[This story contains major spoilers from the series finale of Justified: City Primeval, titled “The Question.”]
Wherever Raylan Givens goes, there must always be a Boyd.
For the vast majority of Justified: City Primeval, the Boyd in question was Boyd Holbrook, the actor who brings “Oklahoma Wildman” Clement Mansell to menacing life. Following the villain’s violent death in the series finale, City Primeval closed out by returning to the Boyd who started it all: Boyd Crowder, Raylan’s old friend turned foe — turned friend and foe and back again. Listen, it was complicated.
In the final sequence of the revival series, Walton Goggins reprises his celebrated Justified role, picking up many years after we last saw him but in more or less the same exact place: prison. Boyd tells his fellow inmates he’s facing terminal illness and is being transferred to another facility as a result. Of course, as often is the case with Boyd, it’s a con. During the transfer, Boyd escapes with help from an accomplice — a prison guard he’s seemingly seduced — and the two of them hit the open road.
The break out happens mere minutes after Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) retires from the U.S. Marshals service, promising to spend more time with his daughter. News of Boyd’s escape, however, gets as far as Raylan’s cell phone before the series closes. How will Marshal Givens respond when he picks up that call? That’s either the stuff of a future Justified season, or will forever be left up to the audience’s imagination.
In an interview coordinated through personal PR in accordance with WGA strike rules, Justified: City Primeval creators Michael Dinner and Dave Andron elaborate on their reasons for bringing Boyd back into the mix at the final moment.
“When we first started talking, a lot of the talk was about, ‘Let’s not feel compelled to bring anybody back,’ because we didn’t want to do an adaptation that leaned too much on the past,” Dinner tells The Hollywood Reporter. “But from the very beginning, Dave said, ‘What about Walton?’ My first instinct was: We can’t do the cheesy version, which is episode five, when Raylan’s having a tough time with Clement, he goes into the prison and says to Hannibal Lecter, ‘I don’t understand this guy.’ But it was the elephant in the room. Fans of the show who want to consider this Justified are going to be asking, ‘Where’s Boyd Crowder?’ It was a dangerous idea of bringing him in at the end.”
Andron adds, “It feels like an Elmore Leonard ending,” noting how the late novelist and creator of the Justified characters served as a guiding star on if and how to bring back Boyd. “I think people will have a big smile on their face. You get to go on this journey with Raylan, then you get to have this moment in time with Boyd. It did feel to me that if you were going to go into the world and you don’t want to be cheesy about bringing people back, this is how you do it. Where is Boyd? What’s he like now? Did he change at all, or is he the same? It felt okay to go and pick him up a little bit.”
According to Andron, Boyd’s endgame appearance (which Goggins filmed in a 36-hour window due to obligations to other projects) was baked into the premise very early on in developing City Primeval as a Justified vehicle. Goggins quickly agreed to the idea of checking in on Boyd, with two main comments.
“His first response was, ‘I love this,’” says Dinner. “His second response was, ‘Well, you know what this means.’”
Indeed, Boyd’s return immediately brings up questions about the Justified franchise’s future. Even without a sequel yet announced, the City Primeval ending sets up another chapter in Raylan and Boyd’s saga. As Dinner puts it: “The Joker is out there.” While there are no active plans for another season, there are ideas on the board should these characters return. For example, Dinner points out Boyd’s unfinished history with his ex Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter): “It creates danger in the world, because somewhere in California, he has a kid he doesn’t know about.”
When speaking to THR in an interview conducted prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike, Olyphant shared his view of the ending, saying that what mattered most was making sure Boyd’s return didn’t come at the expense of ending the main City Primeval story. “You don’t want the audience to feel [cheated], that they wanted to watch a whole season of that: ‘You put us through seven episodes to get to five minutes of Boyd?’” he said. “That was my one cautionary take. If we’re going to do this, we have to put more of ourselves into the rest of the show. We have to feel like the ending of this chapter would have been satisfying.”
Both of the Justified creators and its star feel they accomplished that mission, to the point where they feel that not only could Boyd return in a future chapter, but others from City Primeval and the original Justified run could join in the action as well.
“I can only tell you from my point of view, that if we are so lucky to get to do more, I feel like we could bring any cast member back from either incarnation of the show,” Olyphant told THR. “The world expanded. The writers deserve a tremendous amount of credit for taking this big swing.”
The size of the swing is worth noting, considering the original Justified series finale’s beloved closing moments. In that scene, Raylan visits Boyd in prison, and the two lament their shared history together with an iconic line: “We dug coal together.” It’s a tender moment, and one that was very much on Andron’s mind in returning to Justified at all, let alone returning to Boyd.
“We were very cognizant of ending it well and taking the plane back up,” Andor says. “For me, it was thinking about Elmore and thinking about the dance, the connection between these guys, the satisfying feeling of Raylan and Boyd. ‘We dug coal together’ felt very satisfying. It encapsulated everything we had done. I hope that even though this leaves a lot on the table, it still feels satisfying. Even if Raylan doesn’t chase him, even if he feels like it’s someone else’s problem — and part of that is maybe the connection they have and he doesn’t want to have to gun him down — that maybe there’s still a connection there and Boyd gets to have his life, too. He doesn’t have to die in his cell as an old man. He gets to go back out there and try to right some wrongs.”
If that’s a wrap on Justified, would they be satisfied leaving Boyd and Raylan’s future together unwritten? According to the creators: “If we’re done after this, we’re fine.”
“It’s going to sound like bullshit, but we just wanted to have fun and have a satisfying ending,” says Dinner. “But Boyd does exist in this world. He didn’t die at the end of Justified. Now, he’s out from behind those walls.”