Apr 10 2012 10:00am

Author Allison Brennan on Hating Justified’s Winona, Loving Raylan

Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins in Justified Season 3 posterJustified is one of my all-time favorite shows, and not just because it stars Timothy Olyphant.

As soon as I discovered it—by accident, mind you—and downloaded the pilot, I was hooked. Exactly what a pilot is supposed to do, right? Hook you with an amazing story, great characters, and stellar writing so you go out and watch the rest of the series.

Which I did.

Justified stars Timothy Olyphant as U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, loosely based on an Elmore Leonard character from his short story “Fire in the Hole.” Set in Kentucky, both Lexington and the rural surrounds, the flavor of the community shines. It’s violent and fast-paced and different from all the other crime shows out there.

Did I mention it stars Timothy Olyphant?

Walton Goggins, who plays Boyd Crowder, is no slouch either, a bad guy/sometimes good guy who has his own moral code, including a sense of loyalty that is parallel to his sometime nemesis Raylan Givens. There’s lots of gray area in Justified which makes it even more intriguing.

Natalie Zea as Winona HawkinsI have a pet peeve, however. Her name is Winona.

Winona is Raylan’s ex-wife. She cheated on him with the realtor Gary before the show starts, and so they’re already divorced and she married Gary. That right there just irks me to no end—yeah, I get that Raylan was distant, and has a dangerous job, and doesn’t talk a lot about his feelings, but she cheated on him, so she’s pond scum from the beginning as far as I’m concerned and would need to REALLY make a transformation before I would accept her back into Raylan’s life.

Except, every damn thing she did just made me hate her even more.

She stole money from the evidence room and one (brilliantly written) episode had Raylan trying to get the money back before anyone found out. He risked his life and career to protect this stupid woman. I get that she’s his Achilles’ Heel—but I wish she was just smarter.

Raylan and Winona in JustifiedAnd then Gary gets in with some bad dudes and Winona calls on Raylan to help her new husband get out of trouble, which Raylan does. Later, Winona cheats on Gary with Raylan.

So we have a two-time adulteress. Isn’t once bad enough?

So Gary leaves, Winona’s getting another divorce, she and Raylan start living together (sort of) and she gets pregnant. She wants Raylan to quit his job and teach other Marshals at Glenco—even though Raylan IS his job, and just asking him to do it makes me hate her even more (as if I didn’t already hate her.) If she can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. She’s never really shown Raylan that she loves him—meaning, when the going gets tough, when it’s hard to love someone, you need to be there. Not go cheat with your real estate agent because your husband is distant and won’t talk about it.

At the beginning of season three I was even more frustrated with Winona. She was so wishy-washy about everything. Stands by him no matter what, until she decides not to. She leaves, comes back, leaves again—and I hope now it’s for good.

Winona and Raylan argueThe creators said prior to the launch of season three that they knew they had to redeem Winona in the eyes of viewers, and they really wanted to, but I don’t think they understood that she was already toast. And everything she said and did just made me dislike her even more.

Now, she’s gone and I hope she stays gone. (As an aside, this has nothing to do with the very talented actress, Natalie Zea, who played Winona.)

So, who does Raylan need?

First, Justified is at its heart a modern-day western about cops and robbers, and no one is all good or all bad. (Well, except maybe Robert Quarles. He’s pretty much all-bad, and he does all-bad so very, very well.) It’s complex and violent and just a whole lot of fun. But all shows are better with a love interest, so I’ve been thinking about what Raylan needs that would add to the show.

And it’s not what they’re doing.

Raylan’s newest love interestRaylan now lives above a bar and he’s fallen into bed with the blonde bartender. I understand that he has a thing for blondes, but I just want him with someone who challenges him. Someone who may be his female equal in some ways.

In season two, there was great sexual tension between him and a coal company executive Carol Johnson played by the talented Rebecca Creskoff. She was only in three episodes, but wow, I could have seen them together—a lot of natural conflict, terrific sexual tension, and for once a love interest for Raylan who is independent and not needy. I would love for them to bring her back, even for an on-again/off-again role.

