‘Justified’ Creator Graham Yost on the Season Finale’s ‘Whoa!’ Moment

Make that moments … there were a few in Tuesday’s season three finale

(Spoiler alert: Don't read this if you don't want to hear about "Slaughterhouse," the season three finale of FX's "Justified.")

"Justified" wrapped its third season on FX Tuesday night with Quarles getting "disarmed" by Limehouse's cleaver, Boyd heading off to jail and quickly getting out thanks to Arlo, and Raylan finding out once and for all who his daddy would choose if he had to make a choice between him and Boyd.

"Justified" creator Graham Yost taked to us about the finales "Whoa" moments, Arlo and Boyd's relationship, and next season.

TheWrap: The very end, the last scene, when Raylan walks out of the nursery and we see that Winona didn't immediately process what he had just said to her, that ending was incredibly powerful. Did you think people were going to be sitting there for a minute going, "Whoa"?
Yost: I don't know. I don't know if we're kind of a "whoa" show, but I think that if they do, that would be fantastic. If they get it immediately, that's fantastic. If they feel that we've hit it over the head, that's OK. We had a choice at the end. We had a couple of different takes on Natalie (Zea, who plays Winona). One in which, as soon as Raylan talks about the man in the hat, she gets it immediately. You can see in her face and then they exchange a look. He puts the hat on and walks out.

Also read: 'Justified' Creator Graham Yost on Season Finale: Viewers Want Raylan to Kill Quarles

But, the editor and the director had gone with this other take, which we ended up using, where Raylan puts the hat on, she watches him go. The audience, I think, is starting to get it by that point, more than anything because of the work that Tim did. And just the expression when he says, how he says his line and then the way he puts that hat on, just got his whole posture walking out, I think we kind of get it.

Then in seeing her figure it out, I just thought it was better to go that route just in case people hadn't figured it out. I think that covered it so that it's clear to the audience that Raylan knows Arlo was aware of what he did, or could have done.

When Arlo (Raymond Barry) shot Trooper Tom, did he absolutely think it was Raylan, or just thought it could be his son?
No, he thought it could be Raylan, and that wasn't going to stop him. Arlo has never been a mustache-twirler. He's not a good man. He was a horrible father. Well, some people would say he's evil. He's also lived a life of crime. But he's not that kind of "bad guy." So, everything's going to be complicated for him. I think he always has felt some guilt, at an unconscious level, about how he treated Raylan, but would never admit it and would say that Raylan was a whiner for even thinking that.

But, I think that his conscience, since Helen's death, has been personified in his mind at least as Helen. He knows how much Helen meant to Raylan, so, it's interesting that it was Helen who was talking to him. And it was Helen who was telling him to go kill Dickie, and that's why he trapped Ava in the basement. (He's thinking) he'll kill Dickie, and he shows up and he sees (Boyd) in danger, so he kills the man in the hat.

At the core of Arlo and Boyd's relationship, is it simply that they accept each other, where Raylan is judging Arlo? Is that the reason Arlo and Boyd have bonded so much? He just sees him as a father figure and Arlo just sees Boyd as his son?
I don't know if Arlo just sees Boyd as his son. I think that he sees him as a fellow criminal, but likes the fact that he's of his son's generation and that he's good at it. He also, I think, liked the fact that Boyd talked him out of retirement and said, "You still got some use in this world."

From Boyd's side, I think we should never lose track of the fact, as I say, Boyd is a bad guy, he's a criminal. I wouldn't put it past him to get a little dig at Raylan. I think when he's sitting in the marshal's office handcuffed and he tells Raylan that Arlo's not part of his crew, he's part of his family … sort of says, "Screw you. I have a better relationship with your father than you ever had or will have." He's not above that. I mean, we always sort of feel that Boyd likes Raylan. On the surface, Boyd likes Raylan more than Raylan likes Boyd. But, that doesn't mean he's above that competitiveness, and a little petty vindictiveness too.

And as Raylan says at the end of the episode, Boyd very happily walks out of the jail knowing that Arlo has taken a fall for him. He's willing to do that, to let Arlo do that.
Yes, he is. And that says a fair amount about Boyd as well.

It was a very punny finale, with the "piggy bank" …
I had nothing to do with that.

… and Quarles getting disarmed.
The disarmed one, at least, we kind of go right at that, in that it's a joke. It's an inside joke with the marshals. The piggy bank, I think that was just on the set, and I wasn't sure about it. But everyone loved it and so, yeah, let's do it.

