'Justified' Postmortem: Boss, Star on the Final Season Premiere's Brutal Twist

"The first time I saw it, I sobbed," Graham Yost shares.
FX

[Warning: Major spoilers ahead for Justified's season premiere, "Fate's Right Hand."]

Justified started off its final season with a bang.

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Although Boyd's (Walton Goggins) fiancée, Ava (Joelle Carter), secretly cut a deal withRaylan (Timothy Olyphant) to get herself out of prison, Boyd's suspicions fell to Dewey (Damon Herriman) — especially when Dewey expressed his desire to go back to the way things used to be, and shared that Raylan had broken his jaw. Boyd lulled his old friend into a false sense of security while sharing the hope for the future his relatives had for Harlan — and then Boyd killed Dewey.

"I was doing a DVD commentary with [Justified creator] Graham Yost, [and executive producers] Fred Golan and [Michael Dinner], and it was for season five," Herriman told The Hollywood Reporter about the day he found out Dewey's fate. "I had been told I was probably going to be in the final season, but I didn't know how much. I was secretly hoping I might it through to the final episode. And then we did the commentary, and they were like, 'We have something to tell you.' And I was like, 'Yeah?' [They said,] 'Dewey is in the final season … but he dies.' I think I may have even said, 'Does he die?' And they said, 'Yeah. '"

Read more 'Justified's' GrahamYost Previews Final Season, Talks Pressure of Ending a Serialized Show

"It was a weird thing, because it's not a real person, and half the characters die on Justified anyway; Dewey's pretty much used up his nine lives," Herriman continued. "Initially, I was pretty sad, like I was mourning the death of someone I knew. The finality of it — but, look, it's the final season anyway. I'm not sure it would have mattered if he lived, because the show is over [at the end of the season]. But when I read the script, I completely changed the way I felt about it. It was such a brilliantly written episode. I loved it. I loved the way it happened. I loved it had every element of Dewey that we had come to know up to that point: being angry, and frustrated, and harebrained schemes; there were funny things, there were sad things, they kind of captured all the stuff they had written for Dewey in one episode, and I couldn't have been happier."

The final season comes with inherently raised stakes, but "we didn't kill Dewey lightly; [what Boyd is capable of] is a real threat,"  Yost acknowledged. "That was a tough one for us, because we loved Dewey. And as much as that, we loved Damon Herriman, we loved to work with him. So that was a hard call. It was an idea that came up from both Tim and Michael Dinner, who co-wrote the episode and directed it. The feeling was we really establish the peril to Ava if Boyd was to do something that heinous — kill someone he only kind of suspected might be working for the other side. So setting up the tension for Ava — what if he finds out that she's working for the law enforcement?"

"It was a very tough call," Yost continued. "Having to break that to Damon was not one of the fun days, because he would have loved to have been around for the run of it. At the same time, I think it has a real impact, and we're just grateful for the time we had to play with him. And, listen, it's the final season; no character is going to go beyond the 13 episodes. If you go out in the first, make it count."

As Herriman filmed Dewey's final moments, "it was incredibly upsetting," he shared. "It was a very moving thing, just to be doing the scene that you know is the final scene for a character you've played and loved to play for years. And to get to do it with an amazing actor like Walton, who I have such a connection with, and was such a joy working with all of these years; to get to [film] it with Michael Dinner, who was the person who did the pilot and did [many] of the episodes of the show -- there was a lot of emotions flowing through me that day, and it certainly was very moving for me. In the scene, Dewey gets upset, and that was me being upset as well for Dewey…Some of my favorite stuff is in my final episode…that scene with Boyd is a very special scene, because it's a very emotional scene, which is not something you see a lot with Dewey."

And the emotional impact of Dewey's final moments didn't end with Herriman. "The first time I saw it, I sobbed," Yost shared. "I was like, 'Oh, no, not Dewey.' "

See more On the Set of 'Justified's' Final Season

For his part, Herriman — who hasn't seen the episode yet — isn't quite sure how viewers will react to the death of his character. "Dewey has gone an entire season [off-screen] — he wasn't there in season four at all," he acknowledged. "So I don't know if fans have an expectation of him being there [to the end]. I guess the fact that he's in the trailer will give some people the expectation they'll be seeing a lot more of him this season. I imagine they'll be shocked. It comes out of nowhere. I think a character like Dewey, he's cheated death so many times, I think you have a false sense of security that it's never going to happen to the guy, because it would have happened by now. I don't think people would expect it would happen in the first episode of the season. So I imagine it'll be a big shock to people, because it comes out of nowhere. I'll be fascinated to see how people react."

With Dewey's Justified time at an end, Herriman has just one (little) regret. "I would have liked — and I did pitch this once, and they were into it, but it never happened — to see Dewey fall in love," he said." Only because I think it would have been so odd, and unexpected. I had this idea that if Dewey fell head over heels for someone, he would be the most doting, protective, caring boyfriend. And I thought, maybe he falls in love with someone who already has a kid, and he's this amazing stepdad to this kid -- just the opposite of what you'd expect. By giving him a purpose — because he was so aimless and trying to find a purpose — I was pitching the idea if he met someone … and had to be responsible, and maybe get a proper job, and have to look after a wife and kid, [we'd see] the guy that Dewey could have been. It would have been interesting."

"I still think about that," he continued. "That would have been interesting to see something like that, even if his story had ended that way. And maybe if he had survived through season six, maybe he would have. But at the end of the day, the character is their character, not mine, and they can do what they want with it. And I, actually, wouldn't change a thing. I think the way they wrote the last days of Dewey Crowe are kind of perfect. I wouldn't change anything. He had to go out with a bang. I have this nostalgic idea of a love story, but it's probably not the way Dewey should go out: he can't peter out and go into the sunset. He's not that type of character. He's always created these mini-storms wherever he turns up. It feel right. Everything that happened to him came out of nowhere, it was the opposite of what you expected, including the way he died. So it feels right [to go out the way he did]."

What did you think of Justified's season premiere? Sound off in the comments section, below. Justified airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX. Stay tuned to THR's The Live Feed for more final season coverage.

Twitter: @marisaroffman

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