'Justified' finale: Walton Goggins talks about the end of Boyd's story
FX’s Western Justified ended its six-season run on Tuesday. With all the violence and conflict between Ava (Joelle Carter), Boyd (Walton Goggins), and Raylan (Timothy Olyphant), the show ended in a calmer place: It’s more about the story of a friendship. Goggins joined us to talk about his thoughts on the finale. Obviously spoilers ahead…
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: There’s so much to talk about, Walton! Let’s start with Boyd at the cabin after Zachariah has tried to kill them both. He digs up Groobs thinking he’s digging up the money, and when he finds the dead man, he just laughs hysterically. That was a great moment; just Boyd at the end of his rope, right?
Walton Goggins: Yeah, that’s pretty much it. It’s over. I don’t believe that he was going up that mountain to get that money, just solely, that it was greed. I believe that it’s the absurdity of it all, the futility of it all, that strikes him in that moment. If he wanted to get away, why would he go to the top of the mountain, where he knows the police are going to be? Raylan knows where he’s going. The cops are on their way. He’s not going to get away with $10 million, that’s crazy. But I think what he wants, in lieu of having this meeting with Ava—and we’ll get into that later—is…if that’s not going to happen, then he wants the opportunity to lay his eyes on the possibility of what life could have been. In some ways, that would have been closure for him, with the exception of having this one last meeting with Ava.
That’s what comes through for me, especially in the later scene where he shows up at Loretta’s barn and has that confrontation with Markham and his crooked cops. It’s not that Boyd is still trying to find a way out of this mess, it’s that he’s trying to figure out what the hell went wrong.
That’s it! I’m so relieved to hear you say that. For him, it was never about killing Ava, man. He never, never would have done that. He never would have hurt her. But he needed permission before ending his life, or having his old friend end…he needed to ask that question, which is, “why?” That’s the only thing he needed to say to Ava, and her answer is devastating. In some ways, it’s the worst punishment he could possibly be given, to have the love of your life say that I did what I thought you would do, and the realization in that moment of the pain that he’s caused. When he sees her, and she says what she says, that’s the only person in the world that he could hear it from, and it really, in the last two seconds of the game, changed his life yet again, but in a real, grounded way.
I don’t know if it’s the first time, but it’s the most significant time that Boyd has had to reckon with everything that he’s done and the consequences and effect it’s had on the people he’s loved and are closest to him. And I think Raylan falls into that camp, too.
He’d have to, absolutely. He’s just as guilty as Boyd, even though he goes about it a different way, through the guise of being a representative of law enforcement, but he’s just as vengeful, just as angry, just as lost in his own obsession as Boyd is; and it’s in that moment, when Boyd says that “I’m not going to shoot you, I’m not going to pull on you. Here I am, please end it. Are you the angriest man in the world or aren’t you?” When he says “I’m going to hurt Ava, I’m going to kill her and then I’m going to kill you,” he’s not going to f—ing do that. It’s just as opaque as he can be without being translucent, to say, here it is, end it.
I definitely think that in that moment, you realize that Boyd is baiting Raylan, and really only in a halfhearted way. More than anything, he’s exhausted.
He has nothing left, and the last thing that he needed to do was to see her one more time and convey to her that he loved her, and the pain that he felt. There’s one part that they cut out, and I was very disappointed that they cut it out, that would have made it a little clearer, and in hindsight I think it’s the best thing, but…when Boyd pulls that trigger on Ava two times, he knows that there are no bullets in that gun. There’s a shot that Adam Arkin did, and a suggestion that he made, that was so appropriate in that moment where, after I fired that gun at Ava two times, Adam had me take the gun and point it at my own head and pull the trigger. And it was so powerful, for me as an actor, just the symbolic nature of that act and what it represented. It was like, in my worst, darkest nightmare, this is what I want to do to you because this is what I want to do to myself. He would never do it. But I’m happy to hear you say that the tonality, and the quality of that exchange, came through without that shot.
I really think it does. I don’t think he ever means any harm to Ava, or to Raylan even. That’s what I like about the episode in general, that the whole buildup has been teasing a violent confrontation between these three people, and the finale subverts it and says no, we’re not going to give you that violent conclusion. You must have explored the idea of killing off certain characters though, right?
