A few notes before we dive into this ranking of villains from the original Justified series:
- This is a reworked and slightly altered version of a post we did way back in 2016 when the series ended
- We are doing it again because the new Justified sequel series, City Primeval, is here and also because we kind of just really like talking about how cool Justified was and still is
- That seems like a good enough reason to talk about various Crowders and Crowes again
Here we go.
29. The Florida Crowes
The less said about the Florida branch of the Crowe crime family, the better, due mostly to Michael Rapaport’s attempt at a Southern accent, which came in at a solid 7 on the Foghorn Leghorn Index. (Note: The Foghorn Leghorn Index only goes to 5.) The nicest thing you can say about any of them is that at least Danny Crowe had the decency to die hilariously by tripping and falling and landing on his own knife while charging at Raylan, which was appreciated and did not go unnoticed.
28. Gary Hawkins
Gary, you incompetent boob. The only scam you pulled off that was worth 1/10 of a damn was convincing someone as attractive as Winona to marry you, and even that involved you getting periodically emasculated by her strong silent ex, who took it upon himself to come over uninvited late at night whenever he pleased, locked doors be damned. It’s a miracle you made it as long as you did.
27. Assorted Crowder Family Members, Disciples, and Henchmen
Lumping everyone together here even though it’s probably unfair to bring Cousin Johnny down to 26 with human anchor Wade Messer. It’s just, I mean, run down the list. Everyone associated with Boyd, from his own father to the lowliest bartender/goon he employed, ended up dead, and sometimes they got smashed in the face with a skillet first. Good help is hard to find.
26. The Harlan Illuminati
The collection of Harlan’s wealthy string-pullers, most notably funeral home director and foreign bride enthusiast Lee Paxton, had a brief moment of glory turning the screws to Boyd before it all went to hell. I will never forgive them for not getting Boyd that Dairy Queen he wanted. It was a pretty reasonable ask, all things considered.
25. The Detroit Mob
Wanted to rank them higher but then I remembered three things: One, Sammy Tonin ended up getting his brains blown out through the front of his face in a grimy dilapidated Detroit warehouse; two, Theo Tonin ended up getting arrested after Raylan and company found him cowering and riddled with bullets inside a crate; three, their racist money man Charles Monroe did that creepy thing where he choked out his girlfriend/maid. No thank you.
Blown to pieces in a Lexington hotel suite via a tiny explosive hidden in a cigarette pack. Worth its own spot separate from the rest of the Detroit mob.
Limehouse’s henchman. Never had his hat completely straight on his head. Always liked him.
22. Doyle and Coover Bennett
The two lesser Bennetts get buried in the 20s, not necessarily through any fault of their own (you could certainly argue for them to be higher and I wouldn’t put up too much of a fight). It’s more just that they pale in comparison to the rest of the Bennett clan. It’s not fair, really. But neither is life.
21. Randall Kusik
Randall was Bartender Lindsey’s meathead bare-knuckler brawler felon husband who wanted to pummel Raylan’s face and start a cockfighting business, in no particular order. He was a big violent psychopath, but at least he was a little fun about it.
20. Tommy Bucks
You know what? Tommy Bucks never got a fair shake. He got gunned down like five minutes into the pilot, depriving us of whatever full backstory he and Raylan had in Miami. I bet they had fun adventures. Fun enough to warrant getting shot in broad daylight in the middle of a high-end Miami eatery, at least. That’s worth something.
More like YODO, right? Get it? GET IT? Because he died!
Ahhh, screw you guys.
18. Jay and Roscoe
Hot Rod’s muscle men played by real-life brothers Wood and Steve Harris didn’t have a hell of a lot to do on the show, but their periodic appearances allowed me to envision a world where Avon Barksdale from The Wire escaped Baltimore and started working his way up from the bottom of the Kentucky underworld. That’s apparently enough to get you ranked above characters on the show who actually, like, did things. We ain’t doin’ science here.
17. Avery Markham’s Collection of Mercenaries and/or Hat Aficionados
Ty Walker, Choo-Choo, Sea Bass, and Boon. The first three got shuffled out of Harlan quickly, which was a shame because Garrett Dillahunt and his beard could have made a great big bad if we had more time.
16. Fletcher Nix
Fletcher “The Ice Pick” Nix was the original slick hat-wearing potential foil for Raylan, back when Boon was still terrorizing diner hipsters in Colorado (presumably). It did not end well for him. Justified sure featured a lot of characters who wore hats. This is not really a complaint.
15. Colton Rhodes
Colt gets his own non-Boyd-henchman slot because he was cool and kind of a train wreck and he gave Tim a nemesis for a while and he looked a little like a puffy Mitch Hedberg. You could do a lot worse in a short-term villain.
14. Nicky Augustine
PRO: Played by Mike O’Malley from GUTS. Killed a man in the Wynnebago. Correctly diagnosed Boyd as having an affliction that causes him to use 40 words where four will do.
CON: Murdered on a tarmac after getting outflanked by noted imbecile Sammy Tonin. Yes, Raylan set the plan in motion and watched carefully to make sure it didn’t get screwed up, but still. You can’t get killed by Sammy Tonin and expect to make the Top 10.
13. Avery Markham
Would have been two, maybe three spots higher if Sam Elliott had shown up to the set with a mustache. I will never get over this. Neither should you.
12. Katherine Hale
Katherine Hale had this way of saying the most menacing things but still managing to sound sweeter than cake icing. Also, she killed someone with a handgun hidden in her purse. And she once served cocaine for dessert. Inside a fancy silver dining tray. And then she went out a stole a diamond tennis bracelet she could obviously afford, just for kicks. And she died in a knock-down drag-out motor home fracas. And she was a grandmother.
Katherine Hale was awesome.
