Justified Executive Producer Graham Yost Talks Season 4 Homestretch

TV Guide
Justified | Photo Credits: Prashant Gupta/FX

Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) finally got his man out of Harlan alive on the Tuesday's episode of Justified, but the end of the Drew Thompson mystery/pursuit doesn't necessarily mean an end to the case - there are still two episodes left this season, after all. TV Guide Magazine called up executive producer Graham Yost for a preview of the homestretch.

TV Guide Magazine: Now that the mystery's over, what's next?

Graham Yost: There's a moment at the end of episode 10 when Shelby/Drew (Jim Beaver) says, "Take care of Ellen May," and Raylan sarcastically says, "Yeah, I'll get right on that." That comes to sort of bite Raylan in the next episode [airing March 26], and he's got to deal with it. There are aftershocks, but we wrap up Ellen May [Abby Miller] then.

TV Guide Magazine: Hopefully not in a body bag. Ellen May turned out great.

Yost: Abby Miller was one of those things that again we've been so blessed with on Justified. Ellen May grew from just one scene in Season 2. And then we had lots of debates over whether or not she would die in Season 3. And, by the way, we had a big debate at the end of the fourth episode this season, over whether or not she was going to die then. But episode 12 comes down to the main players revolving around Ellen May, and Colt (Ron Eldard), who lost her, and Gutterson (Jacob Pitts), who has it in for Colt. We thought of having everything come together in the finale, and then it was just, "You know, let's do one thing at a time."

TV Guide Magazine: Joelle Carter said you've labeled this season's theme as "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." Was she telling it true?

Yost: Yep! Just think: The original sin is that Ava killed Delroy (William Mapother) in order to save Ellen May. What happens from that, it's like, when you kill someone, it's not all just going to be worked out fine. And that continues to haunt her character right to the end of the season.

TV Guide Magazine: She also said she's always pushing for Ava to be more of a badass and the writers tend to push back, especially you. She said you don't want her to get too bad.

Yost: [Laughs] The thing about Boyd and Ava is that we love them, and we love Boyd as a bad guy; but Ava, I think, is more of a stand-in for the audience, as someone who's fallen into this thing. We don't want her to fall too far. We like it when she has some steel in her: last year when she hit Devil with the frying pan, that was fun. And the whole thing with Delroy was, "That guy needed to die," and she did it. But going over that line to doing really dark stuff, it's like, "Oh Ava, don't." You'll see how it plays out. If Joelle wants some more bad stuff, I'll write her some more bad stuff.

TV Guide Magazine: Does Raylan think he can win Winona [Natalie Zea] back if he gets promoted?

Yost: You know, Raylan's goal isn't so much to win her back but to grow up, to be a provider for his child. We find out more about that in episode 12. There's a little scene between them at the end of 12 that starts out sweet and turns ominous at the end. And so Raylan in the final episode has to do everything he can to protect Winona and his child on the way, which puts him at great odds with the other great love of his life: being a U.S. Marshal. That is the great dilemma for Raylan at the end of the season.

TV Guide Magazine: There's a showdown Detroit that seems to be looming; does that dilemma tie into it?

Yost: Yes. That all comes about because of his quest to rise in the hierarchy of the Marshals Service. His drive for that ends up having a potentially catastrophic effect on the people who matter most to him. That's sort of always been Raylan's dilemma, in a way. We made the choice fairly early on that we wouldn't drag out the mystery of who Drew Thompson was or the getting of him beyond a certain point. So we found out in episode 9 who Drew is; 10 was trying to get him; and 11 was trying to get him out of Harlan.

TV Guide Magazine: Episode 11 is one of the best you guys have ever done.

Yost: I mean, one of the reasons that episode is amazing is because I co-wrote it. So... No, no. But you know, it was me and Chris Provenzano, but it was also Tim [Olyphant]'s input. It was Tim's idea to have the whole beatdown with Constable Bob [Patton Oswalt]. And [director] Michael Watkins just completely embraced this idea of doing a Western. And Michael has shot documentaries in Afghanistan and just loves the whole military aspect of it, so it all just really came together in that one. Jacob Pitts said that's the most fun he's had.

TV Guide Magazine: I loved the bit where the Molotov cocktail gets lit and there's a moment of panic, like, "Who's gonna throw it?!"

Yost: [Laughs] That wasn't entirely scripted, you know. Originally it was going to be Gutterson who threw it, but then on the day they were like, "Let's let Art do it." Stuff like that, when you see the cut you go, "Oh, I am so happy to be working with all these people who are all just so invested in finding the coolest, funniest way to do things."

TV Guide Magazine: I also loved the music in the scene with YOLO [Being Human's Bobby Campo].

Yost: He was great!I'm gonna find that guy, we'll be looking for other things in other shows, because he was just so amazing. But the music, that was Michael Watkins' thing. He was like, "Let's do this homage to Tarantino and Reservoir Dogs," the infamous torture scene with "Stuck In the Middle With You," and someone said, "Let's do 'Love Train,'" and we just went for it.

TV Guide Magazine: Are we done dealing with Arlo's [Raymond J. Barry] death? Do we get a funeral, or is Raylan not having that nonsense?

Yost: No, but there's an echo at the end of the season.

TV Guide Magazine: You probably hate getting this question at this point, but does that "echo" mean we'll hear "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive" in the finale?

Yost: That's the huge thing we're dealing with right now. The plan is yes, but we'll see in the final. It looks like we're going to use a different version. It's funny, I was e-mailing with our music supervisor, Greg Sill, that if we could afford to do it, it'd be great to put out an EP at the end of the series of all the versions of that song that people have done for us. It'd be beholden of us, I think, to use the original by Darrell Scott, which is a very heartfelt, muscular version. That was a song that one of the writers found when we were working on the first season. I'd never heard it before - I'm not a big country guy - and then it turns out that there are many versions of it, and one of the reasons is that it's just a great story-song. Although, it's not a singular story, it's more about a place, which suits us.

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