Longmire, Episode 1.2: “The Dark Road” is Smart, Sad, and Sassy

Robert Taylor as Walt Longmire
A father first, a sheriff second.
I imagine a fair number of fans of the Longmire novels read the plot description of tonight’s episode, saw it was about Amish (ok, Mennonite, technically) strippers and went, “Huh?” But I’m happy to report that though Craig Johnson’s fictional Absaroka county featured neither deeply religious sects nor exotic dancers, Longmire the TV show is none the worse for a little Hollywood-style drama.

Tonight’s episode was more quickly paced than the premiere, with some really fun character moments (especially for Katee Sackhoff’s Vic). There’s less obvious setup and backstory here, but still more character bits than you’d get in your average procedural-heavy episode of CSI or Law & Order. You can start to see some style hallmarks here, the quick flash ominous opening scene, the eleventh-hour Bronco chase/action sequence, the post-crime-solving montage set to quiet twangy strings. Honestly, it’s a toss-up whether I enjoyed the depth and soulful style of the pilot, or the humor and flair of this second episode more. I guess that means I’m just a fan of Longmire in all forms, happy to go along with whatever ride they wish to take us on.

SEE ALSO: Need more Walt? Here's the whole shooting match, posts covering every episode and fun on hiatus, too!

The episode opens with a quick, somewhat harrowing flash of a girl running away from something in terror, the camera jumping and jerking while loud indistinct voices howl. One wonders if every episode is going to start with these nighttime crime flashes. Then we smash cut to daylight and a poor tourist boy’s discovery of the corpse of a beautiful teenaged girl.

Cady on the phone
Who’s she talking to?
The Longmire title card flashes up but there’s no theme song or fancy opening sequence for this show. We get right to business, with Walt at Cady’s door, inviting his daughter to breakfast. Their teasing banter is cute, but Walt, in fine Sherlock fashion, notes that Cady’s got a new dead bolt on her door and quickly deduces that she has a new man in her life who probably installed it. Cady blushingly denies it, but is saved from Walt’s pestering persistence by the bell as Ruby calls to tell him about the body.

(We’ll get back to that new man later. But when Henry Running Bear tries to pry the answer out of Cady about who she’s seeing, all she’ll say is: “So the guy that I’m seeing, he’s a little older . . . about 120 years. He’s a vampire. And he’s amazing. You should really meet him, Henry. Oh, but it’d have to be at night.”)

Walt and Vic examine our Jane Doe. There’s no weapon, no car, and no ID/wallet on the unsub, but Walt takes in the girl’s body glitter and abundance of singles at the crime scene to deduce that she’s a stripper. A card in her back pocket features a line drawing of a tree and a sentence in an unrecognizable language. Walt’s wounded soul resurfaces when he takes a moment to cover an abrasion on the girl’s body and insist that Vic call an amublance when she suggests they load her into the truck (like they did the unfortunate Mr. Parkford last week). “This girl is someone’s daughter,” Walt snaps, neatly establishing our daddy-daughter theme of the week. “She deserves better.”

Back at the office Branch is counting all those singles as Vic sasses him about his math skills and they banter rather antagonistically and delightfully until Walt comes in and killjoys it by telling them to get to work. Branch is sent to look into fingerprints, and he and Vic will hit the Bada Bing, er, strip club, in a nearby town where they suspect the girl worked.

Look, the mystery in the episode, like the previous week’s, is fine, but fairly standard stuff. The crimes on Longmire thus far look to be very traditional, with a fair number of red herrings dragged out, before the conclusion where the simplest answer turns out to be the right one. I’m gonna skip ahead and tell you there’s some question of whether the shady guy giving Hannah (that’s our Jane Doe) rides in his puce sedan, or the boyfriend in the photo strip who has some anger management issues is the killer. Or just maybe it’s the seething father who we find out has disowned Hannah? I’m not going to say.

Now that that’s out of the way, we can talk about the more interesting parts of the episode, the character bits. This episode was originally supposed to air as the third rather than second installment of Longmire and one wonders if it was pushed up to take advantage of the sparkling Katee Sackhoff’s many charms. In tonight’s episode, she gets to be funny (“You know, I can dance. And I always thought I had a really nice ass. Maybe I should put in an application. Would you be my reference?”), badass (she pulls a gun and shouts at people), and sexy as hell (to get strip club patrons to identify a suspect, she hops up and does an impromptu striptease/pole dance—only down to her tank top—this is A&E not HBO). A lot of folks online have commented that they tuned in to the show primarily to find out what Sackhoff, who was flawlessly iconic as the legendary Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica, was up to now, so it’d be a smart move on A&E’s part to focus on her in these early days.

