Before the new season of “Justified” debuted last night (here’s my premiere review), I wrote that showrunner Graham Yost tries to reinvent the show each season, this time turning the show into something of a murder mystery. When Yost came with his cast to press tour today, he confirmed that this was a big goal for season 4.
“We really thought that would be a fun thing to try this year as opposed to just another big bad,” Yost said.
(Note: some incredibly vague spoilers for season 4 follow; don’t read if you don’t want to know even the structure of the year.)
The idea for the mystery came from a famous real-life story known as “The Bluegrass Conspiracy,” though Yost only borrowed the initial image – a dead parachutist lying in a suburban street with bags of cocaine – and the first name of one person, and threading this story through the whole season provided its own challenges.
“It’s difficult,” he acknowledged. “It’s something you get into and say, ‘Oh, this’ll be fine.’ And then you realize, ‘Oh, wait.’ It’s taken a lot of thinking. It has been a problem to figure out the puzzle, but we think we’ve done a pretty good job. We knew we needed to piece it out.”
He also said that the mystery itself would be solved with several episodes remaining in the season, “and then there are problems that come from the solving of it.”
Along similar lines, Yost and his writers kept Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder apart for the first several episodes of the season, because “We need to explore other things in their relationship. We didn’t want to just do the same scenes of Boyd going to see Raylan and Raylan going to see Boyd.”
Another goal for something different in season 4: writing better material for Erica Tazel and Jacob Pitts, who play Marshals Rachel and Tim.
“They’ve been underserved; there’s no question,” Yost acknowledged. “They’re both fantastic performers and the characters are really fun.”
He said there’s been more of a conscious effort to include one or the other of them in work scenes – on next week’s episode, Tim joins Raylan and Art on a case that in the script’s first draft only featured the older Marshals – but also to find more time to give them more of their own stories, even though Raylan and Boyd are the unquestioned main characters and the show needs to spend a lot of time on the villains.
“It’s time to do it,” Yost said. “We know the audience wants it, and we want to do it.”
Other odds and ends from the “Justified” panel:
* When asked about the current state of the Raylan/Boyd relationship, Goggins teased that Boyd says something this year that he’s never previously said: “Raylan, I don’t like you.”
* Natalie Zea turns up in the fifth episode as Winona, and will appear at least a few more times in the season. Zea’s now a regular on FOX’s “The Following,” but return appearances on “Justified” were part of the deal for letting her out of her contract once it became clear the character had no ongoing place on the show.
* Yost heard last year that Patton Oswalt was a fan of the show, and tried to cast him to play a character in season 3, but the scheduling didn’t work. (He wasn’t positive, but thinks it was as one of the guys in the Pruitt Taylor Vince pawn shop story.) Then in the off-season, two “Justified” writers were doing research in Harlan and heard about the position of Constable, and, Yost said, “We just loved the idea of a guy who was kind of a cop wannabe.”
* The premiere was the series’ second-most-watched telecast ever (after the pilot episode) and it’s 4th highest-rated among adults 18-49.