'Justified' postmortem: EP Graham Yost dissects 'Wrong Roads,' teases what's next

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Image Credit: Prashant Gupta/FX

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t seen this week’s episode of Justified — “Wrong Roads” written by Dave Andron and Leonard Chang, directed by Michael Dinner, and guest-starring Eric Roberts as a DEA agent/Ghost of Raylan Future — stop reading now. As he’ll do throughout the season, showrunner Graham Yost takes us inside the writers room.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with the big scene toward the end when Roscoe (Steve Harris) and Jay (Wood Harris) ambush Boyd, Wynn, Picker, and Darryl. Boyd suggests a shootout out of frustration, and then Raylan and Miller walk in: “Miller, would you call this a herd, a gaggle, or a flock of a–holes?” “I would call this a United Nations of a–holes.” It was so good, I kept wanting to press pause so it wouldn’t come to an end.
GRAHAM YOST: That’s Andron and Leonard Chang together, and then Dinner, and then a great cast…. It’s funny, the whole genesis of the episode was that initially one of the Harris brothers was gonna die in the desert in Mexico as part of Hot Rod’s crew. I forget if it was Roscoe or Jay. So we were gonna separate them, and then the remaining brother was gonna be on a revenge mission and looking for Boyd. The Harris brothers didn’t want to do that. They wanted to either play together or not play. So we had to reevaluate quickly, and Andron and Tim [Olyphant], actually, came up with this notion of the two brothers going on this adventure together. And it ended up being a much better episode. We adapted, and it turned into something really fun: It was just the basic setup of one brother’s very verbal and the other one says nothing, and then we go for the big twist [with Roscoe’s King Lear analogy] — Steve would suddenly start to speak, and speak well, and be very loquacious.

Miller ends up shooting Roscoe and Jay puts down his gun. Is Roscoe dead?
On Justified, unless you see a doctor pronounce death, a character’s not dead. No. After the episode was so much fun and they were so great, we decided to keep them both alive. Or at least have that possibility, and we’ll see how next year unfolds.

So this is the last we see of them this season?
Yes.

Now let’s back up: Before Raylan headed to Memphis to partner with Miller and search for Hot Rod, Raylan was at a bar when a prostitute chatted him up. I love that she offered to do him for half price.
(Laughs) You know, he’s Raylan. He’s really good-looking. So yeah, she’d give him a discount. That was Tim’s idea, just the notion of setting up for the audience that we think Raylan is still headed to Florida, and then the switcheroo happens at the top of Act 1. He’d be making a phone call saying, “Yeah, I’d like to book a flight,” and everything he’s been talking about through episode 8 and at the beginning of this bar scene seems to indicate that he’s headed to Florida, but of course Raylan being Raylan, he’s actually booking a flight to Memphis. In the bar scene, there’s a brief shot of a bartender — that’s Leonard Chang. He was very nervous about doing it. Anyone’s nervous. Any writer, it’s like, “Really? I’m gonna be on-camera? Uh… okay.”

Tell me about casting Eric Roberts.
Michael Dinner knows Eric, and Eric was a fan of the show. So we’d been looking from early in the season for what would be a good thing to try to get him to do, and just the idea of him being the Ghost of Raylan Future to a degree was something that appealed to us. The fact that he was willing to do it really appealed to us.

After Raylan and Miller left another DEA agent to watch Roscoe and Jay, those two learned about Hot Rod’s crew being killed in Mexico, escaped, and told their guy watching Hot Rod to get Boyd’s location out of him. Hot Rod said he was going to draw a map to Boyd’s bar and instead stabbed the guy with a pencil. Raylan and Miller found Hot Rod right as he was dying from a bullet wound.
It was one of those hard calls: Do we want to exit a character like Hot Rod? We’ve gotten a lot out of him. But what I said to [Mickey Jones] is, “We’ll give you a good exit.” And that’s a promise we try to live up to on Justified. We wanted to have him do something badass before he died. (Laughs) We thought stabbing a guy in the throat with a pencil is pretty badass.

Watching Miller with Hot Rod in his final moments, sharing his flask, you could almost see Raylan and Boyd. You decided Hot Rod had been a CI for 15 years just as you were breaking this episode?
We just thought it’d be interesting if he had a similar kind of relationship, as you nailed. But I think a little warmer thing has developed between Raylan and Boyd over the course of the series. There’s a lot of history there and some sadness about the way it’s ended up.

You teased in last week’s postmortem that Dave Andron had come up with the idea for when Boyd and Darryl would address Darryl having premeditated what went down in Mexico.
We thought, “Okay, Boyd knows what’s going on. Obviously Darryl knows what’s going on. How long do we want to play that out? Do we want that to be this big thing?” And we were kinda leaning in that direction at the end of the previous episode. Then we thought, “Nah, let’s surprise the audience and have it come out now,” and that was Andron’s idea.

Darryl threatened to have Danny and Dewey, whose GPS woes put them well behind Carl’s truck, abscond with their truckload of heroin if Boyd didn’t make him “part of the goddamn family.”
We wanted Darryl to try to leverage his way into the management, as it were, of the whole enterprise, and to try to get a percentage of the haul instead of just being a hired hand.

