Longmire, the A&E television show set in Big Sky country, is a contemporary crime thriller, based on the Walt Longmire novels by best-selling author Craig Johnson. Although contemporary, and dealing with the problems even small rural towns are facing today, Longmire has a classic feel, and lovers of back-in-the-day shows such as Walker, Texas Ranger; Matlock; In the Heat of the Night; and even the sunny Hawaiian favorite, Magnum P.I., will get into the vibe Longmire is sending to its fans. And, importantly, Longmire producers seem to have a vision for what this show could become, and are making sure that these shows leave viewers something to consider each week.
The main character, Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor), has been widowed only a year as viewers are getting to know him, and is fighting to regain control of his life. He has, with the help of daughter Cady (Cassidy Freeman) and a new female deputy, Vic (Katee Sackhoff), decided that the time has come to reassert himself into his world, and is now facing a challenger in his re-election for sheriff—a betrayal by a young deputy, but not one that Longmire will allow to derail him as he crawls back into his life. All of this would be entertainment enough—the tensions, mysteries and resolutions are exquisite—but, beyond that, there is an ongoing conflict between a nearby Native American reservation, the U.S. government, and citizens on the outside of the "res."
Power of Fiction vs. Reality
Longmire is fiction. So, the show, although obviously working to convey a message of living together in peace, creating understanding and recognizing unhealed wounds, cannot be expected to be a bastion of education for the viewers, and the conflicts should all be taken for what they are: storylines created by writers. However, the storylines and the relationships on the show, good and bad, do make one stop and think about what may be going on in the world around us, whether it is a world near or far.
For example, last night’s episode focused on intrusion of the U.S. government into “res” business. The mistrust and hurt over many generations was evident in this episode and, as anyone living in the United States should be aware of, regardless of whether or not they have ever had contact with a reservation, such hard feelings do still exist today. The hurt and mistrust between many Native Americans and the U.S. government is very real. But, it is important to also note that the relationships seen in this episode highlighted both the positive and negative that can exist between Native Americans and those who are not part of their culture. The ongoing relationship between Longmire and his close friend and confident, Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips), is a great example of how strong the admiration and respect can be across different cultures if people will simply try to understand each other. On the other hand, the attitude, words, and actions of the social worker in this episode clearly showed what the worst can be when racism, greed and hatred are a part of the equation. When approached about her part in criminal activity against children and their families on the reservation, she told Longmire:
“I devoted my entire life to helping children. That’s certainly what a Wyoming jury will see. They will see an articulate, compassionate, white social worker, accused with circumstantial evidence.”
The ugly side of the truth, as told by a fictitious television show; it may have been written as part of a storyline, but the words were powerful, nevertheless.
Television can be a force for good, and fiction can sometimes be as forceful a tool as reality; Longmire may just be an example of those two ideals, wrapped into one entertaining contemporary crime thriller.
Longmire airs on A&E on Sunday nights at 10/9c.
Image: Wikimedia Commons