Timothy Olyphant and Margo Martindale, <i>Justified</i> Timothy Olyphant and Margo Martindale, Justified

[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers about the Season 2 finale of Justified. Read at your own risk.]

Justified's second season finale, "Bloody Harlan," certainly lived up to its name. But even though there were shootouts that claimed the life of Doyle Bennett (Joseph Lyle Taylor) and left Ava (Joelle Carter) fighting to survive, it was the finale's quieter moment — when patriarch Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale) takes her own life with a glass of poison "apple pie" moonshine — that packed the most punch.

"It really was a conscious choice," executive producer Graham Yost tells TVGuide.com. "[We wanted] to do it a little quieter and make it about these characters."

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It's true. Their relationship grew closer as Boyd got back to his old ways.
A big part of the season was to slowly get Boyd back to being Boyd. We wanted it to take time for him to realize that he was who he was. To realize that when he fought it, when he tried to be this man of God, it led to death and destruction and it might be better for him to be his father's son and do what he knows how to do. It's a different Boyd. He's not the same white supremacist Boyd of the pilot, but he has returned to form in the criminal life. That was a goal of the season.

Yet there he was saving Raylan from Dickie (Jeremy Davies) and his baseball bat.
We rewrote that scene 20 times. You just go with your gut, and there was just something about Boyd stepping out from behind that tree, gun in hand. There's a part of Elmore Leonard [that suggests] it's very hard for people to be anything other than what they are. And there's also something he likes to do, where people keep doing the same things again and again. There is just something about Raylan and Boyd where you just get the sense that they're always going to be in each other's story, hopefully until the end of the series.

But Boyd had his own story this year, and it was more tangled up with Mags than Raylan. Do you see the show becoming more about an ensemble rather than just Raylan?
It gives us great freedom. Part of the template that Elmore gives us is that he spends a lot of time with the bad guys. FX said from the beginning that we were not only allowed to do that, but we were encouraged to do that. Lord knows it will be difficult to cast as well again. We'll see what we get and we'll write to that, but it's always Raylan's show. But if you get stories that are that compelling, it makes the Raylan stuff even stronger.

Were you winking at fans when you cast James LeGros, who played Raylan Givens in Showtime's Pronto, to play Loretta's ride back to Harlan?
That's absolutely where it came from. We were so thrilled. He loves Elmore's work and just got a kick out of the show. I just thought it was really cool that wanted to be a part of it. It's a nice little kick in the pants for the show.

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Because of the success of the Mags arc this year, do you see the season-long "big bad" becoming a model for the show?

I think we'll have to mix it up a little bit. If our ratings were through the roof and we had all the audience we wanted, we could feel confident just doing one story over the season. But I think when the show starts up again next season, we'll still be trying to attract new viewers. And you know that feeling: If you haven't gotten into a show that's serialized, each year that goes by you're almost more afraid of it. So we need to make it viewer-friendly at the beginning of the season and give people a satisfying hour of television.

You cribbed some of this season for Elmore's new novel, Raylan. Will you continue to do so?
If you get any chance to get something from Elmore Leonard, I think you take it. We only used little bits of his new Raylan stories this year, but they were important and they helped guide us. He always says, "Hang it up and strip it for parts." He's not precious about it. He enjoys what he does, and he enjoys what we're doing.

So can you give us any hints about Season 3?
We spent a whole season getting Boyd back to being Boyd. I would not be surprised if we find ourselves looking again in a more concentrated way at the Boyd-and-Raylan relationship. Their stories ran parallel this season. But if we don't do it in Season 3 and if the heavens allow a Season 4, at some point it's got to come back to Raylan and Boyd.