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Justified “Restitution” Postmortem with Creator/EP Graham Yost [INTERVIEW] 


Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Before we get to the postmortem, let’s hit the highlights (AKA my favorite and/or most wrenching moments) of the episode.

Darryl Crowe Jr. Gets His Balls Shot Off

Well, maybe destroyed is more accurate. I was honestly as surprised as Darryl was when Wendy pulled the trigger. I probably shouldn’t have been though because if Darryl managed to get out of this situation alive, he would’ve found a way to make Wendy and Kendal’s lives hell. His death looked kind of horrible and painful, but I’m not sorry he’s dead or that he went out like that. And, of course, Raylan gets the final word.

Art Tells Raylan His Transfer to Florida Has Gone Through

This was probably the most heartbreaking moment of the finale, if not the season. To me, this transfer represents the end of Art and Raylan’s relationship. To me, it says Art is done with Raylan and now he’s someone else’s problem. And Raylan’s confusion after Art gave him the news made me even sadder. Ugh. I’m pretty torn up about it. In these last few episodes Raylan’s been trying to prove that he’s worthy of Art’s regard. I had hoped that Raylan actually doing things by the book would earn him some points. I want to see these two repair their relationship, because I think it’s so important to the both of them.

Ava Gets Herself Out of Jail

Call me naive, but I did not see that twist coming. Of course I remember Raylan telling Ava he’d do what he could to help her, but this is a big deal. It just goes to show us how badly Raylan wants to get Boyd. And as someone who roots for Ava and Boyd separately and together, I think this is such a tough situation for Ava to be in. Even though they aren’t together any more, they clearly still love each other. But this kind of betrayal isn’t something Boyd will be able to forgive no matter  how much he loves Ava. I can’t wait to see how this plays out next season.

Boyd the Bank Robber?

Since he’s out of the heroin business and needs a new income stream, it looks like Boyd might go to work for Catherine Newman. I love that law enforcement – and a lot of other people – think Catherine’s husband was the criminal mastermind. But he wasn’t. I can’t wait to see what they get up to together.

Need some insight into what’s in store for season 6 of Justified? We talked to Creator/EP Graham Yost about “Restitution” and what to expect in the show’s final season. Although this Q&A happened prior to the airing of the finale, there was so much good (and oh-so-spoilery) stuff in here that I wanted to give people a chance to watch the episode before I shared all this great intel.

Photo Credit: Patrick McElhenney/FX
Photo Credit: Patrick McElhenney/FX

It seems like all these characters are becoming reduced to an everyone-for-himself mentality. How does that play into the finale and the rest of the series?

Graham Yost: “You’ll see a big shift in the finale. You’ll see what happens to the resolve of Ava this season, the resolve of the Crowes and also the Boyd story. There is a big reset that happens in the finale. But, yes, the whole point of this season was to strip away everyone from everyone so that Ava is alone in prison, Boyd is alone on the outside and Raylan is alone. Yet with “Starvation,” the point of it, or one of the points of that episode was that when Boyd publicly confronts Raylan with the accusation, the truth, that he, Raylan, was implicated or involved in the death of Nicky Augustine at the end of last season – and he says it in front of Rachel and Tim – Rachel and Tim have Raylan’s back. So that is the beginning of them coming together and I will say that that is one thing we’re headed towards in the final season. It’s a little bit of okay, now what? And Rachel and Tim backing him up was Raylan’s victory in that episode.”

There is a more explicit flow from this season to the next after the finale. Did you approach the final two seasons as having one big story as opposed to going season-by-season like you’ve done in the past?

Graham: “Yes. I mean, you’re absolutely right and very perceptive on that. That’s exactly what we did. Leonard Chang, one of the writers, called it pretty early last July when we were talking about season 5. We found that we couldn’t help also talking about season 6 and we knew by that point that that would be our final season. We started discussing, well, how do we want this whole thing to end? Where do we want to go? Leonard said maybe we should just be thinking about this one big season that’s divided in two parts. That said, [if] you’ve seen the finale you know that the Crowe story reaches a conclusion, but the story of Raylan, of Boyd, and of Ava and the office, particularly Rachel and David Vasquez, our U.S. Attorney, that everything – and that would involve Gutterson as well – everything is pointed in a certain direction for next year and that was our goal from pretty early on.”

