Bearing Patiently with Longmire (for now)

Longmire (A&E) Exec producer Hunt Baldwin, starring Robert Taylor, Lou Diamond Phillips, Bailey Chase, and Katee Sackhoff

I admit it. I only started watching this show last season because I was a ridiculously obsessive fan of Battlestar Galactica (2003), and particularly the Starbuck character played so memorably by Katee Sackhoff, and Katee has a supporting role here. After I started watching Longmire, I discovered that the show was being produced by a long-lost ‘Hollywood friend’ of mine, Chris Donohue, whom I met working at Paulist Productions and then whom I followed when he ably managed the Humanitas Prize for several years. Because Chris had such foundational experience at Humanitas working with good writers, I was hopeful that Longmire would end up being a solidly written show.

Oh well. Not so far. We are just one episode into season two, but the season opener was confusing and felt like they ended up having to cut a few scenes that needed to be there at the end. More problematically, most of the show was spent pushing main character Walt Longmire (played by Robert Taylor) from the dramatically sympathetic “man who struggles with his darkness” into the dramatically uncomfortable and un-admirable “man who has lost it and has weird out of body hallucinations.” There’s a reason Aristotle says that one of the elements to making a character relatable to an audience is “propriety.” No one wants to empathize with someone who is too weird to live.

The show-runners are clearly trying to correct a lack of depth in the show. All of last season felt like a show in search of a real cool premium-cable social commentary subtext. Unlike, say, Homeland – (all bow) – which has really big main story conflicts to foreground while the main character is falling apart, Longmire makes the dramatic mistake of, as Casablanca warned, trying to make the “problems of three little people” amount to more than “a hill of beans.” Story has to be first. Then, character. Especially on television where the main character can’t change so much that it would take them beyond the show’s bible. And even with all the character baggage stuff in Longmire, my feeling at the end of season one was that the writing wasn’t up to the job of dealing with it. There wasn’t a lot of real insight underneath all the character angst they were throwing at us. A lot of episodes were less fun and more “scratching my head and asking my husband, ‘uh what was that?’ and not in a good way.”

So sadly, the writing just isn’t there in Longmire which will doom it’s long-term prospects if they don’t pick up the level soon. The dialogue is often wince-worthy, and, in the case of Lou Diamond Philip’s (oh-so-politically-correct) wise Indian character, even painful in that they won’t let him use verbal contractions. The character keeps saying smart things in a dumb-sounding way. The supporting characters only seem like foils for Walt, and when the show does give them some story lines, it feels like flailing and not where the show really wants to be. The crime stories are usually predictable. And finally, unlike a great show like BSG (2003), there doesn’t seem to be any theme or subtext to Longmire at all.

Having said that, I’m not giving up on Longmire yet. There’s something in the look and arena of this show that raises it refreshingly above the way, way, way over-done procedural genre and I’m so hoping they correct the writing issues because I want to keep watching. The Santa Fe locations, which are supposed to be Wyoming, are nicely therapeutic, even if they are always revealing dead bodies. I am always watching episodes and thinking about taking a future vacation there. And then there is a great lead actor in Robert Taylor. And then there’s Katee who always seems to be huffing and puffing here, but perhaps it’s just because she’s trying to generate some kind of deeper level to her character. It must be hard for an actor to go from a brilliantly written show like BSG to one like Longmire that is always flirting with the pedestrian.

There’s a place for a show like Longmire on television today. It’s different, in a good way and so, despite everything I said above, I am recommending people check it out. Maybe if a lot more people start watching, they will bring in some better writers.

  • http://www.parafool.com/ victor

    Not only BSG, but Stargate and Buffy are represented in the principal cast as well. We might watch this after we get around to watching Hell On Wheels someday.

  • Rebecca Fuentes

    Yes. Exactly. I really want to be over the top for Longmire because I grew up in, and live, in small town WY. I want it to be well written and deeply acted because it is portraying both a place I love and a culture I am very familiar with. It just . . . misses, mostly. Occasionally something rings very true, and I want to cheer.

    • brnicolosi

      There are so many great writers with their hats in their hands these days. There really is no excuse for bad writing. But let’s keep hoping….

  • Darrell Laffoon

    I think Longmire is awesome. I discovered it 2 weeks ago and have almost completed season 1. Each episode gets better and better. And “Hell on Wheels” is also very good. Cant wait for next season.

  • cineboy

    We hadn’t heard of Longmire until your post. Last night we watched the pilot and liked it. It wasn’t great, but good. Taylor is very good. The mystery was second rate, though it still held our attention. If the rest of the episodes are similar then I suppose it will be okay. Also, when I saw the title, Longmire, I thought “long mire” and wondered why that name; not only does it not roll off the tongue in a pleasant way, but it portends an ongoing and intractable slog for both characters and viewers.

  • Chad Beharriell

    It would be interesting to read your review of subsequent Season 2 Longmire episodes. I teach a college-level Western course and write about the genre at http://www.westernsreboot.com – my students learn about Longmire as an example of the contemporary Western (i.e. a Western set today).

    I think Longmire has demonstrated the ability to mix both historical components of the Western genre with current issues in an imaginative way, particularly in the most recent episode (June 17th). If interested, I recently did a post that analyzed that episode:

    http://westernsreboot.com/2013/06/19/longmire-cattle-rustling-in-the-21st-century/

    Thanks,

    Chad

  • Michael Yori

    I want this show to NOT be a procedural! I cannot STAND that genre of television, but I like this show. Is it possible they can just abandon that aspect of the show? I know its based on a series of mystery books but….the “dead bodies popping up” at the beginning of every show is just getting ridiculous. I also completely agree with Lou Diamond Philip’s accent…CUT it out Sir…its borderline disrespectful to our First Nation brethren.

  • Scoots McGee

    The writers of Longmire need to be shot and left in a dumpster. About 75 % of what go on in the show don’t make any sense. A train hobo kills a businessman at the back door of his business put him on a train, then the hobo camps out 30 feet from the back door for days. Then days later to get out of town he kidnaps LDP instead of hopping the first train going the other direction after killing the businessman three day before.

    Walt is in a life and death fist fight with a convict in freezing weather, he struggles to keep his cowboy hat on, like a bald headed man hiding his head.
    Walt wears the winter coat at all times, when everyone around him are wearing
    t shirts.
    The last episode Tuscan Red, nothing tied together
    1. You put a casino training tent square in the very middle of the construction site.
    2. How could one guess who killed the casino HR guy? It seemed as if the writers noticed it was 5 minutes before the show was over, and said” lets pin on the somebody, hows about the guy across the street we haven’t shown in the entire episode.
    3. For what end does LDP get arrested at the protest?
    4. How does Walt daughter know her boyfriend was running speed radar behind some trees.
    5. When did he have time to write the speeding ticket?
    6. The entire “res” goes to the oil company to protest, they go ON to the oil companies property and protest one pick-up truck, with the oil companies hired security force just looks on.
    Many more examples of terrible writing.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X