Justified returned last night to FX, and fans will find that Season 4 marks a change of pace for the celebrated crime drama. Unlike Season 3, which featured ruthless Detroit mob enforcer Robert Quarles, this season doesn’t have a central villain — at least, not yet.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s no Big Bad,” Supernatural alum Jim Beaver, who plays Sheriff Shelby Parlow, teased to Spinoff Online at the Season 4 red-carpet premiere. “There’s a lot of big secrets this season, and I’m working my way through the mine field trying not to reveal any of them.”
Just because there isn’t a clear villain doesn’t mean there aren’t threats to our favorite residents of Harlan County, Kentucky. Joe Mazzello and Lindsay Pulsipher have joined the cast as Preacher Billy and his sister Cassie, who have come to town to turn the meth addicts on to Jesus. That doesn’t sit well with Walton Goggins’ Boyd Crowder off, as Billy seems to be imposing on his criminal territory.
“Is [Billy] like anyone he’s ever faced before? Yes, in the sense that he’s Boyd Crowder,” Goggins said, adding of Boyd’s new lack of faith, “I think he believed [in the Bible] for sure, but I think he’s a man in transition. He’s a man who lives in extremes and his journey will be one of equilibrium, hopefully.”
Also, for those of you Sons of Anarchy fans, Goggins teased we haven’t seen the last of his fabulous transvestite character Venus Van Dam.
Boyd’s relationship with Billy and Cassie will touch those closest to him, including his love Ava, played by Joelle Carter. She told Spinoff the troubles Boyd has with the religious brother/sister pair “affects Ava, of course,” but affects Boyd even more because he lost his faith.
“It let him down, and he has to face [religion] again on another level,” she said.
For her part, Pulsipher is excited to join Justified. Fans will know her best as were-panther Crystal from HBO’s True Blood, and the actress acknowledged she’s jumped from one character involved in a cult of sorts to another. She told Spinoff Cassie has been “so much fun to play.”
“She’s kind of sweet, but she’s got layers. She’s definitely got some secrets. But I think, at her core, she’s a good person,” Pulsipher said. “She’s a tough cookie. She’s not going to let Boyd scare her, and Walton Goggins is a scary guy. He’s a good actor and he’s definitely intimidating, so that scene was really fun to shoot, to be able to kind of go head-to-head with him.”
That’s not the only problem facing the main characters on Justified. Star Timothy Olyphant’s Raylan Givens is juggling his side bounty-hunting business with his work as a U.S. marshal, and he also has to deal with the fact that he has a baby on the way and his father Arlo (Raymond Barry) has chosen Boyd over him. Although Erica Tazel, who plays Marshal Rachel Brooks, told Spinoff that Raylan “can charm his way out of things,” Olyphant hinted that his character might not have such an easy time this season.
“All’s well that ends well, as they say,” Olyphant said. “So the question, ‘Is it a good idea?’ Perhaps not. But we’d like to think we’re going to have a show, it’s going to workout somehow. But yeah, it goes pretty bad. We always look for the unexpected [each season]. We look for the unexpected and yet the inevitable, so hopefully that’s where it takes us.”
Barry told Spinoff the newly tense relationship between Arlo, Raylan and Boyd will come to a head in Episode 4, where “it will be more clarified what is going on.” “Boyd is the son I never had, but Raylan is my son, and blood is blood,” he said. However, Olyphant said fans shouldn’t expect to get too much out of Raylan.
“He’s only going to deal with it so much, but I think it’s alive underneath everything, the fact that everybody knows what happens, and it’s there,” Olyphant said. “But guys like Raylan don’t talk about that shit. The trick for us is how do you maintain that kind of a character and yet continue to find him an interesting and puzzling kind of character.”
Another conflict Raylan will be dealing with is his estranged relationship with Winona Hawkins, the pregnant mother of his child. According to Natalie Zea, who affectionately calls her character “Winono,” she doesn’t know about Raylan’s relationship with bartender Lindsey Salazar, and Winona likely won’t be too happy when she finds out.
“[Raylan and Winona are] both really trying, not that we haven’t in the past, but there’s this sort of underlying tension that the stakes are a lot bigger, but on the surface we’re just real sweet, and we’re just trying really hard to kind of be friendly and sweet,” she said.
Although Zea is now a regular on Fox’s new thriller The Following, she’s scheduled to appear on at least three episodes of Justified this season. “Winona and little Claire Matthews [her character on The following], they can coexist,” she said. Expect to catch a glimpse of Zea and her prosthetic belly very soon.
Speaking of relationships, Carter teased things soon may escalate between Boyd and Ava. “Their romance gets stronger and stronger, so something might happen in that realm,” she said. “The natural thing that happens when people’s romance gets stronger and stronger — but it hasn’t happened yet! But it’s been promised to me.”
Ava is spending Season 4 juggling her relationship with Boyd with her newfound responsibilities as the owner of Audrey’s, the Harlan County bar and brothel.
“She’s a businesswoman,” Carter said. “She embraces it, and she’s bringing in a little bit of cash for them. and she really likes it. It does become a little complicated for her because these whores, they’re uncontrollable! She makes a decision halfway through the season that comes back to haunt her and causes her quite a bunch of grief.”
Tazel said Rachel won’t get much more screen time than she has received in previous seasons, but that fans will get a sense of her home life and the problems there. That will drive Rachel to “delve into a little bit of gray this year,” and do something where she goes against protocol.
“She realizes very quickly that there are consequences for her in that situation, but the consequences when Raylan does it are very different, and she’s not too pleased about that,” she said. In the nine scripts she’s seen, Rachel’s home troubles are only touched upon once, but Tazel said, “It’s catching up to her and that situation is coming to a head for her this year.”
Meanwhile, Nick Searcy’s Chief Deputy Art Mullen is on his way out. He told Spinoff his character’s big conflict is whether or he wants to continue as head of the U.S. Marshals field office in Lexington or go into retirement. The veteran actor said something will happen “pretty early on” that forces Art’s hand, and the show is going to discuss who will potentially succeed him.
There’s also the matter of the mysterious bag Raylan finds in Episode 1, thanks to new character Constable Bob Sweeney, played by Patton Oswalt. Barry teased, “That’s going to develop into something that’s going to be interesting,” while Tazel said the package storyline is what has her most engaged.
“I’m excited about the mystery. I like that we don’t have a Big Bad villain,” she said. “We’ll get to learn more about Raylan’s legacy and how deep his bloodlines go with certain parts of Harlan, which is good. We get to learn a little bit more about our leading man.”
If there’s anything fans of Justified should know by now, it’s that this season is going to fly by past, even with so many different storylines intersecting. “We’re shooting Episode 8 now, and I look back at the stories we had in episodes 3 and 4 and it seems like a lifetime ago,” Olyphant said. “There’s just so much going on this year. It’s a really interesting season.”
Justified airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.