There is no good reason to put Mikey — sorry, Michael — this high. Wynn Duffy’s sidekick and possible lover (?) was basically a roided-out puppy dog whose biggest contribution prior to killing Katherine was informing her that Wynn “loves guac.” But he was a sweet big ol’ lug and I loved him dearly and he had this exchange with Wynn during a game of Scrabble…
WYNN: I’m pretty sure ‘aplex’ isn’t a word, Mikey.
MIKEY: Course it is. ‘I don’t like that guy. He aplexes me.’
… so in he slides at 11.
10. Drew Thompson
Important things about Drew Thompson:
- The character was a drug smuggler who faked his death using an airplane and a mysterious disappearance and then re-emerged as a law enforcement officer in Kentucky, which is cool
- The whole arc was based on a true story that was outlined in a book called The Bluegrass Conspiracy
- That book also served as the inspiration for the opening scene of the movie Cocaine Bear, a film about a bear that eats a lot of cocaine
This is, to use an industry term, extremely good stuff.
Quarles started his run on the show as a cold and menacing criminal in a perfectly tailored suit and he ended it on a maniacal meth binge that saw his entire life and one of his limbs get torn apart. One of the better and wilder villainous arcs you’ll ever see, and another example of the universal Justified rule that you can tell a character is going to do something wild when their hair starts getting messy. A good rule for the real world, too. Be careful out there.
8. Dewey Crowe
Dewey was a neo-Nazi simpleton pimp and murderer who thought he had four kidneys and would have believed he had 20 if you looked him in the eyes and promised him it was true. And yet… I kinda liked him? It’s complicated. Dewey was the kind of guy who would have grown up to work on the docks and have a family if all his childhood friends grew up to work on the docks and have families, but all of his friends grew up to be racist miscreants, so that was that for Dewey. All he wanted from life was an above-ground pool. Was that so wrong?
7. Arlo Givens
The relationship between Arlo and Raylan is the driving force for the entire show. It’s why Raylan is the way he is, and why he does things the way he does. So Arlo gets points for that, as he does for shouting “GET SOME” at the man who ambushed him in a prison barbershop.
6. Ava Crowder
This might seem a little high for Ava if you only choose to remember her as the woman who went to jail and came out as the world’s worst criminal informant. That’s fine, that’s your right. But me? I choose to remember her as the woman who outfoxed both Raylan and Boyd to temporarily make off with $10 million in stolen money and who kabonged someone in the head with a cast iron skillet for getting lippy at the dinner table. You should never cross Ava.
Limehouse was a criminal and a butcher and he took both seriously, sometimes at once, as we saw when he lopped off Quarles’s arm with a swift slice of his blade. He always seemed reasonable, though, like he wanted peace and order in the chaotic life he chose, which is kind of respectable. Also, was extremely cool. Legitimately exciting every time he popped up to talk to Raylan about something. Solid villain here.
4. Dickie Bennett
It’s not that Dickie was some masterful villain. He really wasn’t. He super wasn’t. But he was completely insane and said lots of completely insane things and his hair was a glorious unwashed catastrophe that looked like something a group of fraternity brothers would do to a sleeping pledge. And that GIF up there is him answering a telephone. What an odd but fascinating man.
3. Wynn Duffy
A slimy cockroach who loved women’s tennis, guacamole, surfing, and a nice even tan. He never should have come to Kentucky. He should have been running a criminal enterprise from the penthouse suite of an exclusive resort in Acapulco. He would have been a king. He might be today. It makes sense that the next sequel series follows Raylan, but it wouldn’t be bad to check in on Wynn at some point, too.
2. Mags Bennett
Margo Martindale won a much-deserved Emmy for playing Mags. The character was basically Harlan’s stepmother, caring and protective at times, but also with the propensity to be cruel when it served her interests. Mags was the greatest. Now who wants a sip of her famous Apple Pie?
1. Boyd Crowder
Could it be anyone else? Answer: No, it could not. Boyd became an iconic television villain over the show’s six seasons, full of eloquent speeches and evil intentions, and always with one eye on making some sort of big move. A lot of the credit for that goes to Walton Goggins, obviously, who played Boyd with a gleeful kind of charisma you can’t put on a page, but the words he got to say sure didn’t hurt, either. The scenes with him and Raylan trading seemingly innocent lines that are dripping with nefarious context were always the show’s best. The man was a total sociopath and a self-professed outlaw who killed kind of a lot of people, but he was also a treasure and a delight almost every second he was on screen. And again, yes, his big plan to get out of crime involved opening a Dairy Queen franchise, which was already incredible before Walton Goggins explained it thusly in an interview I did with him a few years later.
In season four of Justified, before things all start going sideways, Boyd develops this plan to get out of crime and go legit. And his plan involves opening a Dairy Queen franchise. Do you think Boyd Crowder would have been a successful Dairy Queen franchise owner?
I think he would have been a very successful Dairy Queen franchise owner, very successful. And that episode in particular, it’s very … All of this shit is very personal to me. I’m a poor kid from Georgia. We’re divided on a lot of things in this country. The one thing that a lot of us aren’t divided on is poverty. And for me, Boyd Crowder was what I wanted to say about rural America and my version of it. And that for him, there was a glass ceiling, and he couldn’t break it. And all he ever wanted was that, was the ability to escape a life that he came from, and to be somebody, and to be respected in a different way, and not through fear and intimidation.
With my story, I participated in kind of all of it. And I said, “We got to say this, man.” Because there was a dude in my hometown whose dad had four Dairy Queen franchises, and he made it. He was a success. And so, to answer your question, as fastidious as Boyd Crowder was, and as great of a compartmentalizer as he was… yeah, I think you would have seen Dairy Queens popping up in places that you never anticipated.
I miss Boyd Crowder a lot. He was the best Justified villain.