SPOILER ALERT: The recap for the "Restitution" episode of "Justified" contains storyline and character spoilers.
And that’s a wrap. The fifth, and penultimate, season of “Justified” ended with marshal Raylan Givens all set to ride off into the sunset, the Florida sunset, to join his love Winona and their baby daughter, until one last case proved too good to pass up: the chance to make sure his former friend, now wannabe drug kingpin Boyd Crowder, is locked up forever.
And in a storyline that series creator Graham Yost promises will bring the show full circle in Season 6, Raylan came up with a clever way to break Boyd: his one-time fiancé, Ava, who was sprung from jail so she can get the goods on Boyd and give Raylan and his fellow marshals the evidence they need to rid Harlan of Boyd.
Yost talked to Yahoo TV about steering the show towards its conclusion, what he and the writers have planned for Season 6 so far, the many great guest-star performances in Season 5 (here’s looking at you, Dewey and Kendal Crowe), who’s on his wish list of returning guests for Season 6, and why he and the “Justified” writers will be watching the “Breaking Bad” spinoff “Better Call Saul” extra closely.
When the series began, it was Raylan, Boyd, and Ava, though we know that Boyd wasn't initially planned to be around for the whole series. When did it become clear that this group would be the focus of the story going into the final season?
As we started breaking Season 5, we started thinking about the last two seasons as really one big season. It really became clear to us that that's where we wanted to go. We liked the idea of the entire series coming full circle. It won't be neat in any way, in terms of it returning full circle, but that sort of territory really appealed to us.
You’ve also been building to this inevitable showdown between Raylan and Boyd, not just with the lawman vs. criminal nature of their relationship, but also because of their shared history. At the same time, the audience is still kind of hoping the two could be friends, enjoy a beer together. Is that true of you in the writers' room, too? Did you want these characters to go a different way than maybe they will end up going?
It's something that is one of our big concerns, or our big concerns-slash-goals. We like anything that brings those two characters together. We've had to be a little more sparing with it, because we don't want to repeat ourselves. So we needed to have them heading towards something in the final season where there will be more interaction, or at least [where] their stories will be interacting.
Whether or not they're actually going to have a lot of scenes together, we still don't know. We still don't know how the whole thing is going to play out. Our simple goal has always been to give the audience what they want, and what they expect, but in an unexpected way that's still satisfying.
You have the best guest stars every season, and Season 5 was no exception with Michael Rapaport, Alicia Witt, John Kapelos, A.J. Buckley, and of course, Damon Herriman as Dewey Crowe. But one of the big standouts of the season is Jacob Lofland as Kendal Crowe. Along with Kaitlyn Dever as Loretta, you’ve spotlighted some great young actors there.
We've just been tremendously lucky with those two juveniles. Jacob, he did an audition, and he was great, but we also cast him because we'd seen “Mud” and thought he was wonderful in that. It's one of those things where he does an episode, he just appears. He starts to get to do stuff, really, in the fourth episode. We all look at each other and go, "Wow, he's great." We've got no fears with Jacob now; he is going to deliver us wonderful stuff.
In the finale, Adam Arkin is a great director. He worked with Jacob as well as anyone did on the show, and really got him into places that, as a young actor, he maybe hadn't been before. That was really wonderful. [Talking about] high points of the series, or at least this season, those scenes between Raylan and Kendal in the final episode are really up there.
We had gotten to see Loretta again earlier in the season. Seeing how much Raylan genuinely cared about her and Kendal and tried to help both of them, is that any indication of his ability to go off and be a father?
I think he has more of an identification with Kendal than with any character that's ever been in the series, because Kendal is a good kid growing up in a bad family. Tim [Olyphant] is so brilliant at telling us, "Listen, I don't want it ever obvious that Raylan cares about anybody except for Winona, the baby, Art, Rachel, and Tim. That's it." Even those people he gives a lot of grief to, except for the baby, because he hasn't had any real interaction with Willow yet. But yes, the whole design of the season was to have these moments where Raylan has to behave in a parental manner, and how he's going to do that.
We see in the finale that Raylan plans to go have a life with Winona and the baby in Florida, before he decides to stay long enough to help put Boyd away. He seems very genuine and excited when he calls Winona and tells her he's coming. Does he have confidence in himself that he can go live that more domesticated life, or is this wishful thinking?
Our goal for the whole season was that Raylan is terrified of being a father and, given his own upbringing, doesn't know what kind of father he's going to be. He ultimately comes to the realization that he's not where he's supposed to be. Leslie, Art's wife, says, "You're not where you're supposed to be," in the eleventh episode, after Art's been shot. That will have a bunch of different meanings to it.
Season 5 felt like there was a lot more story unfolding than in past seasons of “Justified.” Did you feel like that, too?
It did. Not a whole different level, but certainly, it was more. The big thing was having Ava have her own storyline. That really didn't start until the fourth and fifth episodes. But then, once she was in the state prison, she was really on her own. That became something that we had to juggle. But it was fun. It was fun to give Ava and Joelle [Carter] stuff to do on her own.
Season 5 was a particularly interesting one for the female characters on the show: Ava, Rachel now, especially going into the final season, and the guest cast with Amy Smart’s Allison and Alicia Witt’s Wendy. Was that a conscious decision, or did everybody just kind of came together in these particular stories?