Regardless, there are plenty of other great character bits to enjoy as well. The secondary storyline of “Who is Cady sleeping with?” And Walt, in his desire to know, ends up pestering both Vic and Henry with disastrous results. (It even comes out in some hilarious ways when Walt is chasing down a suspect:

“You got a kid in there who looks like Opie? … Do me a favor. Don’t serve him.”
“Why? Is he the guy who’s dating Cady?

Longmire’s
All kinds of trouble.
The scene between Cassidy Freeman’s Cady and Lou Diamond Phillips’s Henry is quite touching. They have an easy rapport and you can really believe they share a special bond as godfather and goddaughter. The reveal in the final moment of the episode that she’s sleeping with Branch, the one guy we know Walt will have a real problem with, leaves me torn. Because of the setup we have no idea if they have any chemistry or what their relationship is like, and personally, I was already kinda loving the chemistry and banter between Branch and Vic. They have an excellent interchange after her striptease scene where I was feeling the heat. Not so sure how I feel about him and Cady knocking boots. But certainly there’s a lot of dramatic potential to mine in having Walt’s darling daughter literally in bed with his rival-enemy.

And if that’s not enough drama, there’s a third storyline, only lightly touched on here, that promises even bigger and more intriguing mystery. We get a couple flashbacks to Walt getting his back stitched up (remember those scars from the shower scene last week?) while Henry looks on, and he cautions his friend not to tell Cady about this. It’s only a brief glimpse at something that feels like it’ll be fairly important later (my speculation: it’s a secret relating to his wife’s death), but it’s a good sign that Longmire is a show that’s not afraid to thrust a lot of irons into the fire.

Catch up on all our Longmire content here.


Tara Gelsomino is a reader, writer, pop culture junkie, and Internet addict. You can tweet her at @taragel.

Read all Tara Gelsomino’s posts for Criminal Element.

Comments

  1. Carmen Pinzon

    Thank you for the great recap. You touched on the reason why I’m loving this show, the relationships. I’m not sure either about the Cady/Branch thing, but everything else is just juicy.

  2. taragel

    @bungluna Thanks! Aren’t the relationships really intriguing? I can’t wait till we get more interaction like Vic and Henry doing a scene together or Walt and The Ferg on their own! Even Cady/Branch has some fun potential — when Walt finds out (and when Vic finds out too, maybe. 😉 The fact that she and Cady aren’t exactly BFFs… that’s interesting, eh?)

  3. Desiree Heald

    The Cady/Branch reveal at the end was certainly a ‘…the frak?’ moment. I’d been toying with the idea that it had been Henry up until that point, considering how uncomfortable Cady had been about talking about it with Walt.

  4. Kev Brown

    Have to be honest, I only started watching this show because Katee Sackhoff is in it, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the quality of the writing and the acting. Robert Taylor in particular has been outstanding

  5. Taragel

    [b]@AussieS [/b]Weren’t too many people it could possibly be.[b] [/b]I think like Cady said “there’s not exactly a deep bench in Durant.” At the very beginning of that scene with Henry though I thought they were gonna throw us for a loop and have them involved. So glad they did not go in that direction though.

    [b]@Kev Brown [/b]I think lots of people started watching for Sackhoff, and stuck around after being pleasantly surprised by the whole cast. And yes, Taylor is genius casting/perfect for Walt. The ratings for last night’s episode matched the series premiere which is pretty rare I think. Usually subsequent episodes’ ratings go down after a pilot, because of curiosity seekers bugging out, etc. Very impressive growth, hope that means a season two renewal is not too far away!

  6. Les

    Much as I have liked Katee Sackhoff in the past, she just isn’t my idea of Vic. What makes Vic so interesting in the books is that she is a [u]tough[/u] ex-Philadelphia cop, very irreverent though willing to follow orders (but only after griping about them.) Although in the first episode Katee mentiones the Philly fact, she comes off more like a rookie who couldn’t make it in a big city. She’s not tough enough nor smart-alecky enough. Also, can’t something be done with her hair? She doesn’t need to look glamorous but must she always looks like a haystack.

