It's fair to say Longmire is a stubborn old coot of a show. Between the many wood-paneled interiors, big sky, and conversations where all parties have hands placed firmly on hips, sometimes it feels like the feisty A&E; hit should be titled Little Walker, Texas Medicine Woman on the Prairie. Much like the titular Wyoming sheriff-cum-detective, this show isn't too concerned with being something it's not. Based on Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire Mysteries crime novels, the sheriff and his team of recognizable characters are just fine doing what they do and don't need any fancy (AMC/FX/HBO) bells and whistles, thankyouverymuch. Like a set-in-his-ways grandpappy whose eccentricities family members eventually just have to accept and even grow to love, the first ten episodes of this familiar-yet-surprisingly-unique procedural crime series turned out to be actually pretty fun (and yes, there will be a Season 2). Between the wholesome setting, solid characters, and dedication to inventive mysteries that drew mainly on the world's specific resources there's more here to like than not. So fasten your belt buckle, cock your Stetson, and let's take a trip through the beautiful and dastardly parts of Absaroka County...
Robert Taylor, Katee Sackhoff, Lou Diamond Phillips, Bailey Chase, Cassidy Freeman, and Adam Bartley are all seasoned vets perfectly cast in their roles. Each provides a source of drama and comedy respective to character, whether it's Taylor's gruffly clever leader, Sackhoff's sass-mouthed Philly transplant, or Diamond Phillips' wise and wise-cracking Cheyenne bartender. Chase is a young challenger to Walt's position as sheriff who also happens to be dating his daughter, played by Freeman, while Bartley provides comic relief as a foolish yet committed underling. No one here overlaps—they are an efficient and thought-out team that from the first episode onward functioned like a well-oiled machine.
If there's an MVP here, it would be the crimes. Between orchestrated bear attacks, arrow deaths, Mennonite strippers, meth-laced greeting cards, cult members strapped to train tracks, and legit Native American Dog Soldiers, Longmire knows itself very well. Yes, all those crazy phrases were really part of the show. Especially fascinating is the regular interaction with a neighboring autonomous Cheyenne community that Walt and his team occasionally help, receive help from, and even butt heads with through cultural disagreement. It's clear that Craig Johnson's source material is researched on the inner-politics of a Native American reservation, as evidenced in the episode titled "Dog Soldiers," wherein a scheme centers on the illegal fostering of Cheyenne children because they command twice as much federal stipend money than other kids. Didn't know that! Essentially, credit where credit is due for not being a too-cool-for-school CSI: Wyoming.
The fake-Wyoming setting (I'm told the show is filmed in New Mexico) is basically gold-colored heaven and Longmire puts all the natural beauty on full display, along with plenty of dirt roads, historic municipal buildings, wealthy lodges, and an occasional sleazy home. Cameron Duncan and J. Michael Munro have a slew of film credits between them as camera operators, and the whole time they must have been stockpiling dream shots that've now found their way onto A&E.; Some episodes leave viewers feeling like they've vacationed in a charming small town that serves great pie and where everyone says "hello." Plus, there were plenty of Neil Young-type distorted guitars and even a cover of Jace Everett's "Bad Things" to accompany some of the more cinematic moments.
Understandably, procedurals focus most on weekly crimes while the forces on the solving end remain relatively unchanged. Season 1 teased out a thin plot via Walt's flashbacks involving his deceased wife, secret stab wounds, and mysterious travels to Denver, Colorado that amounted to about five minutes of screen time. Walt is an emotionally private man and the death of his spouse from cancer actually turned out to be random, drug-fueled murder, with the sheriff killing the alleged meth-addled culprit. This moral lapse added darkness and edge to our normally wholesome hero, yet his demons were kept so at bay that the overall arc felt barely present and uninteresting.
There was also no guiding metaphorical argument to the world of Longmire. We're told that Walt is tortured by his past, but aside from the occasional Unsolved Mysteries-like memory, his wrongs don't comment on the nature of humanity. Without this connection to a larger truth the main character appeared stock, lifeless, and not worth emotional or intellectual investment. It's hard to feel sympathetic for someone who's only marginally affected in the present by personal crimes. The underused supporting cast is likely raring to be given their own flashback plots that could make a summary statement about the laws of man through both weekly crimes and the individual struggles of the team.
An antagonist as capable as Walt but with inverse values would help define the Wyoming sheriff through regular comparison and provide an honest challenge. Sherlock Holmes had Moriarty, Elton John has Madonna, why not give Walt an element stronger than perps and closet-skeletons to battle? Hell, why not Barlow Connally?
Longmire's the kind of show where if you're home, and your retired parents put it on, it's not that hard to enjoy. The most fun comes from its straight-faced presentation of ruggedly wacko crimes but probably won't satisfy those who want more than open-and-shut case-of-the-week adventures. Then again, a slower pace now and again is kind of nice, so check out at least three episodes before writing this one off all together.
– Do you like Longmire?
–Who is your favorite character?
– Do you agree or disagree with any or all of these claims?
– Will you be tuning in for Season 2?