The final season of Justified may be building to the ultimate showdown between Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder, but neither of those men truly hold the power at this point.
That honor belongs to Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter) — even if she doesn't want it. After spending most of Season 5 in jail, Ava was sprung by former lover Raylan (Timothy Olyphant), who asked her to be a confidential informant against her (estranged) fiancé Boyd (Walton Goggins). Although Ava's choices seem limited — either rat or go back to prison — Carter says her character isn't overly eager to help out Raylan.
"They both basically left her in jail. They both turned their backs on her and abandoned her," Carter tells TVGuide.com. "She got out because Raylan needs her, but she has to think in the back of her mind, 'Is it just that he needs me or does he care enough to try to make this happen?' Yeah, she feels abandoned and she's angry at Boyd, but she's still in love with him."
But that doesn't necessarily mean she's going to side with Boyd in the end. "She has not made up her mind from the beginning where her loyalty lies," Carter says. "It's a constant moment-by-moment reevaluation. She's looking for the best option for herself down the line, whether or not it's what she would desire most. If Boyd can pull off what he wants to pull off, she would be very happy if they could end up together. But as he reveals himself, I'm not sure if she knows the exact road she needs to take."
Indeed, in the season premiere, Boyd revealed himself to as deadly as ever when he killed longtime friend Dewey Crowe (Damon Herriman) based on suspicions that he might be working with Raylan to bring Boyd down. So, in order to avoid a similar fate, Ava must work extra hard to make her broken relationship with Boyd feel whole again.
"When [one person] in a couple has gone to war and they come back... you have to relearn who they are," Carter says. "Ultimately, after an experience like that, you're not the same person. So, they're sniffing around and trying to see who the other person is and is that person a person that I can have that same relationship with that I did before? Or has it changed so much that this isn't going to work?"
And if Boyd isn't convinced, is there any way Ava makes it out of this sticky situation alive? "It's a really hard journey and a lot of emotional wires are pulled. It's a very awful place to be for her," Carter says. "Honestly, she's being pulled apart. But she's the kind of animal that has to do what she has to do to survive. Throughout the years, she's been shown that she is the only guiding light. She's going to have to make a decision for herself. She really is in charge of her own fate and destiny."
Even if that means betraying the man she loves? "You have to be loyal to yourself," Carter says with laugh, "especially in this violent world that they live in."
Justified airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on FX.