“Ashes to Ashes” wrapped up a couple more of the main arcs and ended with a riveting season finale that was quite satisfying for this Longmire fan. Rather than try to hit all the plot points, here are some of the highlights I enjoyed, and I hope you will add your favorite moments in the comments.
Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) finds Branch Connally (Bailey Chase) walking down the road, shotgun in hand. In the back of the sheriff’s vehicle, David Ridges (David Midthunder) lies dead. Longmire picks up the lone wolf who has been “out in the cold” for a majority of this season, desperately trying to convince anyone who’d listen that the White Warrior was alive. In Branch’s tired, vacant stare at his would-be assassin, there’s a mixture of disbelief that his ordeal is finally over, perhaps, wondering if, even now, the corpse won’t come back alive for one more encounter.
Outside the office, Longmire bars Branch from going in. When Branch asks what he has to do to earn his way back in, Longmire replies he doesn’t know. Inside, Longmire commands Ferg (Adam Bartley) to clean out Branch’s desk and take the man his belongings while the sheriff and Vic Moretti (Katee Sackhoff) set out to arrest Jacob Nighthorse.
Nighthorse (A. Martinez) has lawyered up—she’s there in his office—and he has, on the surface, a damn good alibi. There's a recorded conversation between himself and David Ridges that clears him of violating their agreement and of setting up Longmire for an ambush. When Nighthorse rambles on about how he’s tired of constantly being scrutinized, he crosses the line by invoking Longmire’s late wife’s name. Longmire turns to strike the swine with a closed first—but instead belts Vic squarely in the face! It was one of the few times I can remember watching television and recoiling in shock at both Longmire’s mistake and Vic’s bloody pain. Shortly after, I laughed out loud when Vic and Longmire walk into the Red Pony and Henry (Lou Diamond Phillips) asks what happened. Walt says, “The usual,” and Vic says, “Walt punched me.” Just another day at the office.
Another scene that had me chuckling out loud was when Longmire and Henry head off to Colorado to dig up Miller Beck's body—looking for a warrior's feather lodged in the throat of Martha Longmire’s killer—and they get caught by the local law. The exchange between Longmire and Henry as they navigate the cops into helping them out is a comical routine, Henry playing a grave robber—with two shovels—with lawman Longmire hot on his heels. They recover the body, and Longmire gets to reach into the deceased’s seriously macabre-looking skeleton to pull out the feather—the main piece of evidence that finally clears Henry. Later, when Longmire and Henry lug Miller Beck’s coffin back to where David Ridges’s body is being kept, they find out from Ferg that someone picked the lock and made off with Ridges. Henry genuinely asks, “Someone stole a corpse?” Ferg comments, “I know. Pretty sick, right?” What a hoot (owl pun intended).
In a season of incredible performances from the whole cast, Robert Taylor delivered powerfully in the scene when Walt finally lets go of Martha. He releases her ashes onto the ground where he promised “'til death do us part” years ago. It was moving to see Walt's body language, as if he were still reaching out for Martha as the remains sifted through his fingers.
The season wrapped up the David Ridges storyline, as well as Vic’s stalker situation and Henry Standing Bear’s plight. Of course, I was left asking: who set the wheels in motion for Miller Beck to kill Martha Longmire? I had suspected Malachi (Graham Greene), and to a lesser degree Jacob Nighthorse, just as Longmire seemed to believe at the end of this episode. I kept watching the clock as the minutes were dwindling down, wondering what surprises were left in store.
What I didn’t see coming was Branch’s father Barlow (Gerald McRaney) being the responsible party. While Branch and Barlow are trap shooting and talking about the business, Branch gets his father to admit his connections to Nighthorse. Not only did Barlow funnel money through Nighthorse to support Branch’s campaign for Sheriff, he also made a significant payment made to Nighthorse’s business the week that Martha was killed—a payment intended for a “soldier,” with no questions asked.
Aha! So that’s why (in terms of story justice) Longmire got to shoot Ridges himself, even though he doesn’t yet know that it was Ridges who killed Miller Beck. As the scene closes with Branch getting ready to take in his corrupt father, maybe hoping to earn his way back into the department or just because he’s realized that he’s not like his dad, Branch’s father says he’s sorry he failed him, but it’s not too late to have another son. Boom! We hear the shotgun blast as we see Longmire looking concerned while scanning the landscape, as if he heard it, too.
But all this begs the question, if Barlow Connally hired David Ridges to kill Martha Longmire, did Ridges do the deed himself, or did he outsource the murder by hiring Miller Beck? And why was Ridges going after Branch so adamantly? And doesn’t it seem rather misplaced for Barlow to kill Longmire’s wife—why would he think that would get his son into the sheriff’s office? Why not kill Longmire himself?
Here’s hoping Longmire returns for Season 4, because there are so many questions that still need to be answered. But, damn, wasn’t that a top season closer?!