If that’s impossible, when season four starts, I’d like to see a new woman in town. A woman who knows how to shoot, who’s neither all good nor all bad, and who challenges Raylan like no one else. A federal prosecutor? A protected witness? I can think of a dozen ideas to play around with. I hope the show writers are playing around, too.

What do you think? Have you watched Justified? Did you like Winona? And what about Ava and Boyd? Gotta love how that’s developed. Who would you like to see pop up as Raylan’s love interest? (And no, you can’t say you’d be happy to do it …)


Allison Brennan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of eighteen novels and many short stories. A former consultant in the California State Legislature, she lives in Northern California with her husband Dan and their five children.

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Donna Grant
1. DonnaGrant
Allison - you and I have talked about this. We both have a true love for Justified. And Timothy Olyphant. :)

I agree with everything you've said. Love the show. We never miss it. Its so gritty, and you never know what's going to happen from one minute to the next.

Will Boyd play the bad guy? Or the good guy? How many times does Raylan want to take him to jail but they end up on the same side?

A truly amazing show.

I'm one who loved the Boyd and Ava relationship. I watched it sitting on the edge of the couch, hoping, praying that they would get together. And they did!

As for as Winona, she needs to go. Forever. I can't even look at her anymore. She had her chance to redeem herself, but she failed miserably. You're so right in that Raylan needs a strong woman.

I really liked the character Carol Johnson. She could be the right one. However, I really like the owner of the bar. Yes, she's a blonde, but she keeps Raylan on his toes and keeps him spinning about. She's a take charge kinda girl, and I like that.

Not to mention she's quick to shut him down before he begins to make excuses. :) I think they could be cute together, but I'm not convinced she'd be the right woman for him.

I love to see how this plays out. I just pray Winona doesn't come back, which isn't possible since she's pregnant with his child. :sigh:

The only sad part is Justified is about to end for the season. That, I don't like. :S
Heather Waters
2. HeatherWaters
Could not agree more about Winona. I was never a fan, but that stealing-from-the-evidence-room storyline and its fallout made her look particularly awful. And then she still had the gall to complain about his job! He never could have gotten her out of all the messes she and her husband got themselves into if not for his position, which he risked *for her*. Ugh. Yeah. So glad she's gone.

Boyd and Ava, on the other hand...I love them to bits! Actually just read an interview with Walton Goggins last night. This was my favorite part:
"It's the most normal, domestic relationship. We read, we sit and talk outside, we take walks, and we kill people." Ha.
Carmen Pinzon
3. bungluna
Hate Whinyna with a passion rivaled only by my love for Rylan, Boyd and Ava.

As for the love interest, the saloon madam and the sheriff is a time-honoured pairing in westerns, so blondie could work for Raylan. She'd have to be fleshed out and toughened up more, though.
Allison Brennan
4. Allison_Brennan
AMEN Donna! The only good news is that the talented actress Natalie Zea has landed a part in another series -- I can't remember which one -- so I'm hoping she's gone for good :) ... though I'm glad they didn't kill her off because that would be sympathy that I don't want to give her, and I think that would mess with Raylan too much for him to be effective. That she left him (with his child!) will fuel him. I'm so glad you liked Carol Johnson, too. There was natural sexual chemistry between the two actors, and I hope she's no longer attached to a series (or can make a few cameos next season). Re: bartender. True, I hadn't thought about her being self-sufficient, but she is. I wish she owned the bar, though--there was a guy owner in one of the earlier episodes. I'll have to re-watch the season just to make sure (oh, the hardships we face ...)

REDLINE: YES! Boyd and Ava work on so many levels, and I love Boyd's quote. Ava has really grown as a character from season one. I've always liked her because she has never been deceptive or playing games (like Winona) -- she is what she is, and she admits she doesn't want to leave Harlan because she's scared--she doesn't feel she fits in anywhere else. She's a homebody. And she's nobody's fool. And I loved last season when Boyd apologized for not stopping his abusive brother. It felt organic and real for him to do so, and gave her the ability to forgive him. Boyd may be bad, but he's not evil, and he has a strong moral code. Just not always a legal moral code ...

