'Longmire' Returns, Better And Out For Revenge

Longmire returns in a new place — on Netflix, after three seasons on A&E — with 10 new episodes that stream starting Thursday, i.e., right now. Based on the three episodes made available for review, I can say the fourth season is off to a fine start, with the producers using the commercial-free, more expansive time-length per episode to maximum effect.

Indeed, there’s not much I can say about Longmire’s new season without spoiling a few significant events that occur early on. Certainly the quest that Robert Taylor’s lawman Walt Longmire has been on — finding out who killed his wife — remains not only central to the series, but if anything increases in ferocity. Revenge is always a potent dramatic tool.

Related: ‘Longmire’ Showrunners on Walt’s Future and a Possible Romance with Vic

Longmire is gunning in particular for Jacob Nighthorse (A Martinez), the corrupt businessman who’s not Barlow Connally (Gerald McRaney), a corrupt businessman. Martinez has found what is probably the best role of his TV career here — the actor has wound up Nighthorse tightly, turning the character into a man who’s always just barely tamping down murderous rage. At the same time, Martinez keeps Nighthorse under control, which always seems to nicely inflame his confrontations with Longmire; the lawman usually walks away muttering and growling that I always hear as, “Grrrrr, Nighthorse! Hate you, grrrrr!

He’s frequently calmed down somewhat by Katee Sackhoff’s deputy Vic Moretti. I’m not quite sure I like the hints of romance that at least one side of the Walt-Vic relationship is displaying, but let’s see how it plays out.

Taylor’s Longmire character has come to seem like a cross between outlaw-country songwriter David Allen Coe and Randolph Scott in his Budd Boetticher-directed Westerns. By which I mean Longmire is in fine, tight-lipped-verging-on-surly form.

Lou Diamond Phillips, as Longmire ally Henry Standing Bear, does his usual stalwart job of triumphing over dialogue that requires him to convey his Native American status by never using a contraction (“You do not seem happy, Walt”); Henry suffers a decrease in local standing early on in the season that ends up making him that much more useful in aiding Longmire in a quest for justice/revenge.

The aforementioned McRaney is terrific as Barlow, father of harried deputy Branch Connally (Bailey Chase), and the scenes he shares with Taylor are testosterone-fueled power-struggles. The only character who suffers from a poor subplot in the first three hours is Cassidy Freeman’s Cady, Walt’s daughter and the object of the world’s fastest, most dubious law-firm recruitment — really, it takes about five minutes for Cady to go from “I’ll think about it” to “May we show you your health-care options, Ms. Longmire?”

Longmire was a wise acquisition for Netflix. The very thing that made it unappealing to A&E — the devotion of an older audience — is an element that Netflix sees as an opportunity to convert a tech-resistant demo to master that tricky “Who’s watching?” pop-up screen. And Longmire’s canny mix of stand-alone procedural and long-form Western soap-opera is a sturdily constructed production. I see no reason why Longmire in its new home cannot retain its loyal following and attract a bunch of new viewers who’ll get a hoot out of a murder mystery whose solution may hinge on Longmire’s favorite brand of beer.

Longmire is streaming on Netflix now.