For season 6, is it going to be a fairly condensed time frame like you had this season where Raylan gave himself a deadline at the end?

Graham: “Yeah, I mean, it’s funny on our show. We’ve done the math and the whole thing is really taking place over two years, the five years have. We also figured out at one point that our show, when it started was taking place in the future because we went on the air in 2010. If you do the math – by various dates that have been shown in the show – that it really should have started in 2012. But, that aside, we do deal with a pretty condensed time frame. We don’t intend to do that. We just find that one story does lead into the next, one episode to the next. So, yes, it will be in that fashion. We imagine that the sixth season will take place over a fairly short period of time, certainly a few weeks, maybe a couple of months.”

Photo Credit: Kurt Iswarienko/FX
Photo Credit: Kurt Iswarienko/FX

How much of Art will we see next season?

Graham: “We’ll see Art. I’ve tried right from the beginning, since Art was shot in the 11th episode of the season, I’ve tried to not be coy at all. We’re not playing that for suspense. Art lives and he will be a part of things. I will say this, that one of the themes of the final season, as it were – theme might be not exactly the right term for this – is the notion of one more thing before I go. And that is certainly the case for Raylan. It’ll also be the case for Boyd and we also think it’ll be a case for Art. In talking to our technical advisor, former Chief Deputy in L.A., Charlie Almanza, he said that it’s not uncommon for a chief deputy before he retires to say, you know, there’s one more case I want to handle, one more guy I want to get. That will be part of Art’s story.”

Did you ever talk about killing Art off this season?

Graham: “We have a very freewheeling room, so we talk about stuff all the time. And, yeah, that’ll come up. It’ll come up should we kill off Rachel or Tim? Boy, that would really set Raylan on fire. But it just never felt like it was our show. Certainly people die in the show and I think there’s been great heartache and sadness along the way. But I think that level of heartache is almost, is really kind of outside of our story, or outside of Elmore [Leonard]. Now, that said, we’re heading into the last season. We still don’t know who is going to live and who is going to die. We don’t know who, if anyone, will leave Harlan alive. So, everything is on the table. If we can find a way to make it work or if it gives us something, if it is really a wonderful character story then anything can happen to anyone in the final season.”

Do you think Raylan will ever make it to Florida?

Graham: “Well, I’ve got to say, that’s still up in the air. Tim was saying a friend of his in watching the show had said, ‘Man, I don’t know if Raylan’s going to live or die,’ and Tim kind of rubbed his hands together and said, ‘Fantastic,’ because we still don’t know and we’ll find out.”

Will there be cases of the week in the final season or is it just going to be the through line set out in the season 5 finale?

Graham: “It’s really our goal to make it more serialized than we have in the past and to make it more one big story. The marching orders I got at the beginning of this series from John Landgraf at FX was that you can do stand-alone episodes in the first half of the first season and start really focusing on the serialized aspect and we’ve done fewer and fewer stand-alone episodes as the series has progressed because, in general, we have the audience that we’re going to have and they’re very loyal and they know the stories. So, there was a certain frustration with some of the long-term fans with any stand-alone stuff we did this season. We’ve heard that, but we were already intending to go more serialized in the final season anyway, because that’s what we really have to serve is the stories of Raylan, Boyd, Ava and the Marshal.”

You’ve set up Boyd to be the big bad in season 6. Was there any difficulty in setting him up that way considering audiences root for him?

Graham: “Well, that’s been part of the DNA of the show, right from the beginning. Boyd has always been the big bad. He’s always been essentially the white whale for Raylan. Raylan has looked the other way because Boyd has served his purposed at times, but I think that as we see toward the end of this season, Raylan’s frustration with that and where Boyd’s life has taken him and brought him to do things that Raylan is just agog at. Also the effect it’s had on Ava- I think that that’s one of the things we were going for in the penultimate episode. So, it’s not going to be easy. Raylan is not just going to go shoot Boyd in the first episode of the final season. We have to figure a story and that’s one of the reasons we brought Mary Steenburgen in, to create and bring in another world and another thing that Boyd can be involved with for the final season.”

