Stars: Robert Taylor, Katee Sackhoff, Lou Diamond Phillips, Cassidy Freeman, Bailey Chase, Adam Bartley, Louanne Stephens
Writer: Hunt Baldwin & John Coveny, Based on the novels by Craig Johnson
Director: Christopher Chulack
Network: A&E, airs Sunday nights
Original Telecast: June 3, 2012
There have been a lot of western shows in the last few years on television. This rebirth feels like it started with DEADWOOD, which was one of the roughest shows on TV, not only in language but also in tone and levels of violence. Now we’ve had JUSTIFIED and HELL ON WHEELS, both of which are dark and gritty in their own respects.
The latest series to hit in a western offering is LONGMIRE, based on the best-selling novels by Wyoming author Craig Johnson. This series really doesn’t feel like any of the others before it. LONGMIRE feels more genuine and realistic; it’s not overly dark and gritty or full of foul language and graphic violence. Of course, before I go any further I should mention that I am from Wyoming, more specifically the area of Wyoming where LONGMIRE’s creator lives and writes about…so I’ve got a bit of a personal investment in this series and something of a unique point of view to be reviewing from.
LONGMIRE is set in Durant, Wyoming in Absaroka County and follows the day to day life of Sheriff Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor). Longmire is a man who has been sheriff for a good stretch of time, and has lost his wife not too long ago. He’s a somewhat grizzled man of the law who is extremely well-read, intelligent, and he has a keen dry wit.
For those fans of the books (of which I count myself a member) you will not be disappointed with the actor chosen to play Longmire. He’s a bit younger than the sheriff we’ve all gotten to know in the books, but he still feels RIGHT. I don’t really know any other way to put it. His voice, mannerisms, and general presence all feel exactly like the Walt Longmire I’ve been reading about for the last several years. I’m really excited to see what Taylor does with this character, because there are things touched on in the first episode that will be interesting to see come into play further on down the line.
Most of the usual cast of characters is present right off the bat. There’s the big city transfer Vic (Katee Sackhoff) who has a mouth on her (though not quite as blue as the books) and a real need to prove herself to Longmire as a capable deputy. We’re meeting her a bit back in her storyline so there will undoubtedly be some surprises to book fans along the way. Sackhoff again is a brilliant casting job. I honestly can’t think of anyone else that could play Vic the way she needs to be played. She’s tough but beautiful, and there is a vulnerability hidden just beneath the surface of what she is playing that just might show up here and there in future episodes depending on what is in store for her.
The Ferg (Adam Bailey), Ruby (Louanne Stephens), and Longmire’s daughter Cady (Cassidy Freeman) are all present and accounted for. There’s just enough of these characters to see that they too are pretty much exactly what they need to be to make all the reading fans happy. I’m sure there will be more with them further on, but for the time being it’s just nice to have faces to go with the familiar names and personalities.
Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips) is perhaps my favorite character in the books, and while Phillips isn’t necessarily what I picture when I read, once again he just feels right in the part. Henry is as warm and somewhat stoic as he is in print, and his relationship with Walt is something that I really can’t wait for the writers to get into. Phillips brings a new charm to Henry that is hinted at in the books (especially with the ladies) and makes it more of an all-around part of the character. Plus…he looks good standing behind the bar of “The Red Pony”, and when he and Walt are side by side it just fits.
This first episode has elements of one of the mysteries of the books. It’s not a complete adaptation, because it would have to be a several part story to actually tell one whole mystery. I liken this series to TRUE BLOOD, simply because it’s a television show based on a great series of books, which takes characters and elements from the books and expands them into a new universe. Readers of the books won’t be disappointed with this show, they just have to accept that this is a new reality and pretty much anything can happen. The tone, pacing and overall look and feel of the show is bang on, and the locations, sets, costumes, and even speech patterns remind me of home. In fact of the exteriors in this first episode look just like Wyoming, so the team did a perfect job of finding places to shoot, instead of using old fall backs like Vancouver. That’s perhaps the biggest compliment that I can give this show…not only does it do Craig Johnson’s books credit, it also does my home state credit.
Give LONGMIRE a shot. I think you’ll find the characters charming and engaging from the word go. In fact I’m willing to bet that a lot of viewers are going to be more than happy to visit Absaroka County every week and see just what’s going on in the hills, mountains, and grasslands of Wyoming.
Related: TV Review – LONGMIRE – Season 1 – “The Dark Road”
Related: Exclusive Interview with LONGMIRE star Cassidy Freeman
Related Link: Exclusive Interview with LONGMIRE producers John Coveny and Hunt Baldwin
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Article: TV Review – LONGMIRE – Season 1 – “Pilot” – Series Premiere