'Justified' postmortem: Joelle Carter on working with Mary Steenburgen and Ava's crumbling exit plan
Spoiler alert! Joelle Carter, who plays Ava Crowder on FX’s Justified, joined us again this week to talk about the fourth episode of the final season and how Ava’s plans are starting to fall apart. If you haven’t watched the episode yet, you might want to stop reading right about now…
Entertainment Weekly: Between last week’s bourbon drinking with Boyd and this week’s cocaine snorting with Katherine Hale, it seems like Ava’s new role is to be perpetually intoxicated.
Joelle Carter: [Laughs.] I think she needs it; she needs the escape. I feel like with Katherine… or with both of them, maybe, it’s more of her making the best of a situation. She’s no foreigner to drinking. And I think that was just an important moment for Boyd and Ava to start working their way back to each other, because it takes down some walls, and hopefully she doesn’t let other information slip out. It’s a good setup for this episode, where she’s trying to get closer to Boyd, whether for her own reasons, or the need of another physical being, or because they do still love each other. There’s a lot going on there.
It seems a lot more unclear this episode about what Ava’s intentions with Boyd are.
I honestly think there’s a part of her that truly desires him to figure it out. You know, “figure it out, Boyd, and get us out of this situation. Work your magic and let’s run.” And that would be okay. The other scenario is, “can I trust you Raylan? If I go through with this, are you going to keep me out of prison, take care of me, and give me that fresh start that you promised me?” She’s really confused about where to lay her loyalty, and also living with the history of these two men and the actual feelings of love and hate for both of them.
And then Katherine Hale walks in and poses a whole new threat, just like Avery Markham did last week. Ava’s situation just keeps getting worse.
What I liked about Katherine Hale is that it starts off very intimidating, and then these two women really just respect and enjoy each other throughout the episode. They have this little heist. And maybe she’s looking at her and wondering, maybe this is who I’m going to become. Or, can I become this woman?
I was trying to figure out all episode if Katherine had these sinister intentions or if she was just mentoring Ava because she sees something in her that she sees in herself. It felt like she was showing Ava the kind of life she could have if she would toughen up a bit.
Yes, and Mary and I both felt like, as we were going on, that we loved working with one another, but we also loved these two characters together. I was wondering, can Katherine and Ava just take over Harlan and get rid of all these men who are complicating everything?
That would be a great show! I would totally watch that.
Yeah! So, I think Katherine ends up getting what she wants. She ruffles Ava’s feathers and puts doubt in Ava’s mind. I mean, at the end of the episode, I think that’s the closest she’s come to telling Boyd the truth. Once Raylan can’t get her out of there quick enough, she’s done. She just wants to get out of there. It’s going to go down, and it’s not going to be good. And then there’s Boyd and he has a whole change of plans. His head’s been filled with the idea that they can have this picket fence again, and live in Harlan, and have that house that they love.
It seems like Boyd is being particularly imperceptive, maybe because of the pressure he’s under. He doesn’t seem to recognize that getting into the legal weed business and staying in Harlan is not something Ava wants.
Yeah, I mean, I think he has to believe that she would want that, unless he understood the situation that she is in. I think before prison, it would have been an ideal situation for them and for her, but now it’s not, and how does she go about explaining that to him?
I really thought she was going to tell him at the end of the episode. I was pretty convinced during that scene.
I think she was, but then he goes off on his tangent, and she realizes she can’t. I think to see his excitement and enthusiasm for this idea, that they can still make it there, and that his vision isn’t them escaping Harlan, it throws a wrench in the whole thing.
Mary Steenburgen was so great in this episode. Justified seems to do a great job with its guest stars, taking these actors who we know as generally sweet characters, like Margo Martindale or Michael Rapaport, and turning them into really sinister people.
I think her children were the ones who talked her into this part. I feel like her and Sam Elliott have this other side to them that’s just menacing and scary in Justified because you don’t expect it from their exterior packaging. I feel like Mary Steenburgen doesn’t get this type of role so often, but she might after Justified.
And Jeremy Davies is back as Dickie Bennett!
Yeah, I think Graham [Yost] loves to try and revisit old characters if he can. If you’re not dead, you might come back.
That final scene, where we find out that Katherine Hale knows something about Ava getting out of prison, and maybe Boyd’s role in influencing Albert Fekus, is a great way to tie back into last season. I had kind of forgotten about Fekus. We talked last week about how in control Ava seemed, and then with that last scene, it seems like she’s really, really not.
No, this is when it all starts to go out off control for Ava, unfortunately. And that was the beauty about this one episode, because I do feel like in the beginning, when Boyd’s saying goodbye, she’s saying, “Here we go again.” And then she goes out into the stairwell to talk to Raylan, and she’s a little stronger with him. She’s still going to give him some information because she has to satisfy both of these men while she decides what to do, but she gives it back to him a bit. It’s like, what’s it like to hold someone’s fate in your hand? She really wants to know how much he cares. He tries to act like he doesn’t, but I think in a way, [the writers] tried to give me a way to show that Ava knows Raylan and knows that somehow this has to be hard for him too, to put her in this position.
Raylan has a conversation with Art about how he’s going to keep going after bad guys, and Art basically warns him about how easy it to get addicted to the job. Raylan is obviously avoiding Florida and staying attached to Harlan for some reason, but it’s hard to tell if it’s because he’s addicted to the work or because he still has feelings for Ava. I assume it’s a bit of both?
I’d like to think so. I think that he’s very, very dedicated to being this lawman, this black and white ideal of good and bad, and justified justice. As we’ve seen though, he walks his own walk, and somewhere in there he has room to bend.
It’s interesting the way this season has kind of complicated Raylan. He’s always done his own thing, but this season is really driving home the similarities between Raylan, Ava, and Boyd. Raylan isn’t a perfect guy; he has similar character flaws.
Yeah, he does. I always said that I felt like they were cut from the same cloth. And I think that scene in the stairwell, she’s trying to get that out of him, or wanting him to admit that he could have ended up like Boyd or Ava.
Basically, all of these characters are struggling to reconcile the lives they have planned for themselves and the reality of their situation or their skills. Everyone is kind of delusional. When Boyd talks about his plan to get into the legal weed business, it’s not necessarily uplifting, but rather him getting wrapped up again in something that won’t end well. Raylan does it too, and neither of them are recognizing what’s most important in their lives, which is the people they care about.
Yeah, and it’s potentially an addiction, or the drive that keeps them moving forward, to feel alive. I feel like there are many reasons why these characters are so similar. I mean, they’ve all killed and moved on fairly easily in the directions that they’re going. They’ve been left with their insecurities, that they can’t really trust people, but that’s what they want to have. They want a trusting, loving relationship that they can rely on. But look where they are. They’re walking a different walk than what they’re talking, but it’s kind of an animalistic way of surviving this environment that they’ve been born into.
Which makes them totally unpredictable, which is why Ava and Katherine need to be in power instead.
[Laughs] Exactly. I mean, these two women can really hold secrets close to their vests until they need them. I love the Elmore Leonard woman. You never know what’s going to happen.
Okay, last question, and without giving away what’s still to come: Should Ava be more scared of Avery Markham or Katherine Hale?
Oh my goodness. Whoever’s in the room with her, I guess. Whoever’s in the closest proximity. [Laughs.] I think she’s feeling kind of alone these days, in the trust category. That last scene… and Adam Arkin directed it, he did such a beautiful job with it, and it was so hard to have these two characters right there, and I knew it was about to happen. I held everything in, and then [Boyd] walks away, and I want to let it go, but he’s going to walk back in the room and he’s going to know something is going on. The intensity of that scene for me was so high. It was a tough one.