'Justified' postmortem: EP Graham Yost dissects 'Shot All to Hell'
Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched this week’s episode of Justified, “Shot All to Hell” written by supervising producer Chris Provenzano and directed by Adam Arkin, stop reading now. As he’ll do throughout the season, showrunner Graham Yost takes us inside the writers room.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When I was on set in November for a piece in EW, I asked Timothy Olyphant about it being a violent season ahead, and he joked that the show had too many characters so people were going to have to go down. Is this episode setting the tone for the remainder of the season, or just an extraordinarily active episode?
GRAHAM YOST: It’s an extraordinarily active episode. The next few episodes regroup, in a way. Stuff moves forward, but the big thing, especially in the next episode, is the aftermath of this one: the effect it has on Boyd to have Ava whisked away to a worser house of incarceration and then on Raylan for having stepped up and admitted to Art, in the best way he could, what Art already kinda knew. We had this idea that we wanted all three stories to reach a peak where everything is going great for everyone, and then it all falls apart in the matter of one act.
Let’s start with Boyd and Ava: Was the plan always for Boyd to shoot a framed, disgraced Paxton and make it look like a suicide?
Yeah. We had one version where we were gonna do that right off the top of the season, and then we started to think, “No, let’s take some time to get there.”
Later, Boyd hired an old coal-mining buddy, who was dying of black lung and looking to provide for his family, to shoot Mooney in a restaurant. Boyd also told Mara to leave town because she won’t be getting her money either. Is that the last we’ll see of Mara (played by Karolina Wydra)?
I will be honest that we explored an idea of her popping up into the story later in the season, and it just didn’t work out. She’s on True Blood. They give a certain allowance to go and do another show for a certain period — x number of episodes — and we maxed out. We hit our five episodes. It was gonna be a tough get, and then we just decided the story should go in another way. But we loved her.
With Lee Paxton’s credibility shot, Ava was due to be released the next day. She told Boyd those wonderful things about wanting to fall asleep and wake up in his arms. We really thought she was going to walk — and then her cell mate helped guard Albert (played by Danny Strong) frame Ava for allegedly stabbing him with a shiv that he’d “found” under her bed.
We originally had this idea that Albert was going to assault her, and she’d have to kill him, but we thought, let’s do it in a way where she’s utterly blameless and it’s not anything that Boyd could have predicted or Ava could have predicted. But in a way, it was started because Boyd had arranged for protection for Ava, and that guard beating Albert down humiliated him, so this is his odd way of coming back.
When Boyd showed up to see Ava and was told she was already transferred to the state penitentiary, and Walton Goggins started screaming, “Get off me! Get off me! Get off me!” to the guards holding Boyd back, I almost burst into tears. (It was the second high-pitched “Get off me!”)
Oh good. They’re both criminals, and yet, you’re supposed to feel for them. That was the goal.
And things will get worse for Ava?
You’ll see in the next episode. She goes from Harlan County Detention, where she’s in a sense protected by Boyd and things are kind of easy, to someplace where it’s a bigger jungle.
Boyd also finally came face-to-face with Darryl Crowe this episode. As Darryl said, Boyd pretending he wasn’t himself when he found Darryl and Jean-Baptiste waiting for him in his bar was “cool as ice.”
Chris had written a really good scene, but Walton had the idea of, “What if Boyd comes in, and he and Jimmy play it like he’s not Boyd? Then what could happen?” It’s great, and it’s fun, and it makes for an interesting scene, but when Michael Rapaport says [in accent], “Goddamn man, that was cool as ice,” that’s everything you want from Michael Rapaport. And it establishes this thing for Darryl that yeah, he got out-played, and he sort of admires the play, but he’s not gonna back down. And Boyd gets to keep his dignity. It was a nice way for the two characters to meet.
NEXT: Art gets a story that his fishing buddies will be hearing about for the next 10 years
Let’s talk about Elias Marcos, Theo Tonin’s consigliere and trigger man, played by Alan Tudyk.
You’ll notice he’s credited as Wray Nerely. It’s something that he’s doing, sort of like a documentary or something, about the life of an actor in a character or something. I didn’t spend time with him, so I don’t exactly know what the thing is. When Alan’s name came up — I’ve just always been a big fan. He tested for the part of Michael Raines that Jeff Goldblum got [in Yost’s 2007 NBC drama Raines].
Elias first appeared pressuring the Canadian drug lord played by Will Sasso for the information he’d told Art about Sammy’s death. Once he got Picker’s name out of him, he shot him.
