Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) has been shot, strung upside-down and beaten with a bat, and left twice by the woman of his dreams (and now mother of his unborn child), but seldom have we seen Justified's hero as down in the dumps as when his scofflaw father Arlo (Raymond Barry) shot and killed a man he believed to be Raylan at the end of last season.
It's in that low state — living above a dive bar and moonlighting as a sort-of bounty hunter, a big no-no for Marshals — that we find Raylan at the start Season 4, which premieres Tuesday, Jan. 8 at 10/9c on FX. But rather than go the Big Bad route of previous seasons, executive producer Graham Yost says Raylan's biggest beef this season will be with a 30-year-old case whose perpetrator is not as dead as previously thought. "He's of great value to both the forces of good and the forces of badness," Yost says, before adding that any more information might lead into spoiler territory. However, the showrunner did give TV Guide Magazine a few other hints about the season.
TV Guide Magazine: What can you tell us about Season 4?
Yost: We're doing a couple different things this season. One is that we open with a flashback to what happened 30 years ago, loosely based on something that did happen around that time, called The Bluegrass Conspiracy. What we decided to do this season was have more of a mystery and, in a sense, a big fugitive pursuit. They don't know who he is, so there's that mystery to solve, and then it'll go on from there.
TV Guide Magazine: The show is almost like a dramatic Simpsons in terms of how well-built the recurring characters are. There are so many people you want to see pop up, like Dewey "Four Kidneys" Crowe (Damon Herriman).
Yost: I don't think we get to see him this season. Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) is still around, he plays a big part this season. But if we're lucky enough to see this through to its natural end — we're looking at six seasons — Dewey will play a part. There are opportunities, because Arlo's in prison this year, that we could have seen Dewey, but it's like, we don't want to just see Dewey, we want to have an episode about Dewey. And similarly with Dickie Bennett (Jeremy Davies), who is probably not going to appear this year.
TV Guide Magazine: Oh really? So Jeremy Davies just keeps his hair like that in case you guys call him up and need him the next day?
Yost: [Laughs] I guess so! He's a very loyal man. Nah, but again, if we're going to do something about Dickie, we're doing to do something about Dickie. Our story is pulling us in a different direction this year. And, listen, we talked about it in the writers room, "This takes place in the prison, could Dewey be involved? Could Dickie be involved?" And it just didn't really work, in terms of who those characters are and how they relate to the world that has come to exist.
TV Guide Magazine: And we'll have some newcomers in the "Hill People."
Yost: There's a mythology in our minds: Noble's Holler was back and protected; the snake church this season is kind of in the woods and hard to get to, but it's at least in the backwoods. And then in our mind there's something even farther back in time, and in a way even more dangerous. There is a personal connection between our people and the Hill People, and that was something we wanted to explore. Two of our writers, Chris Provenzano and Ingrid Escajeda, went down to Harlan and went to a snake-handling church and looked into a couple other things we were interested in, and got a lot of really cool information. Some of the stuff they came up with pops up in our first episode. They'd heard about this position in Kentucky — in every county there's a constable, so we came up with this character, Constable Bob, played by Patton Oswalt.
TV Guide Magazine: Do you send writers down to Kentucky every year?
Yost: Yeah. We're fairly well-received in Harlan. But me and Fred Golan, who wrote the ender of Season 2, the feeling is that if he and I went there we would be shot on sight for having killed Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale), so we can't go.