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On a lesser show, it might not have worked as well, but there was actually something a little wonderful about how amused Quarles was with the piggy bank. Who was the one to actually say it, come up with it?
I don't know. I wasn't on the set. I should've run this by (everyone), because I should've known that this is something that would come up. Fred Golan would know, because he wrote the episode, but it wasn't in the script. So it was either Fred or (director) Dean Parisot or Tim Olyphant or Neal (McDonough). It could've been Mykelti (Williamson). I've got a feeling it might've been Neal.

Did (McDonough) kind of embrace that aspect of Quarles, the craziness, more and more as the season went along?
Yeah. Neal, he basically said to us at some point, he said, "Man, I'd love it if you could get me on fire, running down the road, without any clothes on." So, in the second-to-last episode, we get him naked and then we get him on fire. We didn't do it all at once, but …

And there was Quarles' shotgun party scene from "Coalition," which was one of the best scenes of the season. It was so crazy, but yet made so much sense in the context of things and of that character.
Thank you, because I've had friends give me grief for that. (They say), 'Boyd Crowder, as smart as he is, would just leave a guy up with a bunch of prostitutes and OxyContin?'

What is your answer to that?
Nobody's perfect. We knew that … listen, one of the things about Quarles is that he will keep going until he gets his arm chopped off. So we knew that he would somehow get loose. And the question was, what is the most entertaining way for that to happen? And the writer, Taylor Elmore, he had to write the script in a weekend. We're getting pretty jammed up when you get to the last three or four episodes. He had dental surgery on a Friday, and he wrote that script in two days. He was pretty high on Vicodin when he wrote that.

Is that how you explain coming up with REO Speedwagon as the soundtrack for the party? Which was perfect.
He just wanted a hair ballad. He just wanted something from the '80s. And he is a musician. He had done many years in a band, and I think it spoke to him.

Do you think that despite, as you said, the audience rooting for Raylan to kill him, that we all came to like Quarles just a little bit? Even if just for his wacky sense of humor?
Oh, yes. I mean, that's our goal. Elmore (Leonard) said that he's only written a couple of characters in the course of his career that he didn't like in some way. That's part of the job … you want to make someone who's entertaining. But, he's not as empathetic a character. I think he's fun to watch, but I still think you want to watch him walk into a meat grinder by the end.

Also read: 'Justified' Creator Graham Yost: 'Were We Crazy to Kill Off Mags?'

One of the saddest parts of the finale is finding out Trooper Tom (Peter Murnik) is really dead. There was a bit of hope that he'd make it, but in "Coalition," when he said he was missing his kid's ball game for work, my husband turned to me and said, 'Well, he's dead.'
We had a bit, oh God, I forget in which episode, where the writer put in … it was just a joke for me. It was really a joke from "The Simpsons," where McBain is sitting in a diner talking to his partner, and his partner says, "Yeah, I'm going to retire next week. It's Easy Street from here on in." Then the bad guys come in and kill him and McBain goes, "Mendoza!" So we had a whole thing, and he just put it in as a joke, and then he forgot to take it out. It went off as an outline to the network and the studio, and they were like, "Yeah, you think maybe it's tipping it a little bit?" And he said, "Oh, jeez, sorry. I forgot to take that out."

Last year, you had one big "bad guy," who was actually a bad woman, in Mags Bennett (Emmy winner Margo Martindale). The cast is so rich to begin with, what was the thought in having two really powerful bad guys this season with Quarles and Limehouse?
(Laughing) I think Margo at some point, or someone said on Margo's behalf, that it took two big men to fill her shoes. The goal of Limehouse, from the beginning, was to have a character who was a big question mark … you know he's a criminal but is he a bad guy? Certainly, in comparison to Quarles, he's not. He sort of states what he's about right from the beginning, and really never varies from that. He'll move in ways that are mysterious and people aren't sure exactly what he's doing, but you get what you see … he wants Noble's Holler to be left alone, and that's it.

He'll do whatever it takes to get that. That was sort of fun to play, with the character who's not only resolute, but pretty straightforward.

We can see where he would have aligned well with Mags. That was much her goal too, for her community to be left alone.
Yes, to a degree. But Mags would lie more. Limehouse doesn't really lie as much as Mags did.

Limehouse's barbeque joint was a lively setting, too. It both looked like the sort of place that would have great food, but that you would be a little afraid to eat at, too.
Oh, yes. You can't really pay attention to the letter grade when you're going to partake at Limehouse's. That's a mistake. You have to sort of … you're dealing with meat that's been treated in interesting ways.

