The worst insult in Absaroka County is the implication that a man is anything less than a Man. It’s a central theme of Longmire and one that particularly resonates in both the personal and procedural storylines this week.
As usual, I found the emotional beats far more interesting than the crime beats, and we get a lot of juicy showdowns as a misdelivered credit card bill tips off Walt finally to the fact that his darling daughter and his dastardly deputy might be knocking those boots. He’s cold when he confronts Branch in his office, laying out his suspicions and suggesting that if Branch is a man he’ll tell him the truth. Branch confesses, noting that it was Cady’s idea to keep the whole thing a secret from Walt for the six months (!) they were together. He dryly points out that she didn’t think Walt would take the news well, and his boss retorts “The news I can take. You? That’s a different story.”
Kudos to Bailey Chase whose steely glare doesn’t falter, yet his clenching jaw and hard swallow easily convey the impact of this slight. It’s especially cutting, as it almost directly follows a scene where Branch is insisting to his father once more that he won’t run a dirty campaign to try to unseat Walt. Clearly the deputy respects his boss and wants to still learn from him too, despite the perhaps premature attempt at ousting him, so it’s yet another slap in the face when Walt then tries to shut him out from the murder investigation with some probably unnecessary guard duty, while Walt interrogates their suspects alone.
The interrogation actually has a lot of fun moments surrounding it and is a rather clever bit on Walt’s part. He picks one guy (who probably looks the youngest/weakest) from a jail cell full of bikers, and brings him into his office. The guy refuses to spill it, so Walt yells out in turn for Vic to bring a pen and paper, and Ferg to bring a tape recorder (hilariously, it’s a a massive cassette deck out of a drawer that looks straight from 1983) and then head out to get them lunch, making it appear to his friends as though the man is going to tell them everything . . . which actually does make him talk. Vic has a lot of fantastic lines and reactions in this episode, starting with shooting the bejesus out of a snake at the crime scene in the opener, but her whispered assurance in this scene of “it’s very good” when Walt threatens to order a suspect a Cobb salad is my favorite. (Bonus points for more mentions of the Busy Bee, which I’m beginning to believe we’ll never actually see, sorta like Charlie on Charlie’s Angels.)
The fun is short-lived though. All of Walt’s cold restraint with Branch is traded for hot-blooded fury when he confronts his daughter, thundering his feelings of betrayal at her. Cady breaks down tearfully, but not spinelessly, telling him he can’t dictate who she sleeps with and reminding him that she’s put her life on hold to move back home and take care of him this past year. It seems like Walt will concede here, but it just raises his stubborn ire and he snits that he’s sorry for being a burden to her and the he intends to relieve that burden, kicking her out of the office. It’s sort of fun to see Walt be out of control and petulant here, though Cady has a pretty fair point in that she didn’t know Branch would be running against him because Walt was so checked out for the past year and had no interest in running again. And you know, she’s an adult lady and can do what she wishes with her ladyparts, thank you very much.
What’s also great about this storyline is that you get to see some of the ripples the affair makes in the department. When Ferg hears Cady and Walt shouting about it, he shoots a hilarious dirty look over at Branch’s empty desk. Then Walt is shocked to discover that Vic knew they were seeing each other (though I venture she figured it out pretty recently since she was guessing that Branch was sleeping with that rodeo man’s wife two episodes ago) and she awesomely sasses back that she didn’t tell him because she had no proof and “If I’ve learned anything from you, it’s to not talk till the facts are on my side!” But that doesn’t stop her from reading Branch the riot act briefly for “shitting where he eats.” When he refuses to talk about it with her because it’s none of her business, she barrels on and says “Then don’t shit where I eat.” It’s a valid point. In a five-person office, having the boss not on speaking terms with one of his employees is pretty damn awkward for everyone. (Already the repercussions are being felt, since Walt actually sends Vic off with Branch to investigate for a change—and as I’m a big fan of the two of them playing off each other, I’m inclined to hope Walt never gets over his hurt ego.)
His angst also sends Walt charging into a biker den/tattoo parlor on his own in pursuit of information, and one almost wonders if Walt’s still got a death wish with the way he’s always charging into trouble without any backup. It does handily result in some intercut flashbacks of Walt storming out of a Denver police department (earlier in the episode he confessed to Henry that he got another call from Denver PD) and getting into a brawl with two young guys, one of him slams a sword down on his back. Guess that’s where those scars came from.
The central mystery of the episode plays out like a mini action movie this week what with that brawl, a harrowing Mexican standoff with a suspect, AND a bitching bike and motorcycle chase at the episode’s climax. My preference for the touchy-feely stuff aside, it’s a clever and fitting crime plot penned by Sarah Nicole Jones this week. The death of Malcolm Eagle-Star, the reservation’s tribal council president, is fishy from the start, as his body has been moved just over the reservation line into Absaroka territory.
