'Justified' season 5 premiere postmortem: EP Graham Yost dissects 'A Murder of Crowes'

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Image Credit: Kurt Iswarienko/FX

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Let’s talk about the man propping up the other half of the show: Boyd (played by Walton Goggins). We see him visit a frustrated Ava (Joelle Carter) in jail with her lawyer, Billy “Wildman” Geist (played by Don McManus), and making the lawyer wear headphones so he doesn’t hear them talking.

Someone had said that maybe there was something in a Breaking Bad episode where a lawyer had to put on headphones, and so we shied away from it briefly, and then just figured, “Oh what the hell, let’s just do it.” And then it was just a debate over what music he was going to be listening to. I think it’s an opera. We thought anything else would kind of be distracting and wouldn’t give us specificity as a character. We just thought that was a little different.

The scene on the bridge, when Boyd learned there’s a problem with the heroin pipeline and got his ear shot — setting up that this is going to be a violent season.

The bandage on the ear eventually goes and the ear heals up fine. This is Justified, after all, where people recover quickly from gunshot wounds and get out of jail quickly. But we wanted to show that this is a tough, tough time for Boyd Crowder, both with work and with Ava.

Boyd has a new man in his crew, Carl (played by Justin Welborn).

We just felt we needed Boyd to have another henchman. We went back and forth — were Carl and Jimmy related? We’d think about that. And then eh, we don’t really need to put that in. Part of it was also that Jesse Luken, who plays Jimmy, also has a role on [the upcoming CW show] Star-Crossed, so we knew that we would have trouble getting him for every episode, and we always need Boyd to have another backwoods sh-tkicker who’s good and is one of those guys who fits well into our world.

It’s good to know Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) remains a women’s tennis fan.

I think that was Jere’s idea back in, I can’t even remember what season, but that’s just his thing: Wynn watches women’s tennis, and so we just like to refer to that whenever possible. I looked up, okay, when’s the episode showing? When’s the Australian Open? Okay. Who’s a really good women’s tennis player who isn’t Sharapova? So that’s why I went with Azarenka.

Boyd and Wynn went to Detroit. I loved that they had to send their IDs up in a bucket before they could climb the stairs and see Sammy Tonin (Max Perlich).

I just liked the idea of a building that was shut down. It was modeled after a particular block of public housing units that I did a quick research on, and they’ve since been torn down. But it’s sort of like Cabrini-Green in Chicago. At a certain point, they realize this is maybe not the best way to have low-income housing. So just that idea of Sammy Tonin holing up in a place like that I thought was cool. And if nothing was working, then yeah, a bucket on a rope.

Is there any story behind the dolls Boyd and Wynn noticed?

That’s just me. I just thought, what would be weird to see in the background, where you just see something and go, “What is that? What does that mean?”

What does it mean, Graham?

It doesn’t really mean anything. If I really had balls, I wouldn’t have referred to it at all. It just would have been in the background. That’s what David Lynch would do. He would just leave it be a question. But the thing I enjoyed was, “Yeah, that was last week.” That struck me as something fun.

The blood splatter on Boyd and Wynn when Picker (John Kapelos) shot Sammy as part of his deal with the Canadians, who want to sever ties with Sammy — wow.

Boyd barely gets a chance to wipe it off and then there’s more on him. It’s a fairly bloody episode.

With Sammy dead, will we see the return of Theo Tonin (Adam Arkin) this season?

That falls under the category of I’m not telling you.

I liked seeing Boyd and Wynn kick ass together.

I don’t know if we’ll really see more of that. I think the thing you want to keep your eye on is the deal they make with Picker at the end — that Picker is gonna help them make a connection to Mexico. I call the theme of the season, “Let the Right One In.” Not that they’re vampires, but just that notion that you ally with someone because they can help you and then it ends up being a real problem.

Let’s talk about the Canadians — Scott Fenton (played by Dave Foley) and Al Sura (played by Will Sasso). I died.

They’re named after friends of mine from high school. Neither of whom did turn out to be international drug kingpins. In doing research, we found that the two routes for heroin into the United States are through Canada and through Mexico, basically. So we just thought, okay, Detroit, right across the river from Windsor, let’s have Canadians be the big bad guys and just have some fun with that. You will see Will Sasso’s character again a couple of times. Dave Foley, that’s the only time we’ll see his character. I was insistent that we cast real Canadians. Dave couldn’t do it at first. We actually had Tom Green, who was gonna do it. And then he had a conflict, and then Dave’s conflict opened up, so he came on board. Dave and I had worked sort of tangentially — I don’t think we ever saw each other on the set — but he was on From the Earth to the Moon. And, you know, we’re Canadians, and all Canadians know each other so…

Boyd learned that Ava’s case has been assigned the honest judge. He went to Lee Paxton (Sam Anderson) to try to bribe him for help with the judge. Then Paxton made him beg and said that he’d get Ava off if Boyd says he killed Delroy and forced Ava to move the body. We’ve talked before about how hard it was for Walton to sit there in that scene during last season’s swinger party episode while the Clover Hillers got the upper hand on Boyd. What feedback did you get this time?

It was tough for Walton, but the difference is this time he gets to beat the sh-t out of the guy [Laughs] so he could get past it. And yet, it’s a little bit like Dilly shooting the Coast Guard guy. A little bit like Darryl having Danny kill Dilly. Boyd beating the sh-t out of Paxton was not the smartest move: If Paxton dies, he’s got a statement saying that Ava moved the body, so Ava’s kinda screwed. But he couldn’t help it.

Mara (Karolina Wydra), Paxton’s Latvian doctor trophy wife, witnessed Boyd doing it, and she offered to say it was a burglar if he pays her off. 

That is such an Elmore character: The beautiful woman who is smart, and is in a jam, and what she’ll do to survive. We just felt that it fit, and it gave us someplace to go.

He could have just killed her, too.

He could have. That’s the decision he makes, and you’ll see a little in episode 2 what happens because of that, and more follows.


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