Can a person who’s done terrible things still be a good person? That’s the question driving the second season of Longmire.
Ostensibly a mystery series, the TV show Longmire is really a modern-day western set in the fictional county of Absaroka, Wyoming. Our hero, a man of few words and even less technology—he refuses to buy a cell phone—is the anachronistic Walt Longmire, the sheriff of said county and the only thing that stands between the Absaroka police force and too-easy Mayberry comparisons. In other words, old dogs can still be pretty badass even without new tricks.
Based on the mystery novels by Craig Johnson, Longmire has hit its stride in its second season. In season one, Walt was dealing with the death of his wife (which happened before the show began), his daughter Cady was trying to “help” him move on by being really annoying, and one of his deputies by the name of Branch decided to run against him for sheriff while banging Cady. This soap-operatic quagmire’s Oedipal overtones were only made more palpable by the fact that Cady and Walt’s relationship as father and daughter is TOTALLY UNBELIEVABLE. They treat each other more like ex-spouses, which isn’t helped by the fact that the actress who plays Cady (Cassidy Freeman) could do with a stint in Over-Acting Anonymous. Shouting is really not a viable way to express all emotion, just FYI.
The Cady-Branch-Walt triangle made season one a little awkward. But fortunately Cady left Absaroka at the end of the season, all in a huff because Walt forgot to mention her mom was murdered (oops?), and now we can focus on better things. Such as mysteries and wonderments, like does Walt’s favorite deputy, Vic, have a Dark Past? And how long will it take the Denver PD to figure out that Walt and his BFF, Henry Standing Bear, killed the man who murdered Walt’s wife in Denver before the series started? I’m guessing that plot line will last until the end of the season.
Longmire is at its best when it focuses on the interactions between Walt and the other main characters, due to the pitch-perfect casting. In particular there’s Katee Sackhoff of Battlestar Galactica fame as the take-no-bullshit Vic (basically the same type of character as Starbuck, but that’s okay because Sackhoff’s awesome at playing that character), Lou Diamond Phillips (hereafter known as LDPh) as Henry, and Aussie Robert Taylor in the title role. The actors really bring the show to life, especially if you’ve read the books, to which the TV series is relatively faithful.
As mentioned, Longmire isn’t really about murder mysteries—which are largely forgettable even when they’re total downers—but about how conflicts define a person. Innovation versus tradition, heart versus head, order versus lawlessness, reality versus perception, what you are versus what you want to be, fences versus free-range, hat versus no hat (kidding, that’s not a conflict because the answer is always hat). From the Battle of Little Big Horn—which Henry commemorates with a painting in his bar—to the election for sheriff, Longmire shows how conflict drives not only people, but is a creating force in towns and even the entire country. Every major character is pulled in at least two different directions, but Walt is the only one who can see the pattern of conflict in Absaroka County, undoubtedly a useful skill in a sheriff.
With big themes, revenge plots, a main character who’s the strong silent type, and a range of entertaining sidekicks, Longmire does a decent job of pulling westerns into the 21st century.