  7. Taragel

    @Les I’m a huge Sackhoff fan and I think her attitude/spirit are just right for Vic, but they did change the timeline/character a bit. She’s a bit newer to Durant than when we meet her in the books and the character is definitely a bit softer, more human-sized than the outrageously over the top book counterpart.

    But Vic also doesn’t do much in the books but offer colorful commentary on what Walt is doing and she’s been almost wholly absent in the last three novels.. Here she actually has job stuff so there’s a lot of exposition about evidence, etc. Maybe that’s part of it? Plus the lack of profanity in her vocabulary already makes her a much softer version of the character.

    I think maybe if she’d been the same level as the books with the amount of screen time she has, she might have overwhelmed the quieter Walt entirely (if you ever saw Sackhoff on Battlestar or Bionic Woman, you’ve seen how easily she can steal the show.)

    (As for the hair, she’s wearing extensions because she had cut it to film the next Riddick movie, so that may account for some of the messiness?)

  8. Clare 2e

    I thought this episode had some very funny and unexpected moments. I agree about the Vic-Branch moment…hmmm. I like how everyone who really knows Walt doesn’t take his curmudgeonly mien personally, almost ignores it, because so he’s often playing the raincloud. I also enjoyed how they cut loose with Walt’s Sherlockian talents for his daughter’s door. It’s always a good reminder that no matter how slowly he chooses to speak, inside, the character’s very quick-thinking.

  9. Mary Saputo

    I’m not “in love” with this show but I do like it. I don’t feel the same about it as I do Justified. That said, the ONLY thing that bugs me about the show is how Henry Running Bear talks. We KNOW he’s of Indian heritage. Do you have to make it so obvious in his speech patterns? I would think that a man of his age and owning his own business would speak more like “the white man.” My opinion. No one has to agree.

    • Sarah

      First of all, it’s STANDING BEAR. Second, according to LDP himself, he kept Henry’s speech pattern from exactly how it is in the books. It attention to detail.

  10. taragel

    @clare2e — I’ve been pretty pleasantly surprised by how much humor they’re incorporating. The books are pretty humorous too, and I like that they’ve retained some of that.

    @bitsy Yeah, I’ve seen lots of folks saying the same about Henry and Native American stereotypes. It is the way HSB talks in the books though, and I know Lou Diamond Phillips is very conscientious about getting Craig’s character just right and being faithful to the novels. I wonder if it’s something the producers will change up at all as the show progresses?

  11. Clare 2e

    @taragel and @bitsy08 I’ve also had to explain that it’s Henry’s personal shtick to people who haven’t read the books. It’s a deliberate affectation by that character for his own reasons. I like that LDP doesn’t employ the no-contractions rule all the time, but maybe that highlights the tic more when it does pop up? I’m not sure I’d miss it if TV Henry dropped it–he’s far more complex as a character than a mere stereotype, and so far, I like the portrayal. I wouldn’t want people to miss out on Henry by focusing overmuch on one thing.

  12. Betty Breier

    Two moments I particularly liked in this episode: when Vic asks if the note found with the girl’s body is in German and Walt replies “I don’t believe so”- in German, and when asked about his knowledge of Rumspringa he says “I read.” This shows Walt’s humor and depth, I think.

  13. taragel

    [b]BLB[/b], I loved the “I Read” comment too. (I had a bunch more favorite quotes but they didn’t all make it into the article. 🙂 I thought him answering in German was very deliberate, like perhaps a later episode will delve into his past and maybe show that he served in the military and was in Germany for a time? Similar to the book that had war flashbacks. But I don’t know, it could’ve just been another example of Walt having hidden depths/being well-read and educated.

  14. SarahStamper

    I googled this after watching this episode on Netflix. The show was so stupid, I had a hard time watching it. First of all, I am mennonite. Some mennonite dress like this, but very few. Mennonites do not drive horse and buggies or have rumspringa… I don’t even know how to spell rumpringa. Those are amish things. Mennonites, for the most part, look just like everyone else. I have short hair, wear jeans and make-up, and occaisonally drink a beer. And as for the amish/mennonite that they supposedly featured in this show, they look nothing like even the conservative mennonites OR the amish. I hate when shows just make up crap about anabaptists just because they don’t want to take the time to research a little bit.

    This show was so stupid.

  15. Sarah

    Good article. However, it’s Henry STANDING Bear, not RUNNING Bear.

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