Mon
Jun 2 2014 10:00pm

Longmire 3.01: Season Premiere “The White Warrior”

“The White Warrior” opens with Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) thundering across the dusty landscape in his SUV with Deputy Branch Connally’s bleeding body in the back en route to the nearest medical service: a clinic on the reservation. He skids to a stop in front of an attendant sitting outside. When the man hurries around and notices Branch’s injuries, he asks, “What did you do to him?” and in a flashback, we see Longmire sewing up the gunshot wound with fishing line to slow the bleeding. The attendant rushes past Longmire, wheeling Branch toward the clinic on a stretcher, telling him he should have called 9-1-1. “I am 9-1-1,” Longmire deadpans. That line is more than amusing; there’s bite in the way the world-weary cowboy delivers it in a gravelly voice edged with tiredness.

And rightfully so. The season two cliffhanger of Longmire had left the Absaroka County sheriff’s world upside down and viewer expectations running high: Besides Branch’s ambush, Longmire’s best friend Henry Standing Bear was being hauled off to jail on murder charges and another of his deputies Victoria “Vic” Moretti (Katee Sackhoff) was being stalked by a manipulating ex-lover.

After Branch’s (Bailey Chase) condition is stabilized, he’s adamant that the late extremist David Ridges, dressed as a warrior covered in white ash, attacked and shot him. But Longmire suspects Branch’s faculties have been compromised; after all, Ridges’ suicide was captured on video though no body was found. Longmire’s suspicions are confirmed when a 4-inch crow feather that had been pulled from under some muscle tissue in the bullet wound is found to be laced with peyote. Hallucinations of the White Warrior continue to haunt Branch while he’s recovering in the hospital, having some dire consequences later on when Longmire’s daughter, Cady, comes to visit him.

At Branch’s insistence that Ridges is alive, Longmire returns to the sacred pyre site with his deputy Ferg (Adam Bartley) not only to collect evidence from the shooting but also to recover the remains Branch had bagged for a positive identification. Mathias, chief of the Cheyenne reservation's tribal police,arrives and confiscates the bag of ashes, which he pours out on the ground, telling Longmire and Ferg to immediately leave his territory. As they head back to the pickup truck, Ferg steps into the ash, which initially appeared to be a clever maneuver on Ferg’s part, but we quickly learn it was purely accidental (or, perhaps plain brazen); when Ferg sits on the tailgate, Longmire lifts the deputy’s foot, explaining to Ferg that he just “stole evidence,” and then, with a jackknife, proceeds to scrape the ash from the boot tread into a plastic bag.

Longmire’s suspicions fall on Jacob Nighthorse, a local businessman who had previously taken Branch to the Rez and threatened him (warned, as Nighthorse claims) not to remove any remains since disturbing holy ground would be dangerous. It doesn’t help Nighthorse’s case when Longmire sees an antique headdress in Nighthorse’s office that’s adorned with feathers similar to the one found in Branch’s wound (which I’m thinking it’s a little too obvious of a red herring, though I could be wrong—we’ll see). But Nighthorse has an alibi—he was at a commerce meeting when Branch was shot.

Meanwhile, Branch’s vocal and racist father, Barlow Connally (Gerald McRaney), is blaming Longmire for not sending backup for his son and demands a suspect name when Longmire shows up at his house to confirm Nighthorse’s alibi, which Barlow does. But the sheriff has a “notion” that changes the tide of the conversation: the real target could be Barlow himself, to which Barlow replies, “Well, if that’s true, the shooter better hope that you get to him before I do.”

Branch guilts Longmire by saying if he believed him about Ridges then he’d go back to the reservation to search for the truth. So Longmire goes. Keeping a good distance, he sees through binoculars a large fire with five individuals in traditional dress dancing around it. This time he seeks out Mathias for permission to proceed closer. Mathias slams the door in his face, but Longmire’s persistence pays off because Mathias reluctantly agrees to accompany him with the understanding that Longmire will take the hit for disrupting a sacred ritual. Longmire gets nowhere in questioning the men, and when the still-recovering Branch is brought in, he clears all of them, so Mathias cuts them loose against Longmire’s conviction that the shooter is among them—the DNA results had come back positive as the remains of David Ridges.

One strength of this show is the vivid portrayal of the ongoing friction between Anglo and Northern Cheyenne societies. I’d like to see actor Zahn McClarnon given a chance to flesh out Mathias in the season(s) to come. Every time Longmire or one of his deputies deliberately breaks the rules by entering the Rez without permission (which is equal, by now, to the number of laps at Daytona), Mathias is justifiably angry and more insight into the reservation chief would bolster this part. Speaking of supporting characters, Longmire’s quiet strength takes shape from pivotal characters like Mathias, The Ferg, and Ruby the dispatcher, all of whom balance the main cast faultlessly. The same goes for the stunning ‘Wyoming’ scenery (actually filmed in New Mexico) and striking music score.

Season three’s opener did not disappoint. It left Henry’s fate to future episodes, which I had anticipated would happen, especially with all the attention on Branch and finding his assailant, which also took away from learning more about Vic’s loony stalker. But based on this episode, I’m looking forward to writers Tony Tost, Hunt Baldwin, Sarah Nicole Jones, and John Coveny weaving some answers throughout the twists and turns this season is sure to bring for Longmire and his team.