It's part of Elmore [Leonard]’s world that there's always strong and interesting female characters. We knew that we wanted Raylan to have a romantic involvement this year; Allison just sort of materialized, and we were lucky enough to get Amy Smart. We knew that we wanted a female Crowe in the midst of these lost boys, and that's why we called [the character] Wendy, and then we were lucky enough to get Alicia Witt.
That's been one of the great things in doing this show, is getting the people who come onboard. That holds true with getting Mary Steenburgen as well. We didn't know exactly what that character was going to be like, and then started talking to Mary, and started to figure it out. And she was game, so off we went.
She will factor greatly into the final season?
That's the plan, yes.
Touching again on the Crowe family, which has really been the gift that kept on giving throughout the whole series: Will we see Dewey again? Will we see Kendal again?
Again, we don't entirely know. I will say that in terms of Dewey, Dewey was the inspiration for the whole season. We sat Dewey, and the actor Damon Herriman, on the bench in Season 4, and we knew that we wanted to feature him this season. We just have so much fun writing that character, and then seeing what Damon does with it, that became something that was at the forefront of our thinking.
We did design the last scene between Raylan and Dewey — after Dewey comes in and confesses to all his crimes, which is one of our favorite scenes in the history of the series — there’s a scene after that when Dewey's being put in the back of the police car, and he has an exchange with Raylan. We purposely wrote that in a way that, if that's the last we see of Dewey, then there is a completion there, because Raylan says something to him that mirrors their first meeting in the pilot, and Dewey says something that he also said in that first scene, which is "Man, I don't understand you." We wanted to echo that.
Another great Dewey moment this season was getting his pool shot up by Raylan. Poor Dewey was heartbroken over the loss of his pool. There was also Danny’s self-stabbing death, the death by pencil, Picker's cigarette-pack death… lots of wacky, but also darkly funny moments. What was your favorite moment of the whole season?
There's a bunch of them. We're lucky that we're working on a show that we really enjoy writing and working on, so there are moments where we just kind of rub our hands together and say, "Oh, this is gonna be fun."
Then there's the emotional stuff. I felt that Raylan confessing to Art was a high point. I felt that in the next episode, Art punching Raylan is pretty great. The two scenes we've had between Raylan and Winona have been, I found, very moving. Dewey in the wilderness, in the fourth episode, praying "Jesus, just let me kill this guy, and then I'll do whatever you want." That's the ultimate Dewey moment.
You know, the exploding cigarette pack, which was something we were very concerned about. We didn't know if that would work, or if people would think it was just too crazy, but it seemed to pass muster, and that was a big relief. That was wild and fun. And then getting to the end of the season, the scene between Raylan and Ava. That's something that we were really headed towards, and we felt that Tim and Joelle and our director Adam Arkin really just nailed it.
What led to the decision that Season 6 will be the final season?
It comes down to Raylan and Boyd and Ava, and it's just how many different stories can we play out with them; how far can we string that along? And again, just a real fear of repeating ourselves, or having to reinvent the series and lose what it is really about. It just felt like six seasons was as far as we could take the story.
The series is full of colorful characters, fantastic scene‑stealers, and guest stars. There are just so many of them who could be their own story. Is there any thought about spinning off any of them?
There's always talk. [Season 6] will be a hard season. We've fallen in love with these characters. It's hard to say goodbye, but we talk about everything. We talk about who's going to live, who's going to die. "Could there be a movie? Could there be this? Could there be that?" We'll just have to see how it plays out. Damon Herriman has come up with his idea, which is that Dewey escapes [jail], and he is "Dewey Crowe: Fugitive P.I." We probably won't do that, but it was fun to joke around about.
It's hard to say. Honestly, we'll see how Vince [Gilligan] does with "Better Call Saul." If that works… I know "The X‑Files" tried a spinoff that didn't succeed. I remember when "AfterMASH" came on, and that didn't quite work out. Yet, oddly enough, “Trapper John, M.D.," which was a completely different thing and didn't bear a lot of relationship to “M*A*S*H,” it was a fairly successful show. I don't know. As much as we don't want to say goodbye, we also want to protect what we've done and not draw it out beyond what it should be.
Speaking of "Breaking Bad," was that a little shout‑out there in the finale with Daniel Moncada, one of the Salamanca cousins, as Manolo?
Listen, “Breaking Bad” has been haunting us from the very beginning. We would have to stop and say, "Oh, we can't do that, because Vince and Cranston and everyone did that on ‘Breaking Bad.’” Sometimes it would happen, but it was not conscious, and sometimes it was conscious, but we just said, "We've got to do it anyway." We live in that world. We live in a world haunted by “Breaking Bad.”
Are there any characters or storylines that you really want to get to in the final season? We saw the surprise return of Dickie Bennett this season. Maybe Limehouse…
We've got a long wish list for the final season. We don't have anything written in stone at this point. We don't know exactly who we'll see again. I'll say, it's my trite line now, that it would be strange if we never saw Limehouse again. It'd be strange if we didn't see Dickie again.
The whole appearance of Dickie this season was just something that came out of the blue. It was just an idea that [writer/producer] Taylor Elmore had, and we all looked at each other and went, "That's cool." Hopefully, if we find something for Limehouse, it'll be that kind of thing. Just one quick second. That's the deal. We don't know for sure, but we have great affection for all of them. Yet, at the same time, we don't want to make it just this kind of sentimental farewell to any of them.