Longmire 4.02: “War Eagle”

It’s oh-dark-thirty and Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) is still at the crime scene where his deputy Branch Connolly’s body was found lying in the creek. He’s discovered some dirt inside the shell that came from Branch’s gun and since it’s impossible that Branch ejected the spent shell after killing himself, he takes soil samples from the creek bed. He passes them to Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips) to have a botanist friend at the university test them. Being cautious, Longmire deputizes Henry so Nighthorse can’t later claim that police methods were unlawful.

Longmire is interrupted in his investigation by a dispatch call to investigate Asian voices being heard at “War Eagle” which was the site of Japanese detainment camp during WWII. Once there, he and Vic (Katee Sackhoff) find the body of the self-appointed caretaker of the facility named Thorvin Hampton who had hopes of turning it into a historic museum.

Hampton was a ham-radio operator and it turns out long ago Ferg (Adam Bartley) used to be a CBer. At Longmire’s directive, Ferg resumes his old handle, “High Plains Drifter,” and learns that Hampton’s dad had worked as a guard at War Eagle in the 1940s and had fathered a half-brother with a confined married woman. Walt and Vic approach the half-brother Francis Igawa (Sab Shimono) who has dementia and is being cared for by his daughter Shiori (Michelle Krusiec). He has fits of rage, and is accusing everyone of stealing his lighter. When Walt suspects he’s found the killer, he asks Shiori to meet him at War Eagle where he confronts her.

I didn’t see it coming. The murderer is Shiori! And while a man died (her Uncle Thorvin), it hardly seemed that she’s a cold-blooded killer. Not premeditated. Barely a crime of passion. Sure, she was angry—explaining that there was no dignity in remembering an encampment that imprisoned hundreds of Japanese innocents, a place that ruined her family from shame—but her actions seemed more or less a case of careless negligence. In my opinion, she should even get off on a manslaughter charge. Who’s going to take care of her dementia-ridden father when she’s incarcerated?

On to other plotlines. First, I have to say I’m digging Henry’s decision to carry Hector’s torch of righting wrongs in the community. He begins by helping Alicia Musraves (Kathleen Shurkin) to stop a neighbor, Lane Potter, from directly stealing what little money she earns as a single parent, and indirectly the food from her son’s mouth. Not only does Henry scare the crap out of Potter by silently creeping around the Red Pony’s bathroom stall when the man is dropping a deuce and then writing “Hector Lives” on the mirror, but he also leaves some cash from his “Free Henry” defense fund on Alicia’s doorstep.

Walt is sensing Vic’s post-traumatic stress from the time she had been held hostage at the end of Season 3. Watching Vic mock Walt’s awkwardness in trying to get her to open up is certainly fun. You’d think he’d pick up on the fact that she’s dying to have him open up about much more than that. Though Walt is being sensitive to the mental state of his deputies (he’s worried about losing another down a long, dark path), he doesn’t seem quite able to reach out and touch someone.

Back to the soil samples … it turns out comparing the dirt in the shotgun shell to that from the creek wasn’t enough to determine if Branch’s body had been moved. But further testing reveals the dirt contained pollen from plants that don’t grow in wet habitats, leaving Longmire to draw the conclusion that the body was deliberately put there. After Vic does some digging of her own into the federal fingerprints database, checking the ones lifted from Branch’s laptop, she finds out more about Jacob Nighthorse other than just that the prints don’t belong him. He’s actually Jacob Harold Blankenship, and he’s been an upsetter for a long time, going all the way back to DC where he belonged to a radical political group called the American Indian Movement. So Nighthorse’s record is not as clean as he would like to present.

Really liked “War Eagle.” It was a good standalone storyline written by Tony Tost with some twists and red herrings that were well placed. And the new continuing arcs are moving ahead in an immersing way. This season is bound to get even better, don’t you agree?

SEE ALSO: Next episode, Longmire 4.03 “High Noon”

Edward A. Grainger aka David Cranmer is the editor/publisher of the BEAT to a PULP webzine and books and the recent Western novella, Hell Town Shootout.

Read all of Edward A. Grainger's posts for Criminal Element.