Rob Lowman, writing for the Los Angeles Daily News, points out that "while Raylan may have an affinity for looking like a Western hero, his problems are very much today, with meth lab cookers and neo-Nazis among the sleazebags he has to deal with." The series is based on an Elmore Leonard character created for "Fire in the Hole." Writer-producer Graham Yost said one of the reasons FX was interested in the show was that it had a "degree of a frontier mentality. ... When you get back off the interstate into the hills of Kentucky, it's not lawless, but there's some; there's a lot of crime and people just looking the other way," says Yost. "It's tribal. ... You know, in the Malcolm Gladwell book (Outliers), he traces it back to the Scots-Irish clans in the Highland country, and that still exists there. So you've got a lawman coming into town, there's something pretty cool about that, and that fits the old archetype of the Westerns." (Read more)
In the real Harlan County, the reviews are mixed. Casey Cain of Cumberland told Nola Sizemore of the Harlan Daily Enterprise, that she really enjoyed season one of the series. "I watched it faithfully every week," said Cain. "I’m very much looking forward to season two." Johnny Hinkle of Dayhoit said he liked it because it was set in Harlan County. "They show old-timey places — how it used to be in the past ... It brings back memories of how times used to be. It’s a good show and I plan to continue watching it."
But Kerry Martin of Baxte said he felt the series focuses too much on violence and negative aspects. "I think anybody who lives in Harlan knows that that’s not the way things are in Harlan," said Martin. "The setting is not even Harlan. In the beginning, they show a few pictures of Harlan, but once you get into the show, it’s not Harlan. It’s just not the way it is here." (Read more)