For the final season how much of the broad strokes have you guys thought of? Is anything set in stone right now or are you still working on it?

Graham: “It’s something we’re still working. As I said, I’ve had ideas for the last show as well, but they’ve changed over the years and we’ll see what really works with the story that we come up with for next season. We always have targets, we have goals. Like early on in the first season we said, yeah, let’s get Boyd and Raylan on the same side of the gunfight. That became our goal and we ended up with ‘Bulletville.’ With Season 2, once Mags poisoned the guy in the first episode I thought, well, that’s the way this season has to end, with Mags poisoning herself. So, we’ll come up with those targets and then like Kurt [Sutter] says, you just have to figure out how to get there [and] at the same time have the flexibility to let the targets change. We had a goal early on in this season. We wanted to see Boyd and Raylan working together again and they did in the penultimate episode. But, boy, the take away from that was very different than I think what we had first imagined. It became far more acrimonious and fraught than we had first thought.”

How much pressure is there to deliver that final moment or scene for the series finale? Is that something you’ve already thought about?

Graham: “Yeah, it’s something we’ve thought about almost from the beginning, but it’s something that changes year-by-year. Ideas we had for the ending two years ago don’t really work with what we’re thinking now. But at the same time over this past year I had an idea about, let’s say about a year ago or a little less than a year ago for how the series could end. And then, we moved on from that into another version. But a couple of weeks ago we all gathered the writers and we went back to the previous one, so we still don’t know what we’re going to do. You just hope that you come up with something that works. I had the incredible pleasure of sitting at a table with Bob Newhart back in September and I asked him, because the end of Newhart is one of the best endings in the history of television, and I said, ‘Who came up with that?’ He pointed to his wife; it was her idea. We just hope that we come up with something that really satisfies people. It’s funny, the ending for The Sopranos disappointed so many people and yet, in retrospect and over the years people have kind of started to nod and say, ‘Well, you know what? Maybe that was just perfect for that show and those characters.’ So, it’s hard to say. We don’t want to do a snow globe like St. Elsewhere, although I was one of the people who actually loved that ending because ultimately what does it matter? The series is over. It doesn’t change all the episodes that came before. You try to come up with something that seems to hold the whole thing together. And, yeah, we’ll see what we do.”

Photo Credit: Kurt Iswarienko/FX
Photo Credit: Kurt Iswarienko/FX

You’ve talked about guest stars you might want to bring back for the final season. How are you going to balance that with telling this story of Raylan and Boyd?

Graham: “The danger is that it becomes a farewell tour. So, oh, there’s that guy from Season 2 or there’s that woman from Season 3. There’s part of me that loves that and wants to do that because I have a sentimental attachment. I think a lot of us on the show do to a lot of these characters, but at the same time, having seen that done in other shows, we know that it doesn’t deliver what you hoped it would deliver and that just boiling it down to the main characters of Raylan, Boyd and Ava and the Marshal, that that’s what the story comes down to.”

Can you tell your buddy John Landgraf to lock down Natalie Zea, pay her whatever she needs to quit her 50 other TV shows and just play Winona next season?

Graham: “You know, it’s so funny. Back in the first season and then for the second season there were camps. There was Team Ava and Team Winona. That was back in the days of the early Twilight movies and all that Second Day crap, but anyway, it’s so funny how it’s evolved. There were times when people were- they always loved Natalie and just thought she was doing a brilliant job, but didn’t enjoy Winona entirely. It became truly one of our goals, because we like Winona. We thought Winona was speaking truth to this pretty messed up guy and loved him nonetheless. So we made it our goal to rehabilitate Winona and really capping it with her and Raylan firing guns in the nursery in the last episode of Season 4. So, yeah, it’s kind of a story thing, too. We just need to figure out where we’re going and when, if Raylan gets to Florida and what the relationship is going to be. If you have not seen the last episode this season there’s a moment between them, another Skype call that I think sort of indicates at least down deep what their emotional connection is. Yeah, we love Natalie. So, we’ll see.”

If you’re thinking about that final image, what about Raylan walking onto South Beach and Winona is there in a tiny bikini. They just embrace and then fade out.