BUNGLUNA: Whinyna!! I love it!! :) And I hadn't thought about the saloon/sheriff situation ... you're right. Hmm ... I'll have to ponder that relationship a bit more. :)
Donna  Hatridge
5. DHatridge
Love Justified, I will even put down the book I am reading to watch ! I think the bartender could be a good match for Raylan if she is strong enough to surprise him at the most inconveinent times. Love to see strong men have to do a double take ( or reconsider what they thought they knew ) when they are surprised by strong women. Glad Wynona is gone.
Allison Brennan
6. Allison_Brennan
D--you make an excellent point about surprising Raylan at "inconvenient" times. One of my fans from Facebook pointed out that the reason Raylan needs Winona is because without her, he's "perfect." I honestly hadn't thought about that ... and he's totally right. All true heroes need a weakness, Raylan's was Winona. The bartender might make an interesting character. I'd like to see his weakness be something more organic to the storyline. For example, I love his relationship with Loretta, from the beginning. (Obviously not a love interest! But she's a weakness for him as well.) Hmm, lots to think about!!!
Wendy the Super Librarian
7. SuperWendy
I don't want Raylan with any woman - mostly because, let's be honest, he'll never have better chemistry with anyone than he does with Boyd.

Oh, and his Daddy. That would be my one gripe on this season - I want more Raylan/Arlo "bonding" moments :)

The man in my life thinks I hate Winona because I want Raylan all to myself - which honestly, no. I just LOATHE her and when she got pregnant I almost put my fist through a wall. But contrary to what he thinks - no, I'm not a woman hater. I really, really, really like Ava (a lot) and while I don't think her character can be in it for the long haul - I also like the bartender.
8. Sissy
I think Raylan sees alot of himself in Loretta. Both of their dads were criminals, skirted the law, both without mothers to keep them centered, both struggling with right and wrong, which is somewhat altered within both of their worlds. I'd say that had alot to do with his decision to look the other way where the money was concerned.. hoping that she'd get out and have a better life.
Allison Brennan
9. Allison_Brennan
Wendy, you are so, so, so right. Raylan and Boyd have such an intense chemistry that I love when they're on the screen together.

The thing with Arlo -- I kind of feel sorry for him, he's become quite pitiful, but then I don't when I remember that he abused his wife. I miss Aunt Helen, though--she tried hard to get Arlo and Raylan back to each other. Just can't happen. I fear Arlo will die tonight -- just a guess. Maybe not. And I really want to know who shot Trooper Tom. Johnny said it was Quarles, but we didn't see it -- maybe it was. I don't think so. I am getting so excited for tonight's finale! The only bad thing is that it's the end of the season and I have to wait 9 months for season 4.

SISSY: You very well may be right. I really like the Raylan/Loretta scenes. And Mags, however bad she was, did have her own moral code, and I think she loved Loretta in her own way. But wasn't the money the payoff from the mining company? I'll admit, I was a little confused about the money situation. I know Mags got most of her money through selling marijuana, but there was also the buy up of the land and then selling it to the mining company. I suppose that's money laundering, a federal crime. Limehouse proved very interesting in the last episode as well ...
Darlene Marshall
10. DarleneMarshall
I've got nothing to add to these excellent posts except that I'm enjoying the discussion and I'm anxious to see tonight's season finale.

One thing we haven't mentioned? Wardrobe and make-up should get some props for the work they do. Dickie Bennet's hair, the prostitutes, Raylan's hat--it's all working for me, in a grand way.
Kiersten Hallie Krum
11. Kiersten
I have mad love for Justified and Raylan Givens. Have been watching from the very first. The writing is so crisp and sharp and clever. Sometimes I just blink at the screen trying to process fast enough to keep up. It's just so good!

