Longmire has always been a show I've been curious about, but that curiosity was never enough for me to give it a shot. I think what kept me from really diving in was the combination of it being another cop drama, and the fact that the cast didn't really stand out. Even with my hesitations, I've still always wondered about the modern western series. As I was looking through Netflix for this week's pilot, Longmire stood out and became the easy choice.
Based on the mystery novels by Craig Johnson, Longmire debuted on A&E in June of 2012. After it's third season, A&E announced they would not renew the series for a fourth. After some shopping by the producers, Netflix agreed to pick up the series for new episodes, just as the streaming service had done for AMC's The Killing. Season four debuted on September 10, 2015 and, by October 30, Netflix announced they would renew the series for a fifth season.
The first thing that stands out when you start watching Longmire is just how beautiful Wyoming looks. From the forests, to the mountains, much of the scenery in the episode is gorgeous. The second thing that stands out is just how much Robert Taylor (Walt Longmire) looks like Brett Favre. Its uncanny, and I can't un-see it. I also think he may have taken acting lessons from Clint Eastwood and I can't tell yet if that's a good or bad thing. Aside from that, the acting in the pilot is much better than I expected. Katee Sackhoff, who played the crazy mother in the horror film Oculus, stars as Longmire's right hand woman. Judging by this episode alone, she seems to be the most talented in the cast. Lou Diamond Phillips also stars as Walt's longtime best friend and bartender, Henry. Phillips provides a great wit to counteract the dry, old school personality of Longmire.
The series opens with a very vague murder that doesn't leave us with much of a clue as to what's actually happened. I actually kinda liked that I couldn't sit there and think about who it could have been. We soon learn that Walt Longmire is two things. He's depressed from the loss of his wife, and he's extremely old school. He refuses to get a cell phone and still drives an old bronco around. When Vic (Sackhoff) calls him out to the murder, it's made clear that he still has a keen eye around a crime scene. The investigation takes them back to the station, and we meet the stereotypical "Young Gun" looking to take down the old-timer. Literally, Deputy Branch is running for sheriff against Longmire and hasn't bothered to tell him yet. This part of the story line is a little too rundown for me, but it's done well enough that I'll let it slide.
Most of what followed was very procedural, which bothered me a bit. My biggest worry here is that the entire first season is going to turn into that stereotype that befalls so many procedure-based law shows. You know what I'm talking about, the kind of show where every episode follows a different case and has a very small, underlying story to barely link the episodes together. I kind of feel like the only things that will keep the episodes fluid are the dead wife and the sheriff election, and that doesn't seem like enough. However, when the final five minutes of the episode rolled around, I forgot all about those worries. The finale was action-packed, and actually surprised me. It's not often I'm actually surprised by an episode's ending, so kudos to Longmire for keeping me on my toes. The other thing I really appreciated here was the tastefulness of the violence. It wasn't over the top or hard to watch, but it was enough to keep it from being cheesy, and it gave gun violence the a serious tone. None of it was taken lightly, and it showed they have enough respect for violence that they don't want people to think it's not that big of a deal. I really loved the way that final gunfight was handled.
When it's all said and done, I was very pleased with Longmire's pilot. What I expected to be a dull and cheesy program, turned out to be a wonderful surprise. I definitely consider that an hour well spent, and I think it'd be wise to give Longmire the shot it deserves.