It was originally scripted that Will Sasso’s character was coming out of a donut shop, and it was gonna be Tim Hortons. Tim Hortons had allowed us to mention them but didn’t want their signage used. They shot it in this industrial area. We’re in a drought here, so we’re getting almost no rain, but that night it was sorta drizzling, so it actually felt like Windsor more than it might have.
Elias and Art both ended up staking out a diner where Wynn and Mike were waiting for Picker. I loved how Art took a picture of Elias with his phone when he temporarily scared him off — it was just like Raylan had done the first time he met Quarles.
We look at that as a tool in our toolbox, the idea that you can just take photos of people now with your phone. It can be helpful. I think we might even be doing it once more this season.
That scene inside the diner was great — from Wynn asking if anyone minded if he ordered, to Art eventually telling Elias, who’d come in to ask Picker to go with him, that he’d give him 10 seconds to leave or he’d shoot him. (That’s also very Raylan).
We all break the stories together, but when we read Provenzano’s first draft of the script, we just said, “Well, there you go. We’ve got an episode.” That scene in particular, I don’t think it changed much from his very first draft. There might have been some trims, he might have done a little work on the set, but it was just a brilliantly written scene. We loved reading it, and it worked as well as we had hoped. It was just fun to give Art a real badass scene, and there’s great Wynn Duffy stuff. Picker’s great in it. Even Mike gets a line [in accent] “You got it, pops. Step outside, I’ll give you a clip.” We’re very proud of that scene.
Picker eventually gave Raylan the address of where to find Elias, after Raylan reminded him in private that the thing Picker holds over him — knowledge that Raylan arranged for one criminal (Sammy) to take out another (Nicky) — doesn’t exactly bode well for Picker.
That scene evolved a lot. It went several different directions. We knew what we wanted to get out of it, how to make it different from anything else we’ve seen between Raylan and Picker specifically. That took some work.
That shootout between Elias, Raylan, and Art was at an airport hangar?
It was supposed to be a shipping service, a courier company. There was a scene that we had shot where you see the guy who runs that company, and he’s obviously implicated in the whole thing, and the episode was just running long. We felt like we could just jump into it. It would’ve added a little more clarity. One thing that I threw in was, “Let’s make it special. Let’s give Elias an automatic shotgun,” which is a very bizarre weapon that can fire like a machine gun only it’s shooting out shotgun shells. It’s fun for Wray Nerely to have over his shoulder and plugging away.
After Raylan took out Elias, the Marshals found Theo Tonin (played by Adam Arkin) in a crate. Will we see him again?
We thought about it. We get to episode 11, there’s a point where we could have gone to him. There was issues on his availability, and then we just figured out a way to not do it. We’re kind of wrapping up the Theo Tonin story. We’re not thinking of going more to that and Detroit for the rest of the series, though we’ll see. We had ideas about seeing Theo several times last year, but Adam was off working on The Americans, so we couldn’t do that, and that’s why we came up with the character of Nicky Augustine, frankly. This time, there was this odd synchronicity: We’re thinking, “Okay, let’s see Theo Tonin in this episode,” and it’s like, “Well, Adam’s directing it. Great. He can direct himself.”
I enjoyed the celebration scene with Art, Raylan, and Vasquez, but as an audience, we’re conditioned: Once we see a lawman with retirement on the horizon toast to the pinnacle of his career, we start worrying that he’s going to die.
(Laughs) We always joke that a character’s gonna say, “Yeah, right after we do this big dangerous thing, I’m gonna go pick up my son at Tee Ball,” or “Tomorrow’s retirement, and my wife and I are gonna go off on my new sailboat and live forever,” and you know that something bad’s gonna happen. But we did want to give Art that moment, give Nick that moment.
Vasquez told Raylan and Art that Picker had said it was dirty FBI Agent Barkley on the tarmac the night Sammy killed Nicky. Raylan left the room, then turned around and told Art, “It wasn’t Barkley, and I can tell you that for a fact.”
This was a hard thing to work out, especially talking it through with our technical advisor, Charlie Almanza. Raylan can’t come right out and say, “I did it. I was there.” Because if he did that, then Art would have to investigate him, and Raylan could go to jail, and it would just bring an absolute catastrophe to the office. So that’s the only thing I’ll say about that: Raylan’s line was very carefully worded. And we always felt that Raylan knows that Art knows, and Art knows that Raylan knows, and he’s given Raylan a couple of instances where he could step up and tell him what’s going on, and Art wants to know and he doesn’t want to know, but Raylan feels he owes him this. Even though he understands that it’s gonna, in a way, sort of end their friendship.