Hate Whinyna (I lurv u bungluna!) too, and I was really pissed that Ava and Raylan didn't work, but have to admit that the resulting story line for Ava and the Boyd/Ava relationship have paid off in spades and just keeps getting better and more interesting.

I do like the bartender. She keeps Raylan on his toes, first w/the shotgun and then w/the feminine virtue line, but doesn't buy into his bull. But I have to agree that his best ever match was the coal lady. That scene where she walks around in her underwear all casual like was fantastic. And then she jumps from the car without question when he needs to go save Loretta in the woods while Whinyna bitches at him in the S2 finale for almost the exact same thing. I think Carol is the best, most balanced match for Raylan and would love it if she came back (the actress was a regular on HBOs Hung, but I think that's since been canceled.)

I miss Raylan and Arlo scenes. They are so charged with subtext and emotion; the two of them really hate each other and yet still have the father/son thing going.

I believe Mag's money was from the Black Pike sale; she put some in trust for grandchildren and then rest to Limehouse who passed it to Loretta as instructed. I absolutely believe she loved Loretta and regretted what she'd done to her and that the money was a cross between a blood payment for that and b/c she looked on Loretta as a daughter, almost as her own salvation.

Man, I love this show!
Allison Brennan
12. Allison_Brennan
Darlene, I couldn't agree more! Make-up, setting, filming--they make you feel like you're right there. Dickie's hair always cracks me up.

Kiersten, great summary! And thanks for the reminder about how Winona complained when Raylan was doing his job in Season 2, while Carol was a true heroine. Gosh, even her coming back for one episode for a one night stand would be satisfying ;)
Carmen Pinzon
13. bungluna
Please don't kill me, but I have fantasies of a Lauren Dane written episode with a 3some between Boyd/Ava/Raylan. I just love Boyd and Raylan together and we haven't had enough of them this season for my taste.
Lege Artis
14. LegeArtis
Hi, Allison! I love your No Evil trilogy.
I started to watch Justifeid because of Timothy Olyphant. That man is born to wear cowboy hat! I was in love since Deadwood... But then it become so much more. All the actors are great, but Timothy nailed it. The best part is Raylan/Boyd relationship- every scene with them is captivating.
And Winona is character I loathe with all my heart. Whenever she goes and make another dispicable thing, I say: "How much more, Winona?How much?! " I hope she's gone for good.
Graham Yost, we are united in this.
Allison Brennan
15. Allison_Brennan
Yowsza, Bungluna, that'll send the "M" rating to an "X"! ;) ... I agree, however, that we needed more Raylan/Boyd time. They're so good together!

LegeArtis, yes! DEADWOOD! And since you mentioned my No Evil trilogy (thank you!) can I tell you that I would love, love, love to see Timothy Olyphant playing Sheriff Nick Thomas? Total fish out of water story, Montana cowboy-hat wearing sheriff coming to San Diego to clear his brother of a murder charge. Yum.
Megan Frampton
16. MFrampton
Shoot. Does tonight's season finale mean Winona is not out of the picture?
Allison Brennan
17. Allison_Brennan
NO SPOILERS! I'm in Califoria, plus I'm recording it because I have to put in my writing time tonight.
Allison Brennan
18. Allison_Brennan
Okay, watched the finale. AMAZING! I figure out the Arlo thing early on, but that didn't diminish my enjoyment of the end. Can't wait for January!
Kiersten Hallie Krum
19. Kiersten

That finale was AMAZING. Wynn Duffy losing his shit during Raylan's Russian Roulette. Oh holy crap, the grief and rage of Raylan Givens. Olyphant did SUCH an AMAZING job in this finale! That visual epic that was the long shot of Raylan as all the cops cars sped away from the crime scene around him. "Oh shit! It's a piggy bank!" The black humor of Raylan pulling Quarles severed arm just a little bit farther out of his reach. Johnny plotting against Boyd & Ava, the Bonnie & Clyde of Harlan County. Limehouse and his crew being the first ever to get the drop on Raylan. And the deep pathos of the final scene w/Whinyna as Raylan reveals the truth behind Arlo's crime. Wow. Just wow.
Allison Brennan
20. Allison_Brennan
You said it all Kiersten! I think I'm going to watch all three seasons again because I don't want to wait for more Raylan and Boyd. January can't come fast enough! (And Boyd & Ava really worked in this episode as well--when Ava thought he was going to prison and said they were supposed to have more time, it was just terrific.)

