'Justified' Star Breaks Down Deadly Fight: It Was a "Blood Ballet"

"It was vintage 'Justified,'" Jere Burns tells THR of the deadly episode.
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[Warning: Spoilers ahead for Justified's "Fugitive Number One."]

Justified staged one if its most brutal battles during Tuesday's episode as Katherine (Mary Steenburgen) — hell-bent on revenge after learning from Mikey (Jonathan Kowalsky) that Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) was the one who sold out her late husband — confronted a handcuffed Duffy.

Unfortunately for Katherine, when it came time for her to kill him, Mikey had second thoughts about betraying his boss, and offered an alternative: tell people he's a snitch to prevent anyone from working with him in the future. But that wasn't good enough for Katherine, and when she attempted to shoot Duffy, Mikey stepped in front of the bullet — and the two violently fought each other in Duffy's Winnebago, until Katherine was dead and Mikey was mortally wounded.

"I said [earlier in the year], 'Is there any way we could create a scenario where I have to shoot Mikey?' " Burns told The Hollywood Reporter. "'Where Mikey is so wounded, that I have to shoot him and it's the most compassionate thing I've done in six years, and it has to do with killing someone.' I think [producers] were trying to do that for me, per my request and it ended up in that beautiful, [Quentin] Tarantino, blood ballet, that he was just so wounded, it would have been overkill. And it was nicer for [Mikey] to just say [as he was dying], 'Would you hold me?' "

Although the moment resonated, originally the duo were going to say a lot more. "There was a lot of dialogue that we both said after he got hit and I undid the handcuffs," Burns shared. "It was all this beautiful Justified writing, and it all went out the window in favor of gasps and hugs."

Read more 'Justified's' Mary Steenburgen on Katherine's Cat and Mouse Game With Ava

To hear Burns tell it, filming the sequence made for a "heavy" ordeal. "Having that kind of a shootout, inside a Winnebago, when you're handcuffed to a table with bullets going everywhere … it was scary," he said. "It was Tarantino-violent, and then it was very emotional. It was vintage Justified. Graham Yost said it might be his favorite scene of the entire series."

"Bullets are coming through the table, and it's just insanity," he added. "First it's terrified, then it's terrified for Mikey, and then it's his blood coming through the table, and then the gorgeous shot of Mary's blank dead eyes just staring me in the face. Holy shit. I'm so glad we were able to do what we did, and climax Mikey, and me, and Mary in that one scene."

Read more 'Justified's' Graham Yost on the Twist That Kicks Off the "Last Act" of the Series

Going forward, Duffy will now have to face the world alone — and with a powerful enemy in Katherine's fiance, Markham (Sam Elliott).

"One of the things that happens, in the midst of all the gore, blood, loss and sadness is he still sees that ring and that bracelet on Katherine's wrist," Burns said. "He's still working it. He may be in the midst of all of that, [but] there's a part of Wynn Duffy that's thinking, 'How do I get out of this, make some money and find a place to go?' I'm not saying he's going to survive the episodes [that come after this], but he's a survivor." 

As for how things will play out in Justified's two remaining episodes, Burns would only tease that Duffy will remain a "realist."

"He's still looking for a way out," he said. "I know that he started angry with [the fact] that Mikey would do this. Then he gets to witness Mikey taking a bullet for him. Prior to that, he gets to say to Katherine, 'F— you! You're going to shoot me? Shoot me in the face. Let me see it coming.' And when Duffy does that, he's going, 'This is the life I chose, and if this is the way it ends, so be it.' He's a realist and he's a fatalist. He was never the alpha male; he was always the beta male. He was always trying to play the angles. And the alpha dog is always way out in front, being eaten by the moose, or being hit by the avalanche, and that was never Duffy out in front — he was always back a man, in the pack … There's a relief [Katherine's dead]. There are still a lot of guys out there, but she's one dog out of the way, definitely. She's one dog between him and the money. There's a lot of money still out there, and no one's forgetting about that money."

Justified airs on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX. What did you think of the crazy Katherine-Mikey fight scene?

Twitter: @marisaroffman

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