Hallelujah, Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) is back. FX's hit drama Justified, based on the Elmore Leonard books about a fast-drawin', sharp-shootin' U.S. marshal who ends up assigned to his totally screwed-up Kentucky hometown, returns tomorrow at 10 p.m.—and we could not be more excited.
Having seen first three episodes of the new season (each of which is outstanding), we needed to know more about Margo Martindale's remarkable female villain, Raylan's new-again relationship with his ex-wife Winona (Natalie Zea) and what that wascal Boyd (Walton Goggins) is going to do with his life now that he's repudiated racism, drug dealing and charismatic cult leadership. (He's a Renaissance man, that Boyd.)
Here's what Justified boss Graham Yost revealed to us exclusively about season two of the can't-miss series:
Why does Raylan choose to stay in Kentucky?
I think there's a couple of things...the biggest would be Winona. But there's also the sense of a second chance. One of the themes of the season—along with feuds—is the idea of second chances. Raylan gets a second chance with Winona. And Boyd Crowder gets a second chance in his life. What is he going to do? What's Raylan going to do with his second chance? And though Raylan would never say it—and we'd never have him say it—he has an affection for the land and the people.
Do we learn more about Raylan and Winona's past, and why they didn't work the first time?
Yes, we will. We'll [explore that] notion of "Well, it didn't work out before, why would it work out now?" There are a couple of big events that happen involving them that are either going to divide them forever or [let them] get past everything. Through that, we'll find out a little bit more about what went wrong, and ask, is there a way to push the reset button? That's the big challenge for them.
We've heard that Winona's life is in danger later in the season—what's Raylan's reaction to that?
She's in a bank, and there's a robbery, and Winona gets beaten up. Along with something else that I won't tell you about, that ignites a little fire under Raylan's ass to get those bastards.
Explain a little about the Bennetts, who are the primary antagonists this season. What's their history with Raylan?
We meet the Bennetts in the first episode, and we just get an inkling that there is some history between these families. Raylan's Aunt Helen (Linda Gehringer) keeps telling him, "Don't bother the Bennetts. Leave them alone." We get a sense that a lid was put on the feud some time ago, after an incident between Raylan and Dickie Bennett (Lost's Jeremy Davies) that sparked it all up again. They seem to have controlled it, but then the conflict will build, and it culminates in a couple of conflagrations. There's a big [face-off] at the end of our ninth episode, but it flares up a couple more times, and then that's where we'll be headed for the end of the season.
What does the martiarch of the family, Mags Bennett, bring out in Raylan?
Raylan is someone who left Kentucky and left Harlan and in a way, in his mind, he left the feud culture behind. But of course we've watched Raylan from the opening scene in the pilot episode, he can be bent on vengeance and settling scores in his own way. I think there is always an ongoing struggle in Raylan between being the lawman, which is weeding out justice, and being a deputy U.S. marshal in 2011, where you're bound by rules of law and the whole notion of what law gives us, which is protection from feud culture. The state says, "We'll take care of that so you don't all kill each other." So for Raylan, that's the struggle inside his soul.
The whole thing with the Bennetts will make him have to confront that stuff, and then there will be other things that happen in the middle of the season that involve him and Winona that also throw into question what kind of lawman he is.
Has Ava given up last season's dream of getting out of Harlan?
Ava (Joelle Carter) had a certain sort of resignation last year, not entirely grim but negative. Things didn't work out with Raylan in Lexington so Lexington was ruined for her. But I think the positive was her embracing her home. Another theme that we hit upon, and this is something that's present in all of Elmore Leonard's work, is the notion that character is destiny, and how much can you change? Raylan struggles with that; Boyd struggles with that; Winona struggles with that to a degree; and in particular, Ava struggles with that.
What does Ava's relationship with Boyd look like this season?
I think that her relationship with Boyd is very conflicted. We're going to be sensing stuff about her, which is, in going a little deeper, about who she is and the life she's led. It's not all just the surface story of this girl. There's something else going on in there and that is something that will affect her relationship with Boyd. Coupled with the fact that Boyd is, with her, incredibly gentlemanly and caring and protective.
Is Boyd tempted to go back to life of crime?
What do you think? Yeah. It's "tempted," and it's also, again, that sense of character is destiny. I think that Boyd will have a realization that his struggle to not be that guy that he was, was maybe the wrong struggle. You'll see it in our fifth episode—it's very Boyd-heavy, and we finally get to see him in a different light. When he got religion and went off on that path, it led to death and destruction. His conclusion could be that that's just not the right path for Boyd Crowder.
Will we see more of the other U.S. marshals who work with Raylan, Art Mullen, Tim Gutterson and Rachel Dupree?
Raylan is with Rachel (Erica Tazel) in the first episode and with Tim (Jacob Pitts) in the second. They are fun to play with and we found some colors with Jacob playing Tim Gutterson that were really fun in that second episode. A certain sort of snarkiness. We're working on an episode now, as we get toward the end of the season, where we're going to have a lot of good Raylan and Tim snark. You'll get into six and seven, and we give ourselves a lot of sweet Art Mullen because we love our Nick Searcy. And that relationship is also critical to the whole season because Raylan finally—he puts the straw on the camel's back that breaks it—and then where do we go from there?
So Justified fans, are you ready for guns, moonshine and a decades-long family rivalry that threatens to rock Harlan County? Head to the comments to tell us if you think Winona and Raylan can make it work this time—and if Ava and Boyd are just dysfunctional enough to find true love with each other.