In a minor miracle, Mathias welcomes Walt’s help with the investigation, and it’s actually very nice to see them all working together, until Walt deduces that Mathias was the one who moved the body. His motivations seem to have been mostly pure though, as he assures Walt that he just wants to see the case solved and that because of reservation politics and lack of jurisdiction, Walt has more authority/is better positioned to investigate the death. He wins the anvillicious question of the week award when he asks Walt if he hasn’t ever done the wrong thing for the right reasons.
It appears at first that Malcolm may have been a robbery victim, as he’d been gambling at some illegal poker games, but that herring is more pink than red as it ties in nicely to the real reveal that he was killed because of politics surrounding the building of a new casino on the reservation by Jacob Nighthorse.
Malcolm had passed a blood quantum law, which dictated that people with less than 60 percent Cheyenne blood were disenrolled from the tribe and lost a profit share in the casino. One of those people is the culprit and Walt catches him, of course, but the kicker is that he admits that he doesn’t care about himself because his family is taken care of thanks to what he’s done. This piques our good sheriff’s curiosity and he goes to Jacob Nighthorse’s office where he learns that the murder was the byproduct of political maneuvering, with Jacob wanting a seat on the tribal council so he could revoke the blood quantum law and be a hero, thus easing the passage of his casino.
Jacob notes that the U.S. government only “quantifies three things by blood: dogs, horses, and Indians.” It’s a chilling declarative, but Walt’s unmoved, and replies that he’s “never seen dogs or horses exploit their own kind for personal profit.” The men square off, vowing that each seems to be underestimating the other, and I hope that we see A. Martinez become a regular in season two. This show needs a Big Bad for Walt to play off, and since Gerald McRaney probably isn’t going to join the cast full time, Jacob would do nicely.
The last scene finds Branch back on the golf course (it’s always such a fun novelty to see the officers out of their uniforms on this show) even though it’s midnight-dark out. Cady pulls up and they have a brief discussion of how badly Walt’s taken it. She apologizes, and Branch says he doesn’t regret a minute, but he’s got a new resolve, probably forged in those hours spent uselessly standing sentry and wondering if Walt would ever let him do anything useful on a case again, as he intones gravely that this new development means “either I quit or I beat him . . . and I’m not a quitter.”
Both final scenes make nice reminders of what a man might do when he finds himself painted into a corner where he’s made to feel like less than a Man. I imagine in next week’s finale we’ll learn what Walt himself did in a similar situation back in Denver after his wife’s death. So how dirty do you think the Good Sheriff’s hands got, folks?
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Tara Gelsomino is a reader, writer, pop culture junkie, and Internet addict. You can tweet her at @taragel.
I love this series, and this was one of the best episodes yet. I didn’t want to like Branch, but he’s growing on me, and I love his complex family dynamics as well as Walt. I also love the setting–different types of stories and characters from traditional city crime dramas. When I originally saw the idea, I feared it would attempt to be a JUSTIFIED knock-off, but it’s definitely not–it has it’s own tone and story. One of the strongest new shows out this year, and I’m thrilled it was renewed.
It’s a pretty unique show, for sure. 🙂 I actually don’t watch Justified because I couldn’t get into it after the first two episodes, though I’ve certainly heard the hype. But the cast is what really hooks me here. They’re all so enjoyable. I like Branch a lot and think he’s a pretty good guy, and I really enjoy Barlow and Lucian too. I’d love to see more of the whole Connally clan. 🙂
I was hooked on JUSTIFIED after the first five minutes. I’m in the middle of watching all 3 seasons again, in preparation for Season 4 at the beginning or 2013 🙂
BUT I really am enjoying LONGMIRE, too. It’s different and the characters have great depth, plus the writing and acting are strong.
I liked Olyphant but I don’t know, something just didn’t grab me about it. I may try again in the future at some point.
Longmire’s a good solid show. I’m really interested to see how they expand the show’s world (assuming they do…they may just take a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach too) in the second season. It’d be nice to at least see the Busy Bee. Lol.
Love the analysis Tara! You really touched on the elements that most appealed to me. Bailey’s steely jaw for one…Cady’s emotional response to Walt’s tirade all the while retaining her spine…just to name a couple!
Thanks Pam! I loved Adam’s disgusted look at Branch’s empty desk too. So quick but so perfect!
I’ve gotten to like Branch. I feel sorry for him because it’s obvious he loves Cady. It’s also obvious to me that if Longmire would take him under his wing, perhaps Branch wouldn’t be running for the office. He seems to actually respect the sheriff and it also seems to me that Longmire could be another father-figure to Branch. Branch wants Longmire’s respect but he needs to be his own man, too. The statement that was made about the government quanitifies only 3 things by blood; dogs, horses, and Indians – had me gasping in horror. Could it be that our government is still so terribly misguided after all these years? If this is a true statement, no wonder the Indians are mad.