Throughout season 3 of FX’s Justified, EW.com did weekly postmortems with showrunner Graham Yost, who took us inside the writers room and gave us the stories behind the show’s best moments — of which the season finale, “Slaughterhouse,” had many. After Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson) chopped off Quarles’ (Neal McDonough) rail-gun toting arm, Quarles told Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) that it was his father, Arlo (Raymond J. Barry), who’d shot and killed “the man in a hat” who’d been pointing a gun at Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). For all Arlo knew, he could have been firing at Raylan. Here, in excerpts from interviews originally posted after the season ender and during Emmy season, we find out how those twists and others came about. For more stories behind this year’s top TV and movie moments, click here for EW.com’s Best of 2012: Behind the Scenes coverage.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So Arlo didn’t know who he was shooting at.
Graham Yost: He did not know. That “man in a hat” thing was something that came up while we were working on the break, the writing, and the outlining of the last episode. In the credits, I wrote the story and [exec producer Fred Golan] wrote the script. But Fred being Fred, if he was jammed, he would say, “Why don’t you take a run at this scene?” And I just threw in the “man in a hat” thing. That was something that he loved and Tim picked up on, and it just became the anchor for the final beat of the season.
We’ve talked before about how Tim doesn’t want Raylan to use his gun — like you, he prefers more creative violence — so that double gun scene with Limehouse, and the earlier “Harlan Roulette” scene with Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns), are the best of both worlds: We get to see him wield a weapon but not actually shoot anyone. I loved the return of Harlan Roulette from earlier in the season.
That was a late change. We knew there was gonna be a big Raylan-Wynn Duffy scene, and we knew that it was gonna get weird and violent. I can’t remember the various iterations of it, but when we hit on that, I think maybe Fred had asked [co-executive producer] Dave Andron to take a run at the scene and Dave had written [the episode] “Harlan Roulette.” We just thought that would be a cool way to go. It’s that little dance we try to do, which is to set up a certain expectation in the audience’s mind and then hopefully deliver it in a way that’s unexpected. Like we felt that from the beginning of the season, people would expect Raylan to have a showdown with Quarles where Raylan would shoot him. And then we thought, well maybe there’s a different way to go. Can we accomplish the same end, which is neutralizing Quarles, in a way that’s a little more arresting and interesting and…gruesome, frankly. I’ve told you in weeks past, the first time we saw the slaughterhouse set and the knives and cleavers, we just had a feeling that at some point, those tools had to be used in anger. And it was also a feeling that maybe the final big confrontation needed to happen there. It’s such a scary weird place.
I loved how Quarles reached up for his severed arm, and Raylan pulled it away.
When Fred first wrote that, the arm just got chopped off and fell to the floor. Quarles was on the floor, reaches for it, and Raylan just puts his foot on it. Which is also cool. We went back and forth: Is Raylan gonna chop off the arm? Is Limehouse gonna get shot? Various things were working into the mix, and they just figured it out on set. The biggest bone of contention was when Quarles would tell Raylan that it was his father who shot Bergen. We went back and forth on that, too. Some people were pushing for him to say it before the arm chop, as we called it. My feeling was that it’s such important information, it would get so overshadowed by the arm chop that it would undercut it. I felt that the character moment was more important, so it needed to come late. Finally, when Fred was talking to Neal about it, Neal was like, “You know, I’m gonna be bleeding out on the floor,” and Fred said, “It’s like Messala in Ben-Hur when he’s been trampled to death essentially by horse after horse and chariot after chariot, and Ben-Hur has won the big race and Messala has been vanquished and as he’s dying. He screws with Ben-Hur one last time and says, ‘Your mother and sister are still alive. They’re in a leper colony.’” When Neal heard that, he said, “I got it.” He’s just screwing with Raylan one last time.
I assume from the blood pool, Quarles is dead.
Steven Heth, our post-producer, really rode that one right to the end: What’s the pool of blood gonna look like? How dark? Well, he may not be dead. Our feeling was that you could slap a tourniquet on that and probably stop him from bleeding out. But certainly as a presence in the show [he’s gone]. Although, if he were to kill Winona but frame Raylan, and Raylan had to clear his name and he was after a one-armed man… no, wait a second. That’s season 11, when we get desperate.
An equally cool move: How did the idea for Limehouse keeping his money in a pig carcass come about?
Some of it was just practical. We needed the money to be on site. We didn’t want them to go anywhere else. Someone had heard stories about people storing stuff in frozen meat. At one point, it was gonna be frozen. No, that’s too difficult. We could have had it under the floorboards, but it was a cooler scene to have that. And now I know what you’re gonna ask about, and I don’t know. I don’t know whose idea “piggy bank” was. It wasn’t scripted. It was a set line.
That last scene: Raylan tells Winona that his father Arlo just saw a man in a hat and shot him, not knowing who it was, then puts his hat on and walks out. The look on Tim’s face…
That’s just Tim. You could walk through that whole episode, every scene he does something interesting. And it always feels grounded and real in this weird Elmore Leonard world that we have going. I mentioned the scene with Wynn Duffy, the scene with Limehouse when Raylan’s on a vengeance-fueled drive and pulls his gun and all these other guns are on him and he just gives up. Just scene after scene. The little bits with him and Arlo, with him and Boyd [Walton Goggins]. I never want to take it for granted or just expect it, but I gotta say, working on the show, it’s so much fun to see the cuts. It’s so much fun to see the cuts and go, “Well, that’s as good as you could ask for.” There is an actor who fully understands his part and enjoys it. He gets a kick out of playing Raylan Givens, and it shows.
One of my favorite parts of our weekly postmortems was hearing how much the cast, particularly Tim (who’s also a producer on the show), contributes lines and other ideas.
We’re really lucky because everyone’s pulling in the same direction. We’re not all going, “No, the show should be more this or more that.” Everyone gets the drill: It’s Elmore Leonard, and that’s why we’re here — to do that peculiar dark, funny, exciting thing that Elmore does. In our best weeks we come close, I don’t think we ever surpass. But that’s our great gift, that we’re all going the same way. It just wouldn’t work if it was anything other than that.
Give me two examples of that in the finale.
At one point, we thought of wrapping up Quarles at the end of the second to last episode and having it more of a Raylan vs. Arlo finale, but it was Tim who said, “Once we dispatch Quarles, then the air goes out of the balloon.” He was right. We restructured it. Let’s just make going after Arlo the last act of the last episode. And the thing about Raylan returning the gun used to kill Gary to Quarles: That would surface in a script and then go away, surface and go away. There was actually a point where we thought, Well, we’re just not gonna address it. I’m pretty sure again it was Tim who came up with the idea: What if he has Quarles take both guns off him but only ask for one back? As he says, “You can keep that one.” That was just a nice way to wrap it up.