Well, at least no one (we care about) died…
Season 4 of Justified came to a game-changing conclusion Tuesday night, and while our Harlan faves survived to see another dangerous day, their lives were forever altered — and not for the better.
Case in point: Boyd’s badass better half Ava was finally forced to answer for a murder she’d committed — and successfully hid — some time ago. As a result, Boyd was left reeling and in a place darker than we’ve ever seen him.
Elsewhere on Justified, a suspended Raylan slyly rid himself of Nicky Augustine and his Detroit mob problems, but not before his baby-carrying ex Winona was put in harms way… again. (She, too, escaped unscathed.)
Here, the boss behind the FX hit, Graham Yost, weighs in on Ava’s tragic twist and how it will impact Boyd in Season 5. The showrunner also previews the (potential) arrival of Raylan’s baby, the lawman’s impending career boost, Wynn Duffy’s return, the Ellen May of it all and much more.
TVLINE | Now that all is said and done — and the Drew Thompson mystery has been uncovered — how do you feel about the season as a whole?
We had our concerns going in, whether doing a mystery season would work. You look at the struggles of other shows, whether it was Twin Peaks or The Killing, and it’s not an easy thing to do. How much information do you give out? How far do you advance the story? There has to be something or the audience isn’t satisfied, and if there’s too much then we’ve blown it. We knew that would be a struggle, but we feel that it all came together.
TVLINE | Are you thinking you’ll go back to a Big Bad next season? Or will you now follow this mystery format?
We would be interested in finding something different. I don’t know if we would do another mystery season right on the heels of [this] one — but that doesn’t mean that a mystery couldn’t be an arc or something.
TVLINE | Let’s talk about Ava and her devastating fate. It seemed for awhile that she might actually be killed, but instead you went and locked her up!
You know, Joelle [Carter] knows where I live, so I can’t kill her off. She would track me down. [Laughs] No, we just love her so much. We love the character and we’ve been able to go deeper [this season]. She plays so well with Boyd and it’s fun to see her do things, like last year shooting Delroy and this year that scene with Nicky. So, we really had no interest in killing her off. But we did have an interest in raising up [Boyd and Ava's] hopes and dreams in the middle of the season, having it peak with the proposal and then having everything slowly stumble downhill as they got deeper and deeper into trouble. That felt right for us. But there was no notion of killing her.
TVLINE | How do you plan to build on this cliffhanger? Will we actually see Ava in a dangerous Harlan County jail?
The thing about Boyd is that he just never stops; he’s always going to be trying something. So, it’s our feeling that, at least for the first chunk of next season, he’s going to be trying to get her out of jail. And then, what is life going to be like for Ava behind bars? What are the conflicts going to be? What is she going to do to survive? She strikes me as someone who’d just try and keep her head down and do her time and get out, but chances are she won’t be allowed to do that.
TVLINE | For the first time in the series’ history, we’ve seen a broken and desperate Boyd. Will that be explored further or was it just a momentary reaction to Ava’s arrest?
It’s a weight that he’ll carry with him, but I don’t think he’s by any stretch defeated. As I said, he will keep fighting until his dying breath to regain some kind of good future for himself and Ava. The end of this season and also back in the beginning of Season 2, where Boyd’s just working in the mine and drinking, are about as low as we’ve seen Boyd. But we don’t like to have him down for that long. In that season, it was important that we got Boyd back to being Boyd. This will just pose new challenges for him; what will he do to get her out?
TVLINE | Is the plan for Jere Burns to return next season in a larger capacity as his alter ego Wynn Duffy — who’s now essentially Boyd’s new boss?
We need to explore that. We love Jere and we love Wynn Duffy. It’s just [a matter of] how much can we get him [next season], how many episodes, and then we’re going to take it from there.
TVLINE | Walton Goggins teased earlier this year that by the end of the season, we may finally see that Boyd and Raylan do not like each other. Would you now say that’s an accurate assessment?
Yes — and that was certainly our goal. That said, it’s tough when you get those two guys in a scene together. You can’t help but feel a certain camaraderie; that there is this strange affection that they have for each other. Even though this is one of the very low points for their relationship, Boyd did drive Raylan to go see Nicky. Now, did he do that just because he believed Raylan had something on Ava and was going to use it? Maybe, but to an extent there was something about the history between them that got him to do that. And Raylan gave Boyd his gun back in the end, so… This is a low point, but that doesn’t mean that it will always be that way.
TVLINE | Would you ever entertain having Boyd and Raylan completely at odds?
