'Justified' postmortem: EP Graham Yost talks 'Peace of Mind' (and next week's season finale)

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When did you decide everyone would catch up to Ellen May at the church?
Pretty early on in the breaking of 12. It all just sort of seemed to come back to that. We wanted to involve Cassie, we wanted to involve the notion of confession, we wanted Ellen May to get to a more accepting place with her faith in the universe. It felt like Boyd vs. Preacher Billy, the dear Joe Mazzello, was sort of an original sin for this season. It also helps carry on the sin of killing Delroy in the previous year. So it all seemed to feel like it happened there. And something that we’re proud of is Ellen May talking about being washed in his blood, and she says, “In Jesus’ blood, I mean, not the man I was party to killin’.” We all thought that was a pretty funny moment.

I loved how calm Abby Miller played Ellen May’s confrontation with Ava.
Gwyneth Horder-Payton did a great job directing the episode, she always brings a reality to it. And then also Taylor and Leonard. And the actors as well. There was a lot of debate about that scene, how it would play, what Ava’s attitude was, when does Colt come in, what’s Colt’s attitude — there was a lot of back and forth, a lot of discussion. Probably more discussion on that one scene than anything else in the episode, and probably more than most things in the season.

It’s interesting that Ava hears Ellen May in the process of confessing to Cassie, though she doesn’t mention her name, and still, she can’t shoot her.
We always knew that Ava wouldn’t do that, that when it came right down to it, that’s not who Ava is. That’s a simple line, she’ll go so far but no farther than that. That’s another case where you back a character into a corner and you find out who they really are.

Ava had a gun, so she could have put it on Gutterson when he arrived and helped Colt hold him until Boyd showed up. 
She would’ve been killed by a Marshal. I think she understands when the law comes in, everything changes. You’ll notice that she just sort of drifts away. If she were caught there by Gutterson with a gun, then she’s getting arrested. That little bit of math is something we have to do a lot. Make sure that Boyd doesn’t have a gun in this scene, otherwise he’s going away. Make sure that Ava doesn’t or that she doesn’t get caught. That’s a little of the fancy footwork we have to do.

Colt’s smoking break before his final showdown with Gutterson was a nice callback to when he killed Gutterson’s friend Mark.
A couple of weeks before we were headed into that episode, that whole exchange was pitched out by Ron Eldard. He had this idea for that scene. He knew that the scene with Mark was pretty strong, and he just liked the idea of this last cigarette and that he realized this was as far as he was gonna go. That’s a classic Western kind of thing, he knows it’s his last enjoyment of a moment of life.

I was expecting Colt to raise his gun at Ellen May, trying to at least get that job done, but it looked like he was trying to fire at Gutterson.
Yeah, there were versions where he pulled on her. This felt like the most resonant, the best version of a final confrontation with Gutterson. In episode 9, we had the confrontation between them at the church, and so we felt like it should end up back there.

And Gutterson took Colt’s sunglasses.
It was something that they came up with, and we left in. I was unsure about it, but if they’ve got a passion for it, let’s do it. Those sunglasses were something that Colt always wore outside. We needed him not to wear them in the church, because we needed to see his eyes in the final scene, but they were kind of identified with him. It’s something that both these veterans would understand and that goes back to WWII and long before that, which is the taking of a souvenir, a memento.

Cassie told Gutterson she’d hoped his bullet would find Boyd. Have we seen the last of her?
We have not seen the last of Cassie. We will see Cassie one more time.

Now we get back to Boyd and Ava — I loved the way he told her that he respected the way she handled the Ellen May situation on every level.
We shot that earlier in the episode [Laughs] so we hadn’t exactly landed on what Ava was going to do in the church confrontation scene, but we knew that she wasn’t going to kill Ellen May. It’s the bookend to when Boyd finds out that Ava killed Delroy, which is things are now not looking good in terms of the Delroy story, the aftermath, and he still supports her today, because he understands who she is and that’s one of the reasons he loves her: He doesn’t want to marry Lady Macbeth.

And then another sweet moment was when Raylan told Ellen May that Shelby was still looking out for her as he prepared to drive her to Lexington.
That was scripted. It was just that great bit of Jimmy calling him a dick, and he is so often to these people a real dick, and he is kind of a dick to her in the first two-thirds or three-quarters of that scene, and then he softens it up at the end with that.

The way Ellen May hugged Shelby, it made me worry about them for the finale.
I wouldn’t worry so much. The finale’s not about them. I hate doing this, but I’m gonna give you this one thing: That is the end of the Shelby-Ellen May story. It’s not the end of the ramifications of the Shelby story and the ramifications of the Ellen May story, but it is the end of their arc together.

I can’t believe they get a happy ending!
I mean, he’s going off into WitSec and she’s going to be protected for a while, that’s set up early on in the finale. They’re not going off to Mexico, so it’s not a complete happy ending.

Read more:
‘Justified’ postmortem: EP Graham Yost on the fun of ‘Decoy,’ more Tarantino homages, and the character he’s sorry won’t return
‘Justified’ EP Graham Yost talks ‘Get Drew’ (and Tarantino and ‘Brady Bunch’ homages) in our weekly postmortem
‘Justified’ EP Graham Yost talks Drew Thompson reveal in our weekly postmortem
‘Justified’ postmortem: EP Graham Yost talks Arlo’s death


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