Here’s part three of our series on shows you might want to check out this summer. Just one show today and since it’s a returning show that I am quite familiar with, I’ll throw in a review, as well. Scroll to the bottom for the previous entries.
Based on Walt Longmire Mystery series of novels by Craig Johnson, Longmire also is named after its central character, Walt Longmire, the local sheriff in rural Wyoming. As the series starts, Longmire has been widowed for a year and, still in pain, hides behind a brave face and dry wit. After his wife’s death, he dragged himself into the office but his heart wasn’t really in the job. He knows it’s time to turn his life around and with the help of his daughter, Cady, and his deputy, Vic, he revives his interest in his job and decides to give his all to his re-election campaign. Victoria “Vic” Moretti is the newest addition to the sheriff’s office. She was a Philadelphia homicide detective for five years before relocating to Wyoming. While adjusting to how to deal with the locals, Vic is out to prove she’s not a rookie. She has a deep connection with Longmire along with her playful attitude and he allows her to be his most trusted deputy. Longmire’s lifelong best friend and close confidant is Henry Standing Bear, the owner of the local bar. Henry is often Walt’s go-between with the reservation. Unlike Longmire, Henry embraces progress and the trappings of the modern world while holding a close connection with his past. Another one of Longmire’s deputies is ambitious go-getter Branch Connally. He’s motivated more by political aspirations than his work as a deputy. He thinks Longmire’s stuck in the past and wants the department to have the technology that most other law enforcement agencies use. It’s his umbrage towards Walt’s outdated methods that pushes him to run for sheriff. Longmire’s only child is daughter, Cady Longmire, an attorney who dreams of practicing law in a big city. With the death of her mother, Cady has stayed to help Walt get his life back together. She isn’t afraid to tell her father like it is, and it’s this straight talk and sense of humor that makes their connection strong. Longmire’s third deputy is The Ferg who has a heart of gold. He’s loyal and well meaning and always eager to please. The Ferg can hunt and fix most anything but he’s not much of an investigator.
Last night, Longmire began its third season and the timing couldn’t be better as I just finished watching season two last week and I’m hungry for more and that’s saying a lot because quite honestly, two years ago I got three episodes into the series and put it on hiatus for over a year because it seemed like just another police procedural.
The drama, based on the Walt Longmire mystery of novels by best-selling author Craig Johnson definitely is a police procedural in the most traditional sense of the genre but I discovered after giving up on it early that the series really has far more appeal than I had originally given it credit. Whoops… muh baaad!
As far as murder mysteries go, the basic formula on Longmire is, admittedly, pretty vanilla. If, for the most part, just by the formula of the series established in the first half-dozen episodes or so (and every other police procedural done in the last 50 years) you can’t figure out “who done it” within the first 20 minutes then congratulations, you are not a couch potato and television drama junkie like I am and you are actually doing something with your life.
Of course, as I’ve noted several times in the past, the vanilla and formulaic nature of police procedurals is why I don’t watch them to begin with because none of them have anything new or particular novel to offer. Sure, there has been this flurry of police procedurals featuring lead characters with incredibly unique abilities that aren’t quite supernatural but give them a special insight into solving crimes that the regular cops don’t possess, but those are simply gimmicks used to gloss over the fact that we are still dealing with a standard “murder of the week” police procedural. Numb3rs, The Mentalist, Unforgettable (yes, CBS really likes this theme a lot) and The Finder readily come to mind as fitting this mold.
Although certainly formulaic, Longmire is one of the rare exceptions because it fills in all of the other gaps regarding good television drama that the other police procedurals don’t. The casting is excellent with every single actor being ideally suited for their role on the series and marvelously well-developed. According to what I’ve read, Robert Taylor (Walt Longmire) is apparently an incredibly well-known and accomplished Australian actor but I don’t believe any of it because I have no doubt in my mind that he is the same weathered old, incredibly well-read and educated renaissance cowboy philosopher from Wyoming that he plays on the show. Despite everything I know about Lou Diamond Phillips (who’s heritage is Spanish, Scottish/Irish, Chinese, Filipino, Hawaiian and Cherokee) I have no doubt that he is full-blooded Cheyenne and and has been best friends with Taylor since the sixth grade. That’s how truly honest these character portrayals are.
As far as Katee Sackhoff is concerned, I’m curious if she even had to audition for the role of Deputy Moretti because it’s as if Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica moved to Wyoming and became a slightly less insubordinate cop. You get the feeling that the producers read the series bible and the character descriptions, watched 10 minutes of BSG and sent her a plane ticket.
I could go on and on about the supporting cast of this show and I almost feel guilty for not but I don’t want to spend an entire piece gushing over casting and character development when the real main co-star of this show and really what sets it apart is the rural Wyoming backdrop which, ironically, much like the show’s titular protagonist, is completely faking its true local origins. Y’see, the fictional Absaroka County, Wyoming is actually in and around the Santa Fe, New Mexico area. But, once again, I don’t believe it. As far as I’m concerned, even though I’ve never been to Wyoming, I am absolutely convinced that the show takes place there because the writers and producers have done such a brilliant job in crafting this fantastic living and breathing environment and community that it leaves simply no doubt that what you are seeing is the genuine article.
Part of it is the character development, part of it has to do with selective exterior shots of the landscape (that have even fooled actual Wyoming residents) but more importantly is the presentation of the storylines that address issues inherent to the locals of that part of the country that due to isolation and small populations aren’t very well-known to the rest of us. Quite often, the storylines are centered on the issues related to the Indian Reservations or ranching or any one of a dozen issues that is part and parcel with that region of the country but it’s done in such a way as to make it accessible to audiences to the point that they easily relate with this community and subconsciously can easily accept Absoroka County as their own community.
One of the few things that does annoy me about Longmire that was stolen right out of the “Mad Libs For Police Procedurals” manual is the obligatory “Scooby Doo Ending” of every episode which I complain about ad nauseum. If you’re not familiar with the “Scooby Doo Ending,” this is how it goes: the prime suspect in the last five minutes of the episode (sans attorney, of course) while being interrogated basically has the interrogator tell them all of the details of the crime the interrogator knows they committed (without any actual evidence or with only the most insignificant circumstantial evidence) and then the suspect admits to doing it while lamenting how they could have gotten away with it. The only thing missing is the rubber mask reveal and the phrase “…if it weren’t for those meddling kids [and their dog].” For 10 plus years of examples of this nonsense, simply turn on any episode of CSI as that’s all they do on that show. The only difference with the Longmire S.D.E. is that that more often than not, our killer is a local who either made a big mistake and regrets what they’ve done or it was an accident that they foolishly tried to cover up or they were motivated by grief/justice/sadness, i.e., our killer is sympathetic and a shade of gray.
That said, however, I’m willing to let Longmire off the hook for even this Cardinal sin because the three or four intertwined main recurring story arcs have been so damned compelling that you find yourself not really caring that much about whatever particular “murder of the week” is on the schedule, anyway.
Longmire does such a great job in every other aspect of crafting good television that I can forgive its shortcomings in the procedural drama arena. Honestly, the show is so well put-together that it seems that if the “murder of the week” aspect to it is merely incidental and almost filler in order to advance the character development and overall arcs. Needless to say, that’s rare indeed, and in fact, I’ve never seen a procedural that took such an approach that deliberately and was successful doing it.
So, if you haven’t watched Longmire, yet, set your DVR for the current episodes and head on over to Netflix and get caught up as both seasons one and two are currently available.
As for our multi-part series, 37 Shows That You Might Want To Check Out This Summer, you can find part one, here and…
Check out part two, here.