We’ve been going through those options for three years. I had a version of it that I pitched halfway through the series that I saw very clearly, that we obviously did not go with, but that is a variation on that theme. My pitch, way back when before things evolved in the direction that they evolved in…in my heart of hearts, I wanted Boyd Crowder to pull and to shoot, only to realize there were no bullets in his gun and he was committing suicide, and Raylan kills him as a gesture of friendship. Because this is a story about friendship. Looking back on it, thinking about it now, I was wrong, and the ending, as I understood it in this incarnation–and I must say, at the beginning of this season, Graham [Yost] sat down the three or four of us and said, “What if nobody dies? I really don’t want anybody to die.” I had to think about that because I really wanted Boyd to die. Selfishly, I wanted him to die, because when Shawn Ryan gave me that gift on The Shield of Shane ending his life, it was the finality, there was a period to the experience and I didn’t have to go through my life thinking about Shane Vendrell. It was over. Now, Boyd’s life continues, and I will, for the rest of my life, think about him in that way and wonder what he’s doing. So selfishly I wanted it to go a different way, but I was very, very happy that Graham made this decision. I’ll say this about the ending, and this is just me: My journey, Boyd Crowder’s journey, was one towards love. It was the only flower that ever grew in his violent garden. For him, asking that question and getting that closure, that was his story. The showdown that people were looking for between these two people never could have happened, because once I get the answer to that question, my journey is complete. I’m done. The scene ends up being not a scene between Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder, but between Raylan Givens and himself. It’s kind of, I’ve come into this space and got the truth about who I am, and then the focus turns to Raylan Givens. I know who I am now, Raylan; who are you? Are you the angriest man in the world, as Natalie Zea posed that question to you in episode one of this show six years ago? He answers that question by not pulling the trigger.
I feel that by not having them pull on each other, and concluding with this final conversation at the prison years later, it drives home the point that these two are intertwined with each other, that they have these similarities and patterns of behavior that constantly bring them in contact with one another. If you kill one or both of the characters, I don’t think you get the same sense that these are two guys trying to escape or somewhat change who they are.
Yeah, it’s very true. I think if you kill one of us, you kill both of us. I feel that way, too. We talked about that scene at the end, and Graham wrote that. He did maybe two passes on it, and he just, word for word, it was unbelievable.
It’s a devastating conversation.
Yeah, it is. I, Walton Goggins, am so protective of Boyd Crowder, and I did not want to shove in the face of the audience, of our audience that loved Boyd in spite of his wrongdoings…I did not want them to say, you know, “f— him.” I didn’t want that and they didn’t want that, so it was very important to me that when we go back to the prison, the scene that I really pushed for was the preaching scene. I wanted to remind the audience of why they fell in love with this enigma, this populist politician, and he killed it, when Graham wrote it. It was about reminding people that Boyd Crowder can take over a room and it was not a bad thing. It was a good thing that you loved him. When Boyd says that speech to those people, and if you really listen to it, for the first time in his life and with all his grandiosity, he’s speaking the way that he speaks, but from truth.
There’s a great balance in that final scene with Raylan in that we get the silver-tongued, somewhat sarcastic version of Boyd, but we also see how vulnerable he is. There’s just enough chink in the armor, when he’s tearing up after hearing about Ava dying, to understand who Boyd is as a human being without excusing his more sinister behavior.
Yeah, it’s very true. And I think that he has changed. You watch the way that he talks to Raylan, and there’s that flair, but the anger is gone.
There’s a lot of warmth there.
Yeah! And what Raylan gives him is what he’s always wanted, which is an acknowledgment that Boyd did love her, and that their relationship, his relationship with Raylan, was more than just adversarial, that they dug coal together, and that is a metaphor for the fact that they have lived this violent life together.
I can’t say enough good things about the fact that the series ended by coming back to not only Boyd and Raylan, but also that they dug coal together. It feels really low-key in that the scene is just two guys talking, but it also feels like the most important thing in the world for these two characters.
You’re making me tear up right now, man.
Seriously. That last scene kills me. It’s beautiful.
Thank you for saying that, man. I will say this, and this is my opinion. When Raylan lies to Boyd [about Ava]…first and foremost, the notion that this beautiful spirit of his soulmate is still out there, I won’t say that it’s all that he has held on to in the world and in jail, because I don’t believe that’s the case, but I do believe it informs a part of his imagination. I think jail, for Boyd Crowder, is a godsend. The absence of having to have all the answers, of being this person that is under the shadow of his father and his father’s father, to jettison this lineage and story that he is supposed to perpetuate, is the biggest load off. Boyd has probably slept better than he has ever slept in his life in the confines of this prison. For me, the reason why Raylan lies to Boyd isn’t because he’s fearful of what Boyd might do someday, but rather he is taking it upon himself to end the circle of violence with Boyd’s son. Even the possibility that this boy might enter the same circle, and run the same lap that I ran and that my father ran, that was something too precious for Raylan, and he did it for my son and for all the other son’s that have been caught up in a circle of violence.
That’s pretty much what I was going to get to next. I think it’s integral to the power of that final scene that this is maybe the first time that Raylan understands and empathizes with Boyd. Raylan has always operated in this morally gray area, but he doesn’t give the people he hunts down the same range of morality. To Raylan, you’re either a criminal or you’re not, there’s no gray area. I think that last scene is him giving relief to Boyd’s son, but also giving relief to Boyd, showing him that he understand there are circumstances out of Boyd’s control that have led him to make the decisions that he’s made.
Yeah. Yeah. Oh wow.
I don’t even really know what else to say about it. I feel like we’re both too overwhelmed to even say much more.
Yeah, that’s it. And the curtain goes down.