd coming over to the right side of the law as easily as you could see Raylan slipping into a life of crime. Perhaps there's something to be said about how these two characters embody the opposing forces in human nature, and how they struggle against one another.

Similarly, the character of Walter White is probably why I liked Breaking Bad so much. Walter White was a complicated character, and it was fascinating to watch his story unfold. The transition of Walter White from a high school chemistry teacher to drug kingpin was quite a character arc than ended the only way it really could.

Hopefully, Justified wraps up as nicely as Breaking Bad did. Boyd Crowder may be one of the few "bad guys" I'd like to see get away. Maybe.

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