Graham: “Really, that’s what it comes down to? There’s the other half of our audience who would want to make sure that Tim was shirtless at that point”

Yeah, you can throw that in, too.

Graham: “This is the thing and I think one of the realities is this is the question about the last image, the last scene, the last episode is that no matter what we do there are going to be a lot of people who are going to be disappointed. Our hope is that we do something that we think is good and right. I had breakfast with Damon Lindelof a couple of months ago and I’m one of the people- actually I like the way Lost ended , but then again, I’m someone who really goes with whatever the people doing the show are doing. It’s sort of like, well, I’ve entrusted you with this for a long time and I like what you’re doing, so if you choose to end it this way, then I think that that’s right and good. That said, I didn’t like the end of Seinfeld.”

I think you should just say screw all the internet haters and the critics. End the show how you want to end it and who cares? It’s your show.

Graham: “Honestly, we never say screw them, but we do say, okay, I hear what people are saying. What can we do? We don’t become obsessive about it, we don’t read a lot of stuff. But, for example, I was very concerned about the cigarette pack bomb in the 11th episode. That was my idea, there was a lot of hemming and hawing over that, whether it was ludicrous or wonderful. So, one of the other writers, V.J. Boyd texted me while that episode was airing and said, ‘Twitter likes the cigarette pack bomb,’ and I honestly went, whew, fantastic because I really didn’t know how that was going to play. So, we are always like anyone in this business looking for approval. But was also really try to do stuff where we look at each other and go, that was cool.”

You changed who sings the song at the end of the season. Why did you do that? What does it signify?

Graham: “Well, actually, you want the full history?”


Graham: “Okay. So, at the end of the first season we used Brad Paisley. Then we thought of going off his version at the end of the second season, but went with Brad again, just a shorter version. We didn’t use the song in the third season. Then last year we had Dave Alvin record it. Dave is a friend of the show. He actually performed in the third season. Then we always thought if, and this is giving a little bit of a spoiler to anyone who hasn’t seen the last episode, but I think everyone knows that we’re headed with something with Ava and I thought that if we ever ended a season where Ava’s predicament was at the forefront it would be good to have a female version. We listened to a bunch and Ruby Friedman’s version with its percussiveness and the opening of it, it’s just kind of ethereal a cappella stuff just seemed absolutely right and we actually wrote that scene and designed that scene to use her version.”

What do you make of this TV marketplace and how will it stimulate you to raise the bar in your final season?

Graham: “I think it’s fantastic that the marketplace is like this and we’ll see how it shakes out. Because it’s not as though the marketplace has expanded and everyone is doing the same show. It’s not as though there’s five new outlets and they’re all doing zombie shows or vampire shows or gritty cop shows or whatever. People are trying different things, like Manhattan. My friend, Remi Aubuchon is working with Charlie Huston on Powers that’s going to be on PlayStation. That’s just a wonderful, wonderful series idea. So, it’s all over the place and I think that’s really wonderful. The question is how it will shake out and then the other question is how does that raise the bar for us for the last season? I think that the pressure has been mounting each year that we’ve done Justified. But we honestly try not to think about that too much. We really just are going to be thinking how can we end this series in the most exciting and heartbreaking and true to what we’ve done before way that we can?”

Are you thinking about making a movie once the series wraps?

Graham: “Again, I won’t be coy. We’ve talked about it, but there’s absolutely nothing concrete. Our focus is just so entirely on trying to put together the final season that we haven’t really thought beyond that. At the same time, we always think about it. Now, that would lead you to believe that then Raylan must live, but listen, if he dies then there’s not going to be a movie. Unless it’s about Dewey. [Laughs] And we love our Dewey, but it really hasn’t been decided. But it also is something that we do talk about.”

Any ideas on what you might want to do after Justified?

Graham: “I do have ideas. I generally don’t talk about anything until it’s actually shooting. But I have a lot of interests. Listen, I’ve been an incredibly fortunate writer that I’ve gone from project to project that has interested me and I hope that that just gets to keep going on.”

Edited for space and content.

The sixth and final season of Justified premieres in 2015.

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