'Justified' season finale postmortem: EP Graham Yost talks 'Ghosts' (and looks ahead to season 5)

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Image Credit: Prashant Gupta/FX

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched Justified‘s season 4 finale “Ghosts,” written by Fred Golan and Benjamin Cavell and directed by Bill Johnson, stop reading now. As he’s done throughout the season, showrunner Graham Yost takes us inside the writers’ room.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In last week’s postmortem, you said the threat to pregnant Winona (The Following‘s Natalie Zea) would yield one of the best scenes the series has ever done. You did not lie.
GRAHAM YOST: The idea of a big shootout in the nursery just appealed to our dark, twisted Justified sense of a really horrific place for something like this to happen. The first time they did it, Winona shot the bad guy in the leg, and then Raylan [Timothy Olyphant] took over. Then they decided to try it once or twice with her actually firing as well. That was just an option we had in editing, and we went for it. We thought it was cool to see her firing the gun at this bastard.

Raylan reeling the first guy in and shooting him through the stomach — I yelled “Whoa!” so loudly, the person in the next office IM’d me to see what had happened.
That was Cavell, who just liked the idea of Raylan goading this guy. Raylan just wanted to see where all the guns were. He sees this guy’s got his gun in the front of his waistband. Okay, how can I get to that? Raylan did that once before, at the end of season 1, where he shows up at Bo’s cabin up in Bulletville, and there’s a guy who’s with Bo, and Raylan grabs his gun and just shoots him in the gut at close range.

And then Raylan shoots the second guy in the head, and the blood splatter on the nursery wall is tremendous.
Yeah, we just thought: “blood on the nursery wall, that is our show.”

There were some tough moments to watch, like Winona being told that perhaps they’d tear the baby out and kill it separate.
I look at those things in editing, and I go, “Do we need that line?” And you know what, he’s gonna die, so let’s make him as bad as possible. That’s dancing right up to the edge of our world. That’s about as arch as a bad guy can get in our show. But actually, my favorite stuff in the scene is the stuff between Raylan and Winona, where she’s giving the bad guy a little bit of guff, and Raylan says, “That’s why I love her.” It was like, wow, that’s cool. That was scripted, but it was kind of a late add, and probably a combination of Fred, Ben, and Tim.

Then you echo that later in the episode when Raylan tells Winona that she and the baby are safe, and she says, “I know. That’s why I love you.”
We’d struggled over whether or not there would be a final Raylan-Winona scene. Finally, we all got onboard with it, and it’s one of my favorite scenes in the episode.

The kiss was great. You feel like these are two people who genuinely love each other and genuinely understand why they can’t be together.
The kiss was fantastic. It’s scripted that they kiss and then say goodbye, but that kiss lingered. There’s just something about the depth of their love in this episode that I was really surprised by…. I would say that perhaps we didn’t have any plans for much of them together next season, but then when I saw that kiss, well, I don’t know. It’s up to Natalie’s availability. They’re just so good together.

Will the baby be born next season?
It is our expectation that we would see little Raylette or Raylene born in season 5.

Last thing about this scene: You’d teased that we’d get a shout-out in this episode to the book-turned-film that inspired Elmore Leonard’s style of writing. That was George V. Higgins’ The Friends of Eddie Coyle, which the main bad guy references as he’s telling Raylan they want him to take them to the safe house where Drew Thompson is being kept.
If you look up Elmore’s acceptance speech when he got his Lifetime Achievement award at the National Book Awards last fall, [at 6:00 in the video below] he references Eddie Coyle and going to a bookstore and just reading the first sentence. It’s interesting because in the first pages, the character name of the guy who’s trying to sell or buy guns is Jackie Brown. And Tarantino, being a fan of all of that, when he [adapted Leonard’s novel] Rum Punch, he changed the character name to Jackie Brown.

NEXT: Boyd, Ava, and Weekend at Bernie’s 3!

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