In an interview with Esquire, Goggins marveled over this dynamic. “It’s that endless, overpowering obsession that each man has with the other that will lead to their ultimate downfall. It is that ego, that, ‘I am better than him, and I am going to beat Raylan Givens.'” It’s a self-destructive conflict, but if their enmity was the sum total of the show, viewers would’ve checked out early. Instead, the show’s creator, Graham Yost (who was riffing on a dense universe of criminality created by pulp maestro Elmore Leonard), took these adversaries off on side routes.
“As much as [Raylan and Boyd] interfaced in season 1 and season 2, if you go to that gold mine too many times, then you’re gonna run out of gold. The writers recognized that early on, and we all wanted every conversation Boyd and Raylan had to be advancing their relationship. You look at those seasons when Boyd, in season four, is trying to build this life with Ava and they’re coming together, and then at the end of the season their relationship comes to an end, the exact same thing is happening in Raylan’s world with Winona.”
Raylan and Boyd are agonizingly close to attaining a state of domestic stability. They could call a truce and live fulfilling lives. But they are genetically incapable of not crawling up each other’s keister. And this is why they, and those around them, suffer.