Under the pen name of Edward A. Grainger, David Cranmer writes the continuing adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles . He is also the editor/publisher of the BEAT to a PULP webzine and books

 

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16 comments
1. randal120
Randy Johnson here,

Enjoyed the episode and had many of the same thoughts.. One hopes they flesh out Mathias, but an hour show leaves not a lot of time for much beyond the main characters.
David Cranmer
2. DavidCranmer
That's true, Randy. And they do accomplish a lot in that hour.
3. Scott Parker
Really enjoyed the episode. Longmire is one of those shows that I wish would move to a regular 9-month season so we'd get more than 13 episodes every summer. That being said, this is all but a perfect summer show. I know some folks down here who think Taylor's stoic acting isn't really acting. I happen to prefer it, but I loved when Vic takes it on directly with her "Don't give me that monosyllabic, Gary Cooper stuff" line. Second funniest line after the "I am 9-1-1" line (which I said out loud a second or two before Longmire) of the night. I like that the show didn't wrap up many loose ends. If we only get 13 episodes, then let's make them all count.
David Cranmer
4. DavidCranmer
Vic's Gary Cooper line was spot on (and funny as hell) and I agree that Taylor's performance is pitch-perfect and what initially sold me on the show. Good point, Scott, on let's make 'em count and I'm guessing that's what the writers have in mind.
5. Mates
I don't have cable TV but ,after reading this review, i'm thinking I need to get season 1 & 2 on dvd. Sounds fantastic.
7. Ron Scheer
This show needs a longer time slot and a longer season. Too much crammed into its too few minutes given the complexity of plot and character. I have a Longmire novel I've been meaning to read before going back to the series.
David Cranmer
8. DavidCranmer
Ron, I just don't see that myself. Some of these plot lines (like Vic's stalker and the death of Walt's wife) has been fleshed out over many episodes. Of course, I'd love every episode to be two hours in length but based on the time contraints they have I feel its just about right. And I'm reading Craig Johnson's recent book. In a nutshell: another winner.
snow dog
9. snowdogmom
The season opener of Longmire did not disappoint, it was spectacular. This is by far my favorite show and I have watched since the beginning and read all of Craig Johnson's books including the newest. The hour flew by and left me wanting more, more, more. It was so go good to see Walt and company again. There really are too many commercials but I guess that's the price we pay to get this quailty show but having viewed the season 2 DVD with a couple of "extended" episodes it's a shame they can't run them as intended as the scenes they were forced to delete on those episodes filled in some backstories with crucial information and improved the continuity. It also shows the scenes were written and shot but left out due to having to fit within 40-44 mins. In fact last nights episode ran over by 5 mins, luckily I adjusted my DVR. I was so glad to see more of some of the supporting cast that we don't seem to see often enough like Jacob Nighthorse, Mathias, Barlow Connelly, and the breathtaking New Mexico landscape subbing as Wyoming. Casting has been exceptional and I'm looking forward to upcoming guest stars like Graham Greene and Nia Peeples. Since Walt and Ferg did a RAM truck commercial last night I think it's only fair that Sam Elliot, the voice of RAM trucks, does a guest appearance on Longmire. We need a case for Sam, Walt, Lucien and Vic to solve. That's would be some foursome! I really do wish A&E would wise up see what a gem they have and order more episodes. They only ordered 10 for this season, 3 less than season 2. We need more episodes not less! Next Monday cannot come soon enough.
David Cranmer
10. DavidCranmer
I'll cast my vote with you for Sam Elliott to appear on the show. I enjoy his Westerns and haven't seen him in one since, I think, The Desperate Trail or You Know My Name and that was the late 1990s. And I'm glad to see other viewers clamoring to see more of this fine supporting cast. Thanks for leaving a comment, snowdogmom, and looking forward to your comments next week.
Michael Papagermanos
11. MPAndonee
I totally agree with the reviewer, but let me add this to the conversation:

If you made the season longer, maybe the quality would suffer. Maybe, by being just as long as it is, the show is the right length AND ultimately, the right quality.

Finally, to me Robert Taylor has Longmire's character down pat. Of course, I did not start reading Craig Johnson's books until after the series begun on A&E, but now, I can't visualize anyone else as Walt Longmire. And the way he plays him is perfect. It does take an actor to accomplish that.
David Cranmer
12. DavidCranmer
MPAndonee, I often think that the British have it right when it comes to seasons or rather series. Shows like The Office or Life on Mars were hits and contained less than twenty episodes. They remain concise, perfected little gems. No fat to be found.
13. Prashant C. Trikannad
Good review, David. Walt Longmire seems like a quiet and formidable character and this particular episode, at least, appears to have been built around it. I assume he is generally like this.
David Cranmer
14. DavidCranmer
Prashant, Quiet and formidable character and as he said in this episode a "private man." A reference to Gary Cooper was made and I see that but Robert Taylor is very much an original.
15. girlassassin
Edward,
Great review! I echo most everyone's sentiments up thread. I have loved this show since day 1 and though I'm hard-pressed to pinpoint exactly what it is that keeps me watching, I will say that I'm in awe of the writing and acting (the latter is due in large part to the brilliant casting)! Shows often hit their stride in the third season so I am looking very forward to the rest of the summer.
David Cranmer
16. DavidCranmer
Agreed, girlassassin! The best is yet to come. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Hope to hear your thoughts as the season progresses.
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