Boyd needs an Emmy for season. Raylan, too, though I thought he wasn't quite on his game for the first couple episodes.

I'm going to miss Tom. He was the most "normal" character.

Oh, and I'm so glad Jim Beaver is the Sheriff!! I still haven't forgiven SUPERNATURAL for killing off Bobby, but I'm so happy to see Beaver in another role.
21. Paula Altenburg
I have to agree. Love Raylan, love the series, hate Wynona. I haven't seen season 3 yet -- we appear to be behind the times in Atlantic Canada -- but I'll hunt it down somewhere.
Heather Waters
22. HeatherWaters
@Paula Altenburg -- I have a friend in Calgary who's had to watch each season on DVD, so she's behind a season too. I saw that Showcase has started playing Season 1, so I'm hoping they catch up sooner rather than later (like SyFy is doing with Lost Girl here) so that we can all watch together!
Carmen Pinzon
23. bungluna
Just wow! I kept wondering about the voice-over at the end until I realized that Raylan was talking to Whiny. The actress did a great job of showing puzzlement-realization-horror at what Raylan was telling her about Arlo.

Next season I want more Boyd-Raylan-Ava, please.
24. William Simon
Everyone has or hand one person that is nothing more or less than Kryptonite to them. Having Winona around makes Raylan, for all of his faults, a bit more human and real. He can't stay away from her, no matter what happens. We've all had one of those, I'm guessing...:)
25. Taylor Keating
I LOVE Rayland.

I just recently finished the first season, going to be borrowing the second from a friend soon!
Allison Brennan
26. Allison_Brennan
You're absolutely right, William. Winona is no good for Raylan, they have a toxic relationship, but she's his achilles heel. Elmore Leonard usually writes his female characters as being both good and bad for his heroes. Still ... I can't get over what she's done. Adultery, stealing, then making Raylan feel like shit because he has a dangerous job. Like when she tossed back Quarles losing his arm back at Raylan with sarcasm, that was just pathetic on her part.

I'd like to see Raylan with someone new, maybe a couple new girls over the next season or two. They don't have to be good for him ... where would be the fun in that? But they need to be better than Winona.
Bella Street
27. bellastreet
Justified is the best thing on TV, but Winona just might be the worst. I've screamed at the TV when she's on screen. Sooo frustrating that she makes such ridiculous demands on Raylan.

As far as a new woman--I hadn't considered that. I still have a soft spot for Ava--I thought she and Raylan were great together--but she's pretty much w/Boyd now (and slaps prostitutes--yikes!). I did not like the Carla Gugino tease--I just don't see a high-powered woman being a good fit for Raylan. Maybe it's because I'm in the South, but someone spunky with a stand-by-her-man persona seems best to me.

