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'Justified': What's going on in Raylan's head?

Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) is being put through the wringer as Season 5 of "Justfied" comes to an end.
Prashant Gupta/FX

After last Tuesday's episode of "Justified," it seemed Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) had become "hardcore" in some of his tactics, as detailed in my episode recap for "Starvation." But during a media conference call Thursday, I had a chance to ask showrunner Graham Yost directly about what is going on in Raylan's head, and he clarified the driving force in the renegade lawman's recent actions. And a bit more about all the characters approaching their breaking points.

Diana Price: Something that I think many people seem to be kind of glossing over in the "Starvation" episode is the full gravity of the change we saw in Raylan’s character. I mean, we know he’s willing to get his hands dirty and tends to be just a little trigger happy, but he’s so desperate to get Darryl Crowe -- I mean he’s willing to throw Ava under the bus and that poor kid Kendall. Is this super hardcore Raylan that we’re seeing a temporary thing, or has the character truly undergone a pivotal change that we’ll now see throughout the rest of the series?

Graham Yost: You know, it’s interesting that you can see it as the hardcore Raylan who, as Winona called him in the pilot, the angriest man she’s ever known and I think that is part of it. But it’s also Raylan’s struggle because he wants to get Darryl, but he can’t just kill him because then that would doom Kendall to a long stretch in prison.

But it’s also, I think, it’s something that happened in the 11th episode, when after Art was shot and Raylan is talking to Tim Gutterson and Tim is basically saying do you want to go out and just find Daryl and kill him? And Raylan says, “I don’t think that’s what Art would want.”

And so Raylan has the struggle in him of the guy who wants to get revenge and yet can’t because of the kid, but he also wants to try and do things in a way that Art would respect. We’ve always seen Art as his good father and he’s, obviously, incredibly disappointed Art this season in a way that he never has before, so that’s the struggle. Okay?

DP: Okay. So, in a sense he’s not actually going farther, or more hardcore; he’s actually coming back to being more professional and trying to come back to being a good guy in a sense?

GY: Well, in a way. And yet, you know, you see what he does in those scenes with Ava and I think it tears him apart. I don’t think he wants to be the guy who says “I’ll get the guards to look the other way,” but he’s desperate. And I think that it’s more than him being hardcore Raylan as being desperate Raylan. And he is really just trying to figure a way out of this.

DP: And just one other quick question. It seems like most of the members of the cast are being reduced to kind of every man for himself. They’re losing all their allies and all their support systems. Will we kind of see the results of that, of them reaching their breaking points and being on their own in the finale or is that something that’s going to kind of carry through the rest of the series?

GY: You’ll see a big shift in the finale. You’ll see what happens to the resolve of Ava this season, the resolve of the Crowes and also the Boyd story. And there is a big reset that happens in the finale. But, yes, the whole sort of point of this season was to strip away everyone from everyone so that Ava is alone in prison, Boyd is alone on the outside and Raylan is alone.

And yet with the “Starvation” really the point of it, or one of the points of that episode was that when Boyd confronts, publicly confronts Raylan with the accusation, the truth, that he, Raylan, was implicated or involved in the death of Nicky Augustine at the end of last season. And he says it in front of Rachel and Tim. Rachel and Tim have Raylan’s back.

And so that is sort of the beginning of them coming together and I will say that that is one thing we’re headed towards in the final season.

DP: Well, I will say I noticed that when he did that, the look on Raylan’s face reminded me of that first church scene when Boyd asked him if he saw his daddy’s face when he shot Tommy Bucks. It was like uh-oh.

GY: Yeah, it’s a little bit of okay, now what? And Rachel and Tim backing him up was Raylan’s victory in that episode.

So what do you think will happen in the season finale? Do you think any major characters will die?

The season finale of “Justified” airs April 8 on FX. Check in tomorrow for more of Yost’s chat Thursday for a lot more spoilers and commentary.