Justified, Reloaded: What's New for Season 3?

FX’s Southern-fried cop drama, Justified, pulls the trigger on its third season tonight at 10/9c. And while much about life in Harlan is as intense and incendiary as ever, some new faces and new dynamics portend to change things up.

For one, Mags Bennett is departed (and dearly so), but a pair of new bad guys are poised to fill the void. Also, dad-to-be Raylan (played by Timothy Olyphant) is due to get a blast from his past in the form of a not-unattractive former flame. Let us hit you with the highlights:

Justified Scoop: Jere Burns Previews Big-Time Villainy in Season 3

THE BIG BADS: Executive producer Graham Yost laments writing out Emmy nominee Margo Martindale, if not her Season 2 toughie. “We can’t just accumulate bad guys over the years and have them all sitting around in a room,” he argues. To keep Raylan on his toes moving forward, Yost corralled a pair of his Boomtown players, Neal McDonough and Mykelti Williamson (playing a nattily dressed Detroit crime boss and local drug runner, respectively).

For McDonough’s character, named Robert Quarles, Yost says, “We thought it would be cool to come up with someone who in the writers’ room we called a ‘carpetbagger’…. Initially, I thought [he’d be from] Boston because Neal is from that area. But then we thought, ‘No, let’s make him from Detroit to keep it as part of the Elmore [Leonard] world.’ We just thought it would be interesting to bring in a guy from the outside … who thinks he’s going to come down to Kentucky and show these backwoods hicks how crime is really done.” To that end, he’ll get help from local lowlife Wynn Duffy (played by Jere Burns).

Says McDonough himself, “To play a guy who is so villainous and so dastardly and so dashing, with the beautiful suits and the attitude and the Detroit lean that I’ve got, feels great. I’m having a blast.” And of working again with Williamson, he raves, “Our scenes just crackle. It’s like going back to Boomtown.”

THE BEAUTIFUL BAD-ASS: Assisting Raylan with an early case — and perhaps complicating his personal life some — is Carla Gugino, playing Karen Goodall, an old flame who’s now a Deputy Director for the U.S. Marshal service. Yet despite Gugino’s small-screen run as Leonard’s Karen Sisco and her characters’ identical first names, Yost maintains, “We didn’t want [this character] to be absolutely Karen Sisco. We just wanted it to be Carla Gugino playing a U.S. Marshal.”

THAT BEAUTIFUL, BITTER BROMANCE: One piece of Harlan life that has not changed one bit, thankfully, are the potentially explosive encounters between Raylan and Boyd Crowder, the perennial thorn in Kentucky law enforcement’s side. That dynamic, Walton Goggins assures fans, “is as contentious and lovely as it’s always been” — as evidenced by a glass-shattering, furniture-wrecking donnybrook the boys get into during the season premiere, right in the sheriff’s office. (It seems Boyd is still counting on getting a crack at Dickie Bennett and avenging Ava’s shooting, a face-off Raylan forced his foe to put a pin in when things started going sideways, fast, at the end of Season 2.)

Interestingly, Goggins suspects Boyd and Raylan really “like each other,” while Olyphant insists their relationship is based only in hate. “Never the twain shall meet,” Goggins allows. “And I hope that they never do, because I never really know what Tim is going to do [in a scene], and, hopefully, he never really knows what I’m going to do.”