Frankly, I'm hoping for a romance subplot with Tim Gutterson! LOL
29. Ohiogirl
Speaking as a second wife, Winona is the classic first wife...she did not want him until it became apparent someone else did...she truly believed he would never get over her. My husband...boyfriend at the time...said it best: "She spent the last five years ignoring me...now I am the most important thing in her life." It definitely made him feel better about OUR relationship.
Toni Horton
30. Tonidh69
Wow!! I though I might be the only one who hated Whiner. I always thought Ava was a much better fit and more of a real woman. I like her and Boyd together, but I was always hoping Raylan would see the light where his ex was concerned and go back to Ava. Whinona is soooo annoying and extremely selfish. She doesn't deserve Raylan. The best scenes are with Raylan and Boyd. Their back and forth conversations are made of such great writing and acting. I started watching the show because of Timothy Olyphant. I will watch anything he is in. Loved The Perfect Getaway, Hitman, and most assuredly Deadwood. He is the man. Justified is such a gritty, down to earth drama and is fantastic to watch. I just wish they made more episodes. I missed the season finale because my cable was out, so I am waiting patiently for a replay. As far as a new woman in his life, I'm cool with the bartender as long as they flesh her out a little more...no pun intended. I thought Ava was perfect for him, so now....I just don't know. He should've cared more about Ava....damn Winona!!
31. Red-Cat
I agree that Whinona needs to get gone - she's no good for Raylan, and will just continue being an enabler of bad behavior as long as she's around. And of course, if she goes away with Raylan's child, that will just give Raylan an excuse for never-ending angst, which he does so well. But he *does* need a woman in his life who is his equal, which neither Whinona nor the bartender are. I would love to see him match wits with a female federal marshall - someone who understands the stresses of the job and wouldn't be put off by her guy getting shot at on a regular basis.
32. anthonydc
did everyone here foret that Winona saved Raylan's life in the season 2 finale?
33. KristenTheAviator
What about Constance Zimmer as his new love interest? I loved her as Dana on Entourage.
34. Ben Dunn
I know many women hate her, but they just don't get the fact that she embodies white hot desire. I hope the bring her back ASAP! She is awesome-- the Queen of chaos, a piping hot little bad pixie, in the middle of chaotic, insane place. It's an unstated fact: nobody is playing for the upper room in that county. It's refreshing to be reminded that petty bourgie jealousy is a child's code in a climate of war. Well done Elmore L, and the actress tearing up the part of Winona!
Megan Frampton
36. MFrampton
@Ben Dunn: While we welcome differing opinions, we do not allow for name-calling. I've deleted your second comment.
37. KarenC
Just found this as I was re-watching previous seasons -- thank you. I totally agree. Winona is the cliche unsupportive wife/girlfriend. So boring. It would be nice to see Raylan with a more interesting woman -- one that doesn't expect him to be what he isn't. I don't really get what the writers are doing with her. Unless its part of Raylan's personality to be with someone like her. After all, he was used to being abused by Arlo and never got his love. Maybe that's the draw to Winona. Maybe he thinks if he pleases her enough, she'll stop cutting him down and love him for who he is like his father didn't. Who knows. I like Natalie Zea but I hope she doesn't come back.
38. Dexter Si
Hello; I don't comment on these articles ever really.
However, this was dead on about Winona, who I see as the biggest problem of the show. She's a clear cut example of a woman who decided she was good looking and decided to sit back and fail to improve any other aspects of herself. The most notable aspect would be her personality and lack of moral character. She's what I would call a real world villain- a toxic influence that creates a wake of destruction in other people's lives simply by only worrying about what she wants.

I was glad to see you noticed Rebecca Creskoff's performance as much as I did- she was an excellent character. I was quite disappointed when she didn't appear in season 4. I still have hopes for her return later.
Anyway, thanks for the nice read.
39. G-man
I can't f***ing STAND Winona. You'll have to excuse me for this ladies; but, she's a total bitch.
42. GhostOfMags
I love Winona. No one knows him like she does, and she is always the woman he will come back to. There's no one else for him.
43. Raechel Frantom
Haha... Alison... I accidentally found your article by checking to see if it was just me who was irritated with Winona. So I asked it as a question on Google. Then I found your article and I couldn't say it better myself! I am so annoyed with her. In fact one night I couldn't stand it any longer and didn't even finish the episode... You write very well. I enjoyed your article and thanks for showing me that I wasn't going crazy, or being jeolous, etc...
44. Debbie W.
Dear Allison and Justified Fans, I found all this by accident when I googled a question about the show. I decided to watch it all over again and got the dvd's from the library. It's nice to know that so many others felt the same way as I about Winona. She made me feel squirmy and uncomfortable. Good actress though. The show has been paused while I read all the comments. Really enjoyable, as though you're all just sitting in someone's living room, (mine). Going to Printers Row Fair in Chicago this weekend. Maybe I'll find one of your books there!
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