This week’s Longmire featured a Contrary Warrior, which is apropos as I’m feeling vaguely contrary about the show myself these days. I’d been hoping the expanded second season would give the writers a bit more room to explore and develop the characters of and relationships between Walt and his own warriors. But as we approach the midway point of the season, I feel a little disgruntled that somehow it still feels like a novelty when we get a scene where two of the main characters interact. For example, this is maybe only the fourth or fifth scene we’ve gotten in sixteen episodes where Vic and Branch have a conversation. Likewise, Ruby and Cady share a scene for what might be the first time. Longmire the show operates in a curious kind of bubble where even Walt’s interactions with everyone don’t really progress much, or give us more insight into the characters. And it’s getting sort of frustrating.
There’s been a lot of tease on this show so far, without much real answers or resolution. I know it’s a slow burn, but we’re just getting to the debate for an election that’s been talked about for a season and a half—-and it lasts for about 10 pretty interesting minutes before it’s derailed by a prank tying in to the ultimately inconsequential mystery of the week.
The emphasis on the weekly mysteries is sadly robbing the show of some of its depth and ability to be serially compelling.
This episode’s case—about the murder of a psychic—detracts from the potentially more interesting power dynamics between Branch, his dad (the terribly wonderful Gerald McRaney), Jacob Nighthorse, and Walt. Unfortunately, I have to say “potentially,” because their many scenes fall short of truly interesting, since we don’t really learn anything new in ANY of these scenes.
Branch is still a good guy making some bad decisions while he tries to stand up to his bullying blowhard father and the ominously shady Nighthorse. Walt is still treating Branch like something on the bottom of his shoe instead of a deputy. Vic is still annoyed for no particularly good reason (and this week, she has a sympathetic diatribe on behalf of the murder victim that seemed awfully uncharacteristic and had me thinking “Oh, Vic in the books would never…”). Ferg is still being Ferg, and coming up with what seems like a good clue, but turns out to be nothing. Even Walt and Cady’s relationship, the one that has by far the most heart and gravitas, seems to be stuck on pause, something fittingly and metaphorically demonstrated by the final scene, where Cady LITERALLY pauses a tape they find in the psychic’s cabin where she was about to reveal Walt’s “future” to his (then-living) wife during a consultation.
The thing that’s most frustrating here is that the characters on Longmire are unique and interesting, and the cast is all-around excellent, but without any forward momentum and actual story arcs that have a lasting effect and enact change in the characters, they just keep having to play the same beats over and over. At this point, I’m rooting for Walt to lose the election just so the show is forcibly shaken out of its comfort zone. I’d really like the chance to be surprised by our characters, rather than just by the red herrings of the week.
That being said, I suspect the six million-plus viewers the show pulls in are perfectly content to get an interesting mystery with local color and a few fun wisecracks from our familiar Absaroka faces each week. Like the sheriff himself, they’re probably content to find out “soon enough” what the future holds for him. But I still can’t help but wonder if the show will eventually evolve into something more of a serial drama and less of a CBS procedural. Until then, I’ll just be over here, riding backwards on my horse.
Tara Gelsomino is a reader, writer, pop culture junkie, and Internet addict. You can tweet her at @taragel.