The Extended Bible Battle Halftime Show: On Longmire

I revisited Longmire. My earlier dismissal was made after viewing only one episode, and based mostly on the fact that I found it too slow, and probably aimed at an older crowd. However; armed with the recommendations of two friends I ranged further into the interior of the modern wild west of Wyoming, encountered and shot three episodes. What follows is the field-dressing.

Meet Walt Longmire. Imagine a middle-aged Charleton Heston, or Mike Rowe. Now imagine he’s a sheriff in Wyoming who is is just coming out of a year-long crippling depression brought on by the death of his wife. Picture more that he has handyman talents. You can see an in-progress bathroom remodel while we watch him shower. Single, handy, lovelorn, dangerous, and naked; just like a real cowboy in a romance novel.  I am convinced broadcast restrictions were the only thing defending me from a wide-angle shot of Walt shaming a horse.

Walt has three deputies, but only one of them is a solid helper. Big surprise: It’s a good-looking woman who acts like a man and has a man’s name. Vic has Real Big Girl Job credentials as a former big city detective. She is constantly looking out for Walt’s best interest; as evidenced by her constant low-level harping. Speaking of the musical: She strip-dances in the second episode.

I’m a big fan of cop-buddy shows, and Walt’s buddy is Henry Standing Bear. They’ve been friends for 38 years, and it is revealed that Henry is trusted with Walt’s biggest, darkest secrets. On the other hand: Walt is a white guy, so when a generic Indian is implicated in a crime Walt immediately suspects his best friend and most-trusted advisor. This way we know that at heart Walt is a racist who wouldn’t put anything past any Indian. Luckily, Tonto–I mean Henry–is in fact an Indian and, like all Indians, utterly magnanimous and understanding of how Walt, like all Whites, can’t help himself.

Before his wife died, Walt was able to reproduce..once. Luckily it was a woman so he is spared having to kill or embarrass a challenger of his own blood. An obvious superior, Cady is a spunky and single 30-something career woman who is screwing Walt’s actual challenger: Branch. Branch is good-looking, slick, cocky, and  it is shown that he stinks at simple home repairs, and we never see him anywhere near a horse.

The show is episodic (each show has a definite beginning and end) rather than serial (think of soap operas or comic books) which I prefer. While I like over-arching story lines, I can’t stand jumps back and forth between scenes that are cut to create one, long, dramatic high. Serials can run indefinitely because the meat and message of the story–having been thoroughly mutilated into pink slime–is secondary. The only easily discernible product is: Drama! It’s also a good way to hide a message that might otherwise be less palatable.

An episodic format means every episode has a distinct story with a distinct message. That message can be simply entertaining[1], or it can contain a moral message, or both. It’s usually both because writers and directors are going to be strongly influenced by their worldview because how we view the world informs how we tell others what we saw. I explain this because both common decency and Christian vigil demand that we try to understand what we are being told, and from that judge rightly. Yet what I encounter repeatedly is protestations that the message doesn’t matter; that if we are entertained, then the message is unimportant. No. Either way it is important to understand what is being said to us. It’s not necessary that we reject every show that contains an imperfect message or advocates some immorality. We should not be fools, either. Keeping that in mind…

(spoilers ahead)

The first episode is about a couple of Indians who are running a brothel out of an RV. One of the prostitutes is a missing teenage girl. Lots of easy-to-agree-with targets for the audience in this one. Who doesn’t like to hate pimps? Or racist white guys (see: Henry)? Or Her absent father tries to rescue her and gets killed in the process.  It is explained that he is a good man despite his total absence from his daughter’s life. From that I can only deduce that fathers are vestigial bits of the environment, from the producers’ points of view.

The second episode drives home the point that fathers are to be spectators of their children’s lives; especially a daughter. A teenage stripper is found dead under suspicious circumstances. The investigation reveals that she is a Mennonite on rumspringa. Her father is a heartless bastard who refuses to let his wife talk to their daughter, but also demanded the older son watch over that same daughter. The son is to either bring her back or never return. The Mennonite father also prevents Walt from talking to the Mennonite wife during the course of the investigation.

Meanwhile–back at the ranch–Walt’s daughter is sleeping with one of his deputies, Branch. Walt deduces that she’s seeing somebody because there has been some sub-Longmire-standard home repair done at her house. She lies and says she’s not seeing anybody, but you can’t fool a romance-novel sheriff. He asks around, and everyone tells him to butt out of it.

At one point during the investigation, Branch (guy cop with girl name) and Vic (girl cop with guy name) investigate the nightclub in case there are any fathers that need killing[2] to see if they can find out about the girl. No one will talk about the stripper (because they love her so much, see) until Vic proves herself as a real Big Girl City Cop with an empowering revelation of skin…she strips. This way we know that (despite the male name) she’s all woman, all business, and there is no shame in her game. It’s also a chance to show up Branch while proving that men only think with their dicks. In this one clip there’s a wave for every kind of feminist to surf.

We learn that the Mennonite stripper didn’t want to strip. She was doing it only to escape from her tyrannical father. She was killed accidentally by her brother, who was trying to return her to her father as he was directed. Walt goes back to the Mennonite home to report the conclusions of the investigation. He makes a point of ignoring the father and talking solely to the mother–because the father is a jerk who oppresses his wife and daughter. Then Walt goes home, calls his own daughter, and apologizes for being concerned about her life. The juxtaposition of the two fathers and two daughters could not have been clearer: Bad dads get involved. Good dads don’t. Daughters of protective fathers become strippers and die. Daughters of liberating fathers become lawyers and have sex with handsome men.

In the third episode… Look: What’s important in the third episode is that the antagonist is a husband and father. Predictably, he’s also a fraud, liar, wife-beater, coward, and then dead. The end.

[1] Michael Bay is the current master of stories that are simply meant to entertain. His films are religiously devoid of any worldview other than “It’s awesome when good-looking people make things go BOOM!”

[2] Sorry. I got lulled by the pattern.