High Noon indeed. This episode started slow, but made it to a big-bang finish, with no one willing to believe in our hero anywhere along the way. Looking suspicious through most of the episode, Longmire is so determined to bring Jacob Nighthorse (A Martinez) down for Branch’s murder (as well as Martha’s) that he seems willing to go to extreme lengths while overlooking several obvious clues in this episode.
When Longmire tells Barlow Connolly (Gerald McRaney) that he’s convinced Branch was murdered, he feels he’s found a kindred spirit. Barlow aligns himself by bringing up examples of Nighthorse’s unscrupulous practices. Of course, Longmire wants to believe the worst of Nighthorse and is easily steered by Barlow. But when Longmire requests a warrant to search Nighthorse’s property, Judge Mayhew (Ralph Alderman) turns him down and rightfully chastises him for deputizing his best friend, Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips). I agree with His Honor that Longmire was moving a bit too fast and messily.
Meanwhile, Cady Longmire (Cassidy Freeman) gets an unbelievably sweet offer ($175,000) to work for a law firm, but as soon as she starts, she discovers the firm is suing Barlow Connolly for breach of contract while representing Nighthorse’s Big Pines Timber. She’s confused as to why and wonders what business they would have together. She quits the job, but not before being threatened by her boss that if she breaks the confidentiality agreement she signed when hired, she will be sued. And she’s learned some heavy, incriminating evidence against Nighthorse.
One of my favorite characters, Sheriff Mathias (Zahn McClarnon), has a cameo, showing up to examine Longmire’s guns, telling him someone fired off two .30-caliber rounds at Nighthorse at his home. When Longmire refuses to allow it, Mathias, having no jurisdiction, says he’ll contact the feds. Nighthorse immediately holds a press conference to smear Longmire—and by now, it seems a couple of Longmire’s own people are beginning to lose their faith in their boss, especially Vic (Katee Sackhoff). She tells Longmire that she doesn’t want to cover for him, believing he possibly fired the gun with the idea that it would give him the legal right to search Nighthorse’s house and grounds, thereby finally proving he killed Branch.
Regardless whether Longmire fired the shots or not, he takes advantage and goes with Vic to search the area. When Vic finds an empty, crushed can of Rainier beer (Longmire’s favorite) at the most logical spot where the shooter would have stood, she’s full of doubt. Gotta say, I don’t buy Vic saying first she believes Walt probably shot at Nighthorse and then turning around later to tell Walt she’d lie for him as long as he doesn’t keep secrets from her. Really?! She would lie for him over attempted murder?
All the threads begin coming together after learning that the soil samples from Nighthorse’s property don’t match the dirt in the shell. They're a totally different mineral composition. And there were no traces of blood, lead, or gunpowder. And to top it all off, Nighthorse has the alibi having traveled east to Foxwoods Casino. Walt jokes that Nighthorse has a better alibi for killing Branch than Longmire has during the shooting at Nighthorse. When Vic doesn’t laugh, he says with a chuckle, “Too soon?” I chuckled though.
Without a doubt, the best scene was saved for last: the confrontation. Longmire arrives home to finds Barlow there under the pretense that he’s going to confess to Longmire about shooting at Nighthorse. But by then, Longmire is one up on Barlow, finally realizing that the savvy businessman killed his own son. And in one of the most intense and well-acted scenes of this series, Barlow admits to giving the order to murder Martha Longmire. The look of building hatred in actor Robert Taylor’s expression and Gerald McRaney’s smug, condescending delivery were equally balanced. Barlow cold-heartedly “justifies” Martha's death by saying she had cancer and wouldn’t have lived long anyway.
Guns are drawn, but Barlow’s has no bullets, and Longmire shoots the man point-blank in the stomach. It’s amazing how Barlow's trying to frame Longmire to the bitter end. . . and how quickly he comes up with new schemes. Longmire drags Barlow out of the house to take him to the hospital. Barlow struggles, pulls out a knife, and stabs himself twice in the gut. Barlow’s last snarky words are “Good luck explaining this one.” The tremendous scene is slightly marred by Longmire pulling the knife out of Barlow’s belly. Why put your fingerprints on the weapon, Walt? Not like it’s going to help a man fifteen seconds away from death. And it will only help build a case against you.
Still, I loved “High Noon,” so big kudos to show developers John Coveny and Hunt Baldwin for continuing to surprise me this late in the game. Didn’t you assume the Barlow storyline would be stretched out over the entire season? I did. Less than halfway through this season, and they are wrapping up previous storylines with the hustle of a racer on the Bonneville Speedway. Can’t wait to see where the next episode, “Four Arrows,” heads.
Read all of Edward A. Grainger's posts for Criminal Element.