Whether intentional or not, the first episode of Justified's fifth season feels truer than ever to the spirit of Elmore Leonard, the literary giant who died in August and whose short story "Fire in the Hole" inspired the FX drama.
"It's been sad," executive producer Graham Yost says of working on the show after Leonard's passing. "Our first response was sadness at the loss, immediately followed by gratitude that we got to know this guy and spend time with him. [He was] a writer who I long admired and read almost all his stuff. I got a chance to try to bring his world to life on TV, but better than that, just spend time with him on occasion. He was just a neat guy. There's the old song, 'Never Meet Your Heroes.' That doesn't apply in the case of Elmore."
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The premiere (Tuesday at 10/9c, FX) will feature a special 90-second tribute to the late author, but the show itself, full of Leonard's trademark crackling dialogue, will continue to honor him until it ends. "The whole series is going to be a tribute to Elmore," Yost says. "But one thing we're doing this year is focusing on the Crowe family, and the Crowes are a family that appears throughout a lot of Elmore's books. So, we've gone at that pretty hard this season."
So what kind of headaches will the Crowes give Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) this season? Read on for a look at what to expect in Season 5.
1. A family affair: Even though Justified's arguably best season also featured a large crime family, Yost insists that the Crowes are nothing like the Bennetts of Season 2. The Crowes, the cousins of Justified mainstay Dewey Crowe (Damon Herriman), are Florida gator hunters who cross paths with Raylan when he ventures to the swamp in search of one of the Crowes criminal associates. Soon enough, Daryl Crowe (guest star Michael Rapaport, displaying a questionable Southern accent) has his clan moving back to the hills of Kentucky.
"The Bennetts were part of a DNA of Harlan, and the Crowes come in like an invasive species," Yost says of the family which also includes Alicia Witt and A.J. Buckley. "They come in, they take over, they kill the host, and they look around, going, 'What happened?' They're always looking for a place to settle, and then invariably in their family history, it turns sour eventually. They destroy whatever they've taken over. They hear the tantalizing jingle of money, and that's what they pursue."
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2. Father knows best? But family matters abound on the new season. Raylan's complicated relationship with his ex-wife Winona (Natalie Zea) will get even more complicated this season as Raylan balances a flirtation with a social worker (guest star Amy Smart) with the birth of his and Winona's baby girl. "That's the big question of the season: What is Raylan going to do as it regards his newborn daughter?" Yost says. "Is he going to be a distant father who pops up occasionally, or is he going to make that commitment to be part of her life? He has a fear of being anything like Arlo. He had an awful father, but I think it comes to the point where Raylan will start to see that being an absent father is being a bad father in a different way. That's what he has to grapple with this season."
3. Consequences could be coming. Although Raylan managed to protect his family from Nicky Augustine (Mike O'Malley) by having rival Detroit thug Sammy Tonin take him out in the Season 4 finale, that secret arrangement could come back to haunt Raylan once his boss Art (Nick Searcy) begins taking a closer look at what went down. "Art loves Raylan, but he's also afraid of what he's going to find out, and he can't help but look," Yost teases. "It will have ramifications, and that's all I'll say. Art plays a big role this season."
4. Boyd is on the edge. With his lady love Ava (Joelle Carter) in jail, Boyd (Walton Goggins) will be scrambling. "Boyd has a very singular goal, which is to get Ava out of jail," Yost says. "That will be his focus, but at the same time, he's got a lot of other stuff going on. He's got to keep a lot of balls in the air, and it's a very difficult season for him." (Justified isn't doing a take on Orange Is the New Black, but look for Ava's story to heat up in a big way later in the season.)
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Not only will Boyd learn the hard way that running a heroin empire with Wynn Duffy (new series regular Jere Burns) is risky business, but he'll also revisit a violent streak viewers haven't seen much of since Season 1. "He is in a place of volatility... that he's never been before in his life, and he's acting out in ways that I could not have foreseen," Goggins says. "If he can't break through that glass ceiling, he's going to shatter it with his bullets."
5. Boyd and Raylan will get together again... eventually. Though Yost & Co. have preferred developing their respective hero and villain separately the past couple seasons, both Yost and Goggins tease that they will reunite, which could once again reignite the question of just who really is the bad guy? "I've never, ever seen Raylan as a bad guy who happens to have a badge. Boyd can say that stuff, but I think that's horsesh--," Yost says. "He's a good guy trying to do the right thing. It's just he doesn't always do it in the right way."
Goggins says he thinks keeping the two apart will make it all the more sweeter for when they finally do come back together in the series' endgame. "They'll ultimately come back together at the conclusion of this show," he says. "When they sit down at whatever table when the lights go out on Justified, it will bring together their independent experiences. I think that's a part of what's happening now."
6. Is this really the beginning of the end? Although Yost has previously hinted that he could see the sixth season being the show's last (FX has only ordered the current fifth season), he insists that he's not made up his mind yet. And although Goggins agrees it should end sooner than later, he's cherishing this experience as long as he can. "Nothing is forever," he says. "Every time that I button my shirt all the way to the top, I know how lucky I am to be playing this character. And I will take it for as long as this ride lasts and will get off the ride with tears in my eyes when it's all said and done."
Justified premieres Tuesday at 10/9c on FX.