Television review: Longmire so far

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Television review: Longmire so far

By John Ruberry

A cou­ple of weeks back I com­pleted my lat­est tele­vi­sion binge-​watching quest, in this case it was the neo-​western Longmire.

Walt Long­mire (Robert Tay­lor) is the Rainier Beer-​drinking, unshaved sher­iff in the fic­tional county of Absaroka in Wyoming. He’s a wid­ower putting his life and career back together after the recent death of his wife. It’s easy to imag­ine Gary Cooper pay­ing this role. His deputies are the loyal Vic­to­ria “Vic” Moretti (Katee Sack­hoff), Jim “the Ferg” Fer­gu­son (Adam Bart­ley), and not-​so-​loyal Branch Con­nally (Bai­ley Chase), who runs against Long­mire for sheriff.

The series is based on the Walt Long­mire mys­tery books by Craig Johnson.

Orig­i­nally an A&E show, the net­work, despite high rat­ings for the show, can­celled it after the third sea­son. Net­flix picked it up, air­ing the next two edi­tions. It has been renewed for a sixth and final sea­son. The books are set in Buf­falo, which is coin­ci­den­tally in John­son County, Wyoming. In the show Durant is the county seat of Absaroka. So assum­ing that John­son is Absaroka, that would give Longmire’s county 8,500 res­i­dents. And since, espe­cially in the first four sea­sons, there is a mur­der in almost every episode, that could give this rural county a homi­cide rate higher than that of Chicago, per­haps, yes, even higher than the small Maine town where the tele­vi­sion series Mur­der, She Wrote, was set. Recur­ring Long­mire char­ac­ter Louis Herthum, has expe­ri­ence with this sce­nario, as he played a cop in Mur­der She, Wrote.

Also in Absaroka is a Cheyenne Indian reser­va­tion, which isn’t in Walt’s juris­dic­tion. But just as Cap­tain Kirk was never sup­posed to vio­late the Prime Direc­tive in Star Trek, cir­cum­stances often force Long­mire to pur­sue police work on “the rez,” which for the most part annoys Math­ias (Zahn McClarnon), a Bureau of Indian Affairs police chief. His pre­de­ces­sor, Malachi Strand (Gra­ham Greene), was jailed after Long­mire busted him for extortion.

By the third sea­son the murder-​a-​week pack­age is less relied upon as the events sur­round­ing the death of Longmire’s wife, the release of Strand from prison, the build­ing of a Cheyenne casino, and devel­op­ment projects in Absaroka dri­ven by Deputy Connally’s father, Bar­low (Ger­ald McRaney), col­lide with Walt and his best friend, Henry Stand­ing Bear (Lou Dia­mond Phillips), the owner a local bar and restau­rant. A Native Amer­i­can Long­mire reg­u­larly tan­gles with is casino oper­a­tor Jacob Nighthorse (A Mar­tinez). Also cap­tured in this web is Longmire’s daugh­ter, Cady (Cas­sidy Free­man), an attor­ney who is more like her father than either char­ac­ter real­izes, as she also dis­cov­ers that doing the right thing is often an insur­mount­able chal­lenge in a flawed world.

[cap­tion id=“attachment_54680” align=“alignright” width=“206”] John “Lee” Ruberry of the
Mag­nif­i­cent Seven[/caption]

I thor­oughly enjoy Long­mire and I’m eagerly await­ing sea­son six, as sea­son five con­cluded with things in a very com­pli­cated state. As a west­ern, the cin­e­matog­ra­phy is of course superb, although the show is filmed in New Mex­ico, not Wyoming. Start­ing of course with the lead char­ac­ter, the act­ing is superb, and the story lines gen­er­ally con­tain much depth. Although I am curi­ous why Phillips’ Stand­ing Bear char­ac­ter, like the young hero­ine in True Grit, par­tic­u­larly in the Coen Broth­ers remake, never uses con­trac­tions in his speech.

If you pre­fer west­erns that aren’t “neo,” I still rec­om­mend that you give Long­mire a look. Just imag­ine cow­boy Walt rid­ing a horse instead of dri­ving a Ford Bronco, and replace moon­shine with nar­cotics. And after all of these years there is still con­flict between whites and Indi­ans. And vig­i­lan­tism is also a wel­come plot devel­op­ment in any western.

John Ruberry reg­u­larly blogs at Marathon Pun­dit.

By John Ruberry

A couple of weeks back I completed my latest television binge-watching quest, in this case it was the neo-western Longmire.

Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) is the Rainier Beer-drinking, unshaved sheriff in the fictional county of Absaroka in Wyoming. He’s a widower putting his life and career back together after the recent death of his wife. It’s easy to imagine Gary Cooper paying this role. His deputies are the loyal Victoria “Vic” Moretti (Katee Sackhoff), Jim “the Ferg” Ferguson (Adam Bartley), and not-so-loyal Branch Connally (Bailey Chase), who runs against Longmire for sheriff.

The series is based on the Walt Longmire mystery books by Craig Johnson.

Originally an A&E show, the network, despite high ratings for the show, cancelled it after the third season. Netflix picked it up, airing the next two editions. It has been renewed for a sixth and final season. The books are set in Buffalo, which is coincidentally in Johnson County, Wyoming. In the show Durant is the county seat of Absaroka. So assuming that Johnson is Absaroka, that would give Longmire’s county 8,500 residents. And since, especially in the first four seasons, there is a murder in almost every episode, that could give this rural county a homicide rate higher than that of Chicago, perhaps, yes, even higher than the small Maine town where the television series Murder, She Wrote, was set. Recurring Longmire character Louis Herthum, has experience with this scenario, as he played a cop in Murder She, Wrote.

Also in Absaroka is a Cheyenne Indian reservation, which isn’t in Walt’s jurisdiction. But just as Captain Kirk was never supposed to violate the Prime Directive in Star Trek, circumstances often force Longmire to pursue police work on “the rez,” which for the most part annoys Mathias (Zahn McClarnon), a Bureau of Indian Affairs police chief. His predecessor, Malachi Strand (Graham Greene), was jailed after Longmire busted him for extortion.

By the third season the murder-a-week package is less relied upon as the events surrounding the death of Longmire’s wife, the release of Strand from prison, the building of a Cheyenne casino, and development projects in Absaroka driven by Deputy Connally’s father, Barlow (Gerald McRaney), collide with Walt and his best friend, Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips), the owner a local bar and restaurant. A Native American Longmire regularly tangles with is casino operator Jacob Nighthorse (A Martinez). Also captured in this web is Longmire’s daughter, Cady (Cassidy Freeman), an attorney who is more like her father than either character realizes, as she also discovers that doing the right thing is often an insurmountable challenge in a flawed world.

John “Lee” Ruberry of the
Magnificent Seven

I thoroughly enjoy Longmire and I’m eagerly awaiting season six, as season five concluded with things in a very complicated state. As a western, the cinematography is of course superb, although the show is filmed in New Mexico, not Wyoming. Starting of course with the lead character, the acting is superb, and the story lines generally contain much depth. Although I am curious why Phillips’ Standing Bear character, like the young heroine in True Grit, particularly in the Coen Brothers remake, never uses contractions in his speech.

If you prefer westerns that aren’t “neo,” I still recommend that you give Longmire a look. Just imagine cowboy Walt riding a horse instead of driving a Ford Bronco, and replace moonshine with narcotics. And after all of these years there is still conflict between whites and Indians. And vigilantism is also a welcome plot development in any western.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.