When A&E canceled Longmire the outcry was sufficient for Netflix to pick up the series – where it got even better! Episodes are longer, even more nuanced and the characters even more fully explored over the course of some of the most interesting cases ever.
The fourth season DVD set has no featurettes – not even the token behind the scenes stuff that appeared on the previous three DVD sets. As such, the season stands on its own – and it stands tall!
Season four opened with the disappearance of Deputy Branch Connally (Bailey Chase) causing some concern for Sheriff Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) and Deputies Vic Moretti (Katee Sackhoff) and Ferguson (Adam Bartley). They don’t know about Connally’s skeet shooting argument with his father, Barlow (Gerald McRaney).
Meanwhile, Walt’s daughter, Cady (Cassidy Freeman) learns of a connection between Barlow and Nighthorse (A Martinez) and Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips) takes up Hector’s mantel helping folks who leave messages in a solitary wall on the rez.
It takes a few episodes for that to resolve itself, but while that arcs works its way to a conclusion, there are other things going on: a body found in a river seems to be a suicide (Down By The River); a death at the old Japanese internment camp (War Eagle); evidence suggests that Nighthorse killed Branch – until it doesn’t (High Noon).
Once Branch’s fate is resolved, Walt takes a ‘voluntary leave of absence’ during which Deputy Eamonn O’Neill (Josh Cooke) helps out – and reappears later in the season (he and Vic get along really well).
Walt’s first case on his return (Four Arrows) is the death of a tourist headed for a wedding at Nighthorse’s new Four Arrows Casino. The ep also introduces another character who will figure later in the season.
In Help Wanted, Walt takes a unique approach to hiring a new deputy (having the candidates read Of Mice and Men and talk about it, like a book club) and meets a VA psychologist (Ally Walker) who may figure into a case of stolen pharmaceuticals. Branch’s friend Travis tries to apply for the position.
The season begins an arc that will run through the end of the season in The Calling Back – Gabrielle Langton (Julia Jones), a Native American woman, is assaulted by a couple of oil rig workers on the rez and Walt asks Matthias (Zahn McClarnon) to help him.
A murder during a robbery on the highway (Highway Robbery) and Branch’s friend Travis come together in an episode that finds Walt ‘confiding in a surprising person.’ In Hector Lives, one of Gabrielle’s rapists turns up dead in what looks like an accident but Cady has reason to suspect Henry…
A shooting fells the last of Gabrielle’s rapists forcing her and Henry to go on the run in Shotgun, while the season finale finds the oil rig workers’ boss (Callum Keith Rennie) demanding Walt find their killer and beating Henry to within an inch of his life.
In a ten episode season that is over 20% bigger because of the additional time afforded by being on Netflix, Longmire has its best season to date. The series to be beautifully shot – Absaroka County is both starkly and lushly beautifully and the show’s cinematography calls to mind great western films of the fifties in its framing of that beauty.
Details of character and plot become deeper – and occasionally darker – as we see them do things we haven’t really seen them do before: Vic’s evolving relationship with Eamonn; Ferg’s jealousy of new deputy Zach Heflin (Barry Sloane); Walt’s having to apologize to Nighthorse. And who knew a child’s tooth could provide such a moment of tension, or that Cady would ever consider working with (or at least financed by) Nighthorse?
Peter Weller’s return as Lucian Connally, the former Sheriff of Absaroka County, comes as a wonderful surprise – in an episode he also directed. His thoughts on his brother Barlow come as no surprise – old cuss that he is.
As always, there’s an undercurrent of the series that comes from an appreciation and knowledge of Native American lore – something that informs several episodes in season four (Henry’s reference to the story of The Bear Helper is particular resonant…).
There are some wonderful mystery series on television – Sherlock being one that comes to mind immediately – but none are as consistently brilliant as Longmire. Not even Sherlock (though it comes the closest).
As mentioned earlier, there are no bonus features included.
Final Grade: A+