In today's frazzled, frenzied world Sheriff Walt Longmire slows his roll. He takes his time. His bailiwick lies under the open skies of Absaroka, Wyoming. Adapting author Craig Johnson's Western mystery novels, LONGMIRE charts a more leisurely course, far removed from the hi-tech hustle and bustle of them CSI shows. It celebrates the stillness of a man, the grace of listening and of paying attention. Walt Longmire is very much a product of his environs, patient and a man of few words and keenly observant. But he's had a year's worth of awful, his wife dyin', his subsequent fall from grace, his descent into dark depression. At last he pulls himself up, begins again to take an interest in keeping the peace and mending fences with his attorney daughter Katie (Cassidy Freeman). And it's good timing. Murder and other sorts of unkindness have breached Absaroka.
I was appalled when AMC started halfassing it as a classic film network, and now here's A&E subverting its original mission statement. I had no idea that A&E programming had branched out from producing biographies and prestigious British dramas. But while I condemn the network for selling out and dipping into the realm of reality shows, it keeps a sliver of its soul by broadcasting LONGMIRE, this compelling contemporary western detective series.
I won't lie. Katee Sackhoff brung me here. But it's Robert Taylor's impeccable, world-weary performance that keeps me coming back. Robert Taylor looks like John Schneider's tougher, more careworn brother. His role calls for a laconic approach but also a certain soulfulness. Longmire is a broken, devastated person, still reeling from his wife's passing. This sense of loss colors everything he does. Longmire embodies that aphorism, "Still waters run deep." When you least expect it, he'll break down a Latin phrase for you.
The cases the sheriff's office investigates aren't the big draw, although there's fun in watching Longmire and his staff work under the constraints of limited, outdated resources (Longmire himself doesn't own a cell phone). But it's all about the examination of character and the interplay among the cast. The complex relationships keep it interesting. Before Longmire's rededication to his craft, when he was wallowing in grief, his slick, ambitious deputy, Branch Connally (Bailey Chase), decided to run against him for reelection. Deputy Connally smirks: "Given the choice between some fresh thinkin' and a tired absentee sheriff drivin' around with empty beer cans all over the floor of his truck, I like my odds." It makes for good water cooler talk, having a smug snake in the grass.
I love Katee Sackhoff's take on whatever role she's playing. She always puts her own distinctive spin on it. You can't take your eyes off her, not only because she's very easy on the eyes, but because she's always doing something interesting when she acts, a look, a mannerism, that big smile. Her Victoria "Vic" Moretti - former Philly homicide detective, now six months in as sheriff's deputy in Absaroka - is a sexy, take-no-crap sort of woman who is endlessly loyal to Longmire. And so what if maybe the dress code doesn't seem to apply to her? In big, open-skied Wyoming, you're surely allowed a few buttons unbuttoned.
YOUNG GUNS 2 and, don't judge me, THE POWER will always be my two favorite Lou Diamond Phillips pictures. But you can't deny that he lends tremendous depth as Henry Standing Bear, Longmire's wise and capable Cheyenne best friend. One of the show's thru arcs revolves around whatever shady skullduggery Longmire and Standing Bear got up to in Denver a year back. Standing Bear's signature flourish is that he talks like he's got a grudge against contractions. Meanwhile, Adam Bartley as "The Ferg" Ferguson, a well-meaning but bumbling sheriff's deputy whom Walt hired to do a solid for Ferg's pops, serves as the Enos Strate of the series. The Ferg provides laughs and earnestness and a big heart. Okay, I realize I'd just gone three paragraphs breaking down the cast, but they mean that much to the show.
Stetsons and jeans and guzzling Rainier beer and navigating a beat-up Ford Bronco, that's how it's done in Absaroka if you've got the big badge. The series opens just as Walt Longmire reckons it's time he gets back in the mix: mend some fences, solve some crimes, maybe take down his ambitious deputy a peg or three. Is Longmire an old relic? Or does he still have game? He's grown odd. He compulsively picks up litter. He keeps his wife's ashes in a tea box in the kitchen. Can he keep the peace, never mind his office's infighting and the surge in murders and that the Cheyenne reservation's territorial tribal police often gets in the way? Set in a rugged, unspoiled landscape, where man and nature commune, is he the lawman to take on murderous Mennonites and mobile brothels and fearsome dog soldiers? And just what the he11 happened in Denver? Mister, you just got to tune in.
LONGMIRE - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON has its ten episodes on two discs. The bonus stuff consist of two featurettes:
- "The Camera's Eye: Realizing the World of Longmire - Set against the backdrop of the West, the world of the cowboy detective is revealed" (00:18:53 minutes)
- "Longmire Justice: Exploring the Cowboy Detective - We see how the American tradition of the cowboy and the detective genre blend so well together" (00:28:57 minutes)