Wendy told Kendal that they would leave as soon as she got her cut of whatever Darryl was working on, and he’d never have to see his uncles again if he doesn’t want to. She meant it?
That’s her intent. Things will not work out exactly as she intends, as you will see over the upcoming episodes.

Darryl found the money that Raylan had given Kendal, and Kendal lied and said he’d been stealing from Audrey’s customers. Darryl took the money. End of story?
Sometimes it’s, “Well, we could make a bigger thing of it, but we’ve got so much else to do in these next episodes, let’s just have it come out now.” The poor kid thought he was getting out of there. They’re not getting out of there, and now the money’s been taken. So it’s just a bad situation for Kendal.

Darryl told Wendy that he plans on killing three people to take over the heroin distribution in Kentucky — meaning Boyd, Picker, and Wynn.
That will remain his intent. As you see what happened at the end of this episode, now there’s a big left turn.

Yes. On his way out of town, Miller saw Danny and Dewey’s truck and turned around to pull them over. Danny wanted to try out his 21-foot rule.
It felt fun and like something Miller would play into. It is, I won’t lie, setting something up to come. But I’m not gonna tell you when that’s gonna happen. [Ed. note: The promo for next week’s episode seemed to.]

Before Miller and Danny could see who’d win — the shooter or the knifer — Dewey slid behind the wheel of the truck and floored it. Miller took a direct hit. Is he dead?
Did you see a doctor pronounce him dead? It’s Justified. Unless you get a bullet in the head, or directly in the center of the chest… and even then, with Boyd Crowder at the end of the pilot, he survived that. He just got hit by a truck, for God’s sakes. Walk it off. We thought about seeing him again at the top of the next episode, and the episode was getting long, so you won’t. Raylan addresses his condition — injured, hospitalized, but fine.

Danny managed to get out of the way. Was Dewey trying to hit him as well?
Oh, he was intending to hit Danny. But he was really just intending to get the hell out of there. I think Damon [Herriman] was initially resistant to doing the scream at the end, that sort of exultant man-on-fire, kind of here-we-go! scream. But he did it, and it ends up being, I think, a really big moment in the series. I remember when I came to the room and they pitched me [Dewey driving off in the truck]. I went, “Ohmygod, that’s fantastic.” I was just in love with it instantly. We didn’t know exactly where it was gonna go, but we knew it gave us someplace to go in the next episode. Dewey has had his goal from the beginning of the season. The dream kinda changes, but it’s Dewey Crowe is owed and Dewey Crowe’s gonna get his, dammit. That’s a big part of what the next episode is about: Now Dewey’s got kilos of heroin. What’s he gonna do with that?

Moving on to Ava: Boyd was finally able to visit her and she was understandably cold. Does he comprehend how upset she is right now?
He understands. Our feeling is that he’s been busy doing things that are, in many ways, in the service of trying to make money so he can figure a way to get her out of jail. But he hasn’t seen her in a while, and a lot has transpired in Ava’s life in episodes 6, 7, and 8. She is in a tough situation, so she’s not really in the mood for chit-chat. We wanted that sense of tension and estrangement.

The prison nurse, Rowena, found Boyd and told him she wanted him to kill the person responsible for murdering her former partner. It turned out to be an old man whose wife had died of an overdose while doing time for check fraud. Boyd told the man he’d send him away, set him up for life. Did he mean it in that moment, or was it always just a play to get him out of the nursing home where it’d be easier to off him?
You know, I will say that story line evolved. It changed a lot. We did have a version where Boyd did let him go free and that wasn’t enough to satisfy Rowena, and so she was very upset. Then Walton [Goggins] was saying, “You know what, I think Boyd would go through with it.” He’s killed so many people, especially this season. But it takes a toll. As Boyd says, killing an old man in a nursing home is not on his bucket list. It’s not something that’s easy for him to do. And, in fact, he gets Jimmy to do it, and that’s not what Jimmy’s signed up for — killing an old man in a truck along the side of the road. So there is a cost. But he does accomplish what Rowena had asked.

And that plays into what you’ve been saying all season: Ava thinks she’s solved one problem and a new, worse one replaces it. Now Rowena is telling her she needs to kill Judith. That’s something Ava begins to deal with next week?
Yeah.

Anything we haven’t touched on? The brilliance of Wynn Duffy ordering new coffee because his smells like his “a– on Sunday”?
(Laughs) It’s Dave and Leonard, and then Jere Burns, who’s just great. You have seen a certain contentiousness starting to develop between Duffy and Picker. That’s something that will amp up, especially in the next episode.

In the next episode, you’ll see Mary Steenburgen make her entrance. [Ed note: She’ll recur as the widow of a crime boss Wynn Duffy had worked for — not Theo Tonin. Though she’s been out of the business for a while, Yost says, “She’s as sweet as a mint julep and as lethal as a copperhead.”] There is also someone we haven’t seen for a while who pops up, and that’s all I’m gonna say. [Ed note: Again, FX’s promo seemed to spoil that. In their defense, it’s worth hyping!]


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