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So at least Quarles is out of his insane, though entertainingly insane, misery. Limehouse, though, is alive and kicking and swinging that cleaver. What are his prospects for season four?
Oh, his prospects are good, just pending Mykelti's availability. We can't say for sure right now exactly where the stories are going to go, but getting to work with him is one of the great joys of this thing.

Could we also see Errol, maybe, back in action? He was cast out by Limehouse, but he grew up in Noble's Holler and really has nowhere else to go.
We might see Errol back, depending on if Demetrius (Grosse) is on another show. He's just one of those guys that I didn't know, didn't know how good he was going to do. And then it just became, "let's have another Errol scene." Just does spectacular work. We've been very blessed in that regard, again and again.

And what of our good friend Dewey Crowe, with his four kidneys … could we also see him again in season four?
Oh, yeah. Yeah. The thing is, my only concern is we've sort of set up an expectation that there's always going to be a Dewey episode every year. I don't want that to get tired, like, "Oh, it's the Dewey episode." So we'll have to take a look at it. I mean, frankly, I'd love to do the Dewey series. Damon Herriman is just so fantastic that we all get a kick out of him. Tim loves working with him, the director, everyone, the writers. He's really a joy.

We've been wondering about Johnny's (David Meunier) true motivations for a while, and in the finale, we learn he is most definitely working against Boyd. Why is Boyd, who is so savvy and 10 steps ahead of almost everyone else, blind to his cousin's intentions? And he clearly is, because he was going to leave him alone with Ava.
Right. Well, I just think that, I mean, it can seem like a bit of a cop-out, but, in truth, the bad guys in Elmore's world aren't as smart as the good guys, ultimately. So Boyd, lest we forget, is a bad guy. He and his girlfriend Ava are murderers. They murdered people. So let's not forget that. So, he is not going to be as smart as you might hope. He is pretty sharp. He figured out he was being set up with the bank robbery. He's figured out a lot of things ahead of time.

But I think there is that blind spot that people have. And I think that you could really sort of parse it, but it feels natural to us, because he feels responsible, but not entirely responsible, for Johnny being shot and being in a wheelchair. That's not what he intended to have happen. I think he also thinks, "Well, of course, Johnny's going to back my play. It's the smart thing to do. I'm good at this."

He's just lost track, over time, of what Johnny's deeper motivation might be. Now, that being said, we don't know, because obviously Boyd's going to figure this out at some point. We don't know how and how that will play out, but believe you me, it will play out.

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Mags' presence was still felt this season, obviously, and finding out that she had left all her money to Loretta was a great twist. Was that meant to be a little nod to the character, that she took care of Loretta in the end?
Yes, though I can't say that's something that we knew from the beginning of the season. I think it was in the third episode when Raylan, in the third or fourth episode, Raylan goes to see Loretta and to just ask about the money and where it might be. That then leads Raylan and Rachel down to talk to Limehouse. It just sort of came up in conversation, "Hey, what if Loretta said, 'Why? Do you think I've got the money?'" As soon as we even broached that idea, I thought, man, that would be great. She should have the money. Let's put that up as a target, something to shoot for at the end of the season.

And it's just one of those things with Raylan, where he will cross certain lines. He really shouldn't let her have it, but he works it out in his mind. It's like, "Eh, might as well." Considering all she's gone through and her father being murdered, it's sort of like a, I mean, you could look at it as sort of a victim payment.

When do you guys start back up, and are you thinking about season four yet?
We've started to think about it. I had a couple of meetings with Fred Golan, our senior writers, as we think of it, and kicked around ideas. I've also spoken to Tim about what he's interested in Raylan going through. I've spoken to Walton about Boyd. We usually start the writer's room in the middle of July. We might start it a month earlier this year just to get a jump on scripts, because it gets pretty crunchy toward the end.

If we could avoid that at all, even a little bit, even a week less crunchy, it might help. Where we get into things, where we go with certain things in a script in an episode that haven't been fully baked. It may end up working OK because we've got a great cast and great writers who are working on the sets, the cast and great directors and all of that. But, maybe, we can help ourselves a little bit.

And in terms of where we're going, we don't know. We don't know if we're just going to do another bad guy of the year or if we're going to do one big story or if we're going to do three biggish stories … There are certain themes that I'm interested in playing with, both in terms of Raylan and in terms of Boyd. The whole Johnny thing suggests a theme of betrayal. And that intrigues me.