Warning: major spoilers ahead.
“Justified: City Primeval” ended its eight-episode run with the shocking re-appearance of “Justified” antagonist Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) in the closing minutes of the Aug. 29 episode.
Fans of the FX series relished the sight of the supposedly-born-again Crowder preaching the gospel to his fellow prison inmates in Kentucky — and then, shackled tightly, escaping from an armed escort with the help of his lover, a prison guard.
They embarked on a joyride to Mexico while newly retired US Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) lolled on a boat in Miami with his daughter, Willa — ignoring an alert about an escaped inmate in Kentucky while his cellphone rings with a call from the US Marshal’s office in Lexington.
“Justified: City Primeval” writer/showrunner/executive producer Michael Dinner directed the finale — and said the plan, from the get-go, was to leave Boyd’s Big Reveal until the very end.
“[Showrunner] Dave Andron and I got together — we had done ‘Justified’ — and Dave actually pitched the idea of what if we brought Walton back?,” Dinner told The Post. “My instinct was [that] this wasn’t ‘Justified’; it felt like we stuck the landing and we weren’t going to bring back any of the original characters unless it made sense, organically. We were going to catapult Raylan into this new story.
“What Dave and I were most concerned about is that we didn’t want to do this halfway through the eight episodes, like in Episode 5 Raylan’s having trouble with [psycho killer] Clement Mansell [Boyd Holbrook] and he goes to this prison and he talks to Boyd Crowder like, ‘I don’t understand this guy. Tell me what he’s up to?’
“Dave’s point from the beginning was, look, it’s the 12,000 pound elephant in the room and people are going to say, ‘Where’s Boyd Crowder?,” Dinner said. “We figured, let’s do it for fun and bring him in at the end.”
Dinner said they first had to check with Olyphant to see if he was onboard with the plan, and, once he was (enthusiastically), making sure both Goggins and FX gave the green light.
“We called Walton and said it’s not a huge commitment but we’d like to have some fun,” Dinner said. “He said, ‘Well, it sounds like fun, yeah, it could be kinda cool.’ We said, ‘We’re writing the pilot right now and we’re going to write a rough draft of [the scenes where Boyd reenters the picture] and what it would look like in the finale.’ He read it and called us just ecstatic and said, ‘I would love to do this; I’m very busy, but if we could work it into a day, that would be awesome.’”
Dinner said those best-laid plans almost were shot to hell when, a week-and-a-half before Goggins was scheduled to shoot his scenes, the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago told Dinner he couldn’t shoot in any prisons there, which were understaffed due to COVID.
“In our case we pivoted really quickly,” he said. “I had shot in an empty prison in Pittsburgh a couple of years before and if we could go there it would be perfect, since I can write without having to scout it.” The Pittsburgh Film Office gave Dinner et al. the green light and also allowed them to film on a bridge-and road, used in the original “Justified” pilot, that was scheduled to be demolished in 10 days.
The closing scenes of the “Justified: City Primeval” finale leaves the door wide open for another season.
“The cynical side of someone would say, ‘Oh, they did this [for that reason], but honest to God we did the whole thing to have a good time,” Dinner said. “We didn’t want to reboot ‘Justified,’ we wanted to reboot the feeling we had doing that show.
“It was really Walton who, after reading the pages, said, ‘You know, fellas, there is an opportunity here [that] if everybody wanted to we could go and do some more of this, couldn’t we?’
“It’s certainly something that’s out there and something we discussed with FX before the [SAG-AFTRA] strike,” Dinner said. “There have been no discussions since the strike started but we get reports every week of the [viewership] numbers and how it’s doing and I think … FX is very happy with it.
“There could be a third chapter as long as everybody is enthusiastic about it and it felt like it wouldn’t diminish the ending of the original series,” he said.
“The ability to go out and do one more rodeo would be fantastic.”