Oh, we’ve pitched stuff where it was going to be even darker between them. It just never ends up landing. [Laughs] We’ll play with it in the writers’ room, but ultimately we choose not to go that route. It doesn’t feel like who their characters are, and especially who their characters are with each other.
TVLINE | Talk a little about the conversation about being a “bad guy” between Boyd and Raylan. Do you agree with one of their stances over the other? Or is the fact that they’re both essentially “bad”?
The facts would certainly call into question how much of a “good guy” Raylan is. He’s done a lot of things that, in the real-life Marshal service, would have gotten him kicked out a long time ago. He’s always got good intentions, but you could also say Boyd’s got good intentions. Ultimately, there is a big difference and it’s back in the episode “Decoy,” when Raylan is talking to Shelby and realizes that he’s just trying to get a gun off of him. He says to Shelby, ‘You’re on one side of the law, you’re a criminal. Bob, Rachel and I are on the other side.’ When it comes right down to it, there can be all this talk about Raylan being an outlaw and going his own way, but ultimately he’s a lawman. He’s made choices in his life so that he wouldn’t end up like his father — though that is always going to be a struggle for him, and a concern, that fear of, ‘Am I just my dad with a badge?’ But I don’t think that’s true. He is substantially different. But it is certainly a vulnerability, and something that, Boyd being Boyd, is going to poke at. Raylan comes at him and says, ‘Do you really love Ava? You loved being a White Supremacist, you loved having a church out in the woods, and now you say you love Ava, How am I supposed to tell which one is true?’ Well, OK, Raylan’s going to say that, then Boyd’s going to say, ‘You’re just your old man with a badge.’
TVLINE | What did you want the impact of the finale’s final moment — with Raylan looking over his family plot — to be?
Honestly, we let Raylan have the moment and don’t try to figure that out too much. That moment is a very complicated one for him… So many weird things. He’s gotten Arlo where he wants him: buried. Where he always wanted his dad. [Laughs] But if he didn’t have a bond with him, why would he be at the house patching it up? Well, he’s patching it up so he can sell it — but he could have hired someone else to do that. Then there he is sitting in a chair and looking at the view, having a beer and kicking back on his suspension… He’s got a complicated relationship with Arlo, with Harlan, with that house — and Tim [Olyphant]‘s a great actor, so all of that kind of plays in his face.
TVLINE | Does Ellen May figure into next season?
We don’t have any plans [for that] right now. It felt like her hug with Shelby at the end of Episode 12 was a nice conclusion to that story. That said, it would be strange if we didn’t see her again in the history of the series. And there are a bunch of characters we feel that way about.
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TVLINE | And, most importantly, will Winona still be pregnant next season?
[Laughs] Every year I say the baby will be born this season, and then it doesn’t happen. I have been on record saying that the baby will be born in Season 5, but if something were to come up [that proves to be] a better story, she’ll just stay pregnant throughout the rest of the series and it will be the longest gestation in history. [Laughs]
TVLINE | Raylan and Winona’s final scene together was the most hopeful interaction we’ve seen between the two in quite some time. Was that purposeful?
It’s interesting because it wasn’t entirely purposeful. It was just how the scene developed. There was that line in the nursery scene before the shootout where Winona is giving the bad guys some guff and Raylan says, ‘That’s why I love her.’ You hear those words coming out of his mouth and we are reminded of the depths of his feelings for her. And later when she echoes that back to him — when he says, ‘There’s no longer any threat to you and the baby,’ ‘ and she says, ‘That’s why I love you’ — that was unexpected. That’s not something we planned early on when working on the script… And then the length of their kiss was not something that had been anticipated. I just thought it was great. So, I hope we can see more of dear Winonie, as we call her in the writers’ room.
TVLINE | Any parting Season 5 teases?
The only things we’ve come upon in looking at it is the idea of the baby being born and what will that mean to Raylan and to stories — especially if the baby is a couple states away. We aren’t necessarily interested in showing the baby being born, but we’ll see. Our fear is an actress with sweat makeup on her and making awful faces; it just feels like we’ve seen it before. If she did that in the middle of a gun battle in a bank being held hostage, that would be something. [Laughs] I’m kidding, we’re not going to do that. We feel we’ve done our thing of Winona being threatened for the history of the series. There’s also the ramifications of Raylan’s, if not promotion then certainly rise in stature, and what effect that will have. And then it’s Boyd, and what is he going to do to get Ava out of jail. Those are the big things. We’ll also have to have a couple writers head down to Harlan and start nosing around to see if there are any other little worlds for us to get into.