NEXT: Dewey is light, Danny is dark
The episode got some comic relief from Dewey Crowe (Damon Herriman), who did some soul-searching cuddled with two prostitutes and gave away his prized possessions.
After they shot that, Chris Provenzano either called me or texted me and said it may be the high point of his career. (Laughs) That was just such a fun scene. It’s everything we expect from Damon and more. “It’s a turtle dog” — without even explaining it. Originally we were going to have an insert of someone holding the thing, so you could see it was a dog and a turtle together as if someone had crossbred them in their mind. But no, we don’t need that, let that be a Dewey thing: “It’s a turtle dog.”
We’ll see Dewey continuing to decide whether to stay or go next episode?
Yes, pretty early on. We wanted to toy with the idea of, is Dewey thinking of killing himself? Is it that bad? No. But we wanted to set up in this episode, just in that one scene, that he’s thinking of leaving.
Darryl is certainly making himself at home at Audrey’s redecorating. I rewound that scene where he was hanging the “Hang in there!” cat poster because I was sure it had to be hiding something in the wall, but no, he was really just hanging it to be decorative.
(Laughs) It’s something that Provenzano writes in the script, and the art department gets it, and it’s like, “Let’s just do it.” “Okay.”
Darryl got Wendy to come up to Harlan and take custody of Kendal. She’s supposed to take him back to Miami, but Darryl wants them to stay. They said for money, they can do “the old thing.” Any hint?
How are they gonna get a house, a place to live, is really the question at hand in episode 506.
Let’s talk about Danny’s scene with Kendal and Jean-Baptiste (Edi Gathegi). I did not see Jean-Baptiste’s death coming.
Nor did we. (Laughs) So the Danny-Kendal scene, we wanted to establish this thing that Danny’s got, the idea of the 21 foot rule. You can look it up online. The idea is supposedly that within 21 feet, a guy with a knife can beat a guy with a gun, if the gun is holstered. If the knifer takes the initiative and starts running as he’s pulling the knife, while the other guy’s trying to pull his gun, the knifer can win. That came up early in the writers room this past summer and was one of the things that we decided to give to Danny from the beginning of the season. Then we wanted to see him torment Kendal with it.
And the idea for Danny to shoot Jean-Baptiste?
Listen, we make our best efforts early on in the season as we hire actors to come on the show, and we can’t always guarantee them what they’re gonna be doing or where it’s gonna go. Getting Edi Gathegi was a big get for us, but the character just wasn’t panning out for him. He didn’t see where it was going, and even though we were thinking that Jean-Baptiste would survive until toward the end of the season, Edi wasn’t enjoying the journey. We had no contract to hold him to, so we said, “Well, let’s kill off Jean-Baptiste in episode 5.” We weren’t sure how we were gonna do it, and then we watched the scene between Jean-Baptiste and Danny, and it became clear that there was such animosity there, that man it could work. So the scene got adjusted to play it this way. What we then found from that, which you’ll see in subsequent episodes, is that it gave us a lot: It established Danny’s close to psycho pathology and his really bad judgment. And it also was something that happened in front of Kendal. Kendal’s known that he’s living in a crime family, but I don’t know what truly bad stuff he’s seen. You’ll see in subsequent episodes the effect that this has on him and really how that propels us to toward the end of the season.
Lastly, we get to Hot Rod (Mickey Jones) and Boyd. They met and first talked about Hot Rod’s history with Boyd’s late father, Bo.
Hot Rod talks about getting up on stage with Bo and playing music, and you get the sense that Hot Rod was a drummer. If you look up Mickey Jones, you’ll see he played with Bob Dylan, Johnny Rivers, and others. There’s also the line that Provenzano had: “You want me to move from the low-risk, high-reward weed business into the high-risk, high-mortality trade of black tar?” That was a really nice way of encapsulating the whole shift that has happened.
Boyd offered Hot Rod a 50 percent split if Hot Rod helped him smuggle heroin across the Mexican border and handed over Johnny. That card scene later on with Johnny, when Hot Rod had his three henchmen turn on him, played out nicely with Johnny then revealing that he’d used his take to buy the henchmen’s loyalty.
The twist and then the double twist. We always move back and forth: One of the big things that we were considering was having Boyd find out about that this episode, and we just felt like the news about Ava was enough. If he found out any further news, it would just feel like we were piling on. You always ask for a spoiler: Boyd figures this out in the next episode. That’s an exclusive.