Release Date(s)2012-2015 (May 27, 2014 – September 13, 2016)
Studio(s)Warner Horizon Television/A&E/Netflix (Warner Archive)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B-
Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) is the sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming. He’s also a broken man, who returns to work while still recovering from the death of his wife. Crime doesn’t stop for grief, so Walt goes through the motions, choosing to walk in his own boots until he starts to fill them up again. Walt’s best friend, Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips), and his daughter Cady (Cassidy Freeman) do their best to help him cope, as do his three deputies, including Victoria “Vic” Moretti (Katie Sackoff), Branch Connally (Bailey Chase), and “The Ferg” (Adam Bartley). But Vic has ghosts of her own, from her days as a Philadelphia police officer, and Branch – pushed by his wealthy rancher father (Gerald McRaney) – has decided to run against Walt for the job of sheriff in the next election. Things grow even more complicated when Cady learns something that Walt has been keeping secret, something that’s been eating him alive as he tries to find the person responsible: Though she’d been dying of cancer, Walt’s wife was murdered.
Based on the popular “Walt Longmire Mysteries” series of novels by Craig Johnson, Longmire originally appeared on the A&E network, but was cancelled after two seasons despite strong ratings. (The series’ popularity with fans is such that it’s actually inspired an annual festival called “Longmire Days” in Johnson’s hometown of Buffalo, Wyoming). The reason for the cancellation was that the series is owned and produced by Warner Horizon Television, and A&E wanted to back shows they owned instead in order to realize greater profits. Fortunately, Netflix stepped in and funded a successful third season, as well as a fourth and, most recently, a fifth.
In some ways, Longmire is a throwback, recalling such series and films as The Rockford Files, McCloud, Coogan’s Bluff, and Thunderheart, with perhaps a dash of Wallander tossed in for good measure. It’s definitely a slow burn; these episodes take their time to unfold, something that’s all too rare on television these days. Longmire lives and breathes between the lines. Its rustic Wyoming setting is almost a character unto itself, lending the series a unique texture and authenticity that most entries in this genre lack. This series works for the same reasons that good Westerns do: It features intensely personal stories set against a vast canvas. This isn’t just a crime-of-the-week procedural; these characters have complex private lives and problems that sometimes get in the way of their work and have to pushed aside in order for them to get the job done.
Robert Taylor is terrific as the show’s lead. If he looks familiar, it’s because you’ve seen him before: Taylor played the role of Agent Jones in The Matrix. He portrays Walt as the quiet type; what he doesn't say is as important as what he does. Walt isn’t flashy, doesn’t seek attention. He just does the right thing, or at least tries to, even when no one is looking. He’s the kind of guy who leans into a storm and keeps moving forward. The supporting cast is every bit as good. Lou Diamond Philips is always entertaining to watch and you’ll probably know Katie Sackoff for her work as Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica. Other regular cast members include Louanne Stephens (a.k.a. Matt Saracen’s grandma from Friday Night Lights) as Walt’s office dispatcher, Peter Weller (Buckaroo Banzai – who also directs some of these episodes) as the previous sheriff, Graham Greene (Thunderheart), A Martinez, and Zach McClarnon as key members of the local Cheyenne Nation, and Charles S. Dutton as a Denver police detective who investigated the death of Walt’s wife.
This series has been released on DVD by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, but the Blu-ray versions are available from The Warner Archive. The video on each of these sets is 1080p HD at the original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1, with audio included in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA format (optional subs in English SDH are available on all the episodes). The A/V quality is very good – not quite reference quality, but certainly far better than either HD broadcast or streaming. Colors are warm and accurate. Contrast is excellent, with deep, dark blacks and detailed shadows. And though the surround field isn’t overly active, these mixes are smooth and natural sounding.
Longmire: The Complete First and Second Seasons is a 6-disc set that includes all 10 episodes of Season One and all 13 episodes of Season Two. Extras include a trio of documentary featurettes. The Camera’s Eye: Realizing the World of Longmire (HD – 18:55) is a good look at the series’ production and unique settings. Longmire Justice: Exploring the Cowboy Detective (HD – 28:59) looks more closely at the character of Walt Longmire, comparing and contrasting him with typical Western and detective archetypes. And Testing Courage: The Storm Defines the Man (HD – 30:00) looks at the way the characters adapt and respond to the events of the show’s first two seasons. The set also features extended “director’s cuts” of two episodes from the second season, Sound and Fury and Election Day, each of which has an introduction by the show’s producers.
Longmire: The Complete Third Season is a 3-disc set that includes all 10 episodes, along with the Longmire: The Ghost in the Storm (HD – 30:03) featurette, which is a look behind the scenes at the third season, including the production process, the characters, and the overall story arcs.
Finally, Longmire: The Complete Fourth Season is a 4-disc set that includes all 10 episodes. There are no extras.
All three seasons are currently available on Blu-ray on Amazon.com. Here’s the cover artwork (click on each to visit their respective pre-order pages)…
There’s a kind of aura that one experiences in the Great Plains and the Mountain West, when you’re out in the landscape beneath the big skies… an atmosphere of mystery. You might be walking through a field or a stand of trees, take a random turn and suddenly see wildlife, or an incredible vista, a broken down car, an age-worn barn, or a rotting carcass. It feels like anything is possible. It makes you feel insignificant by comparison, and yet your emotions become heightened… somehow more intense and immediate. Longmire not only understands all of this, it thrives on it. This series is perfectly binge-worthy and it’s quietly become one of my favorite things on television. The show’s fifth season debuts on Netflix on Friday, September 23 (just two days away from the time of this review). There’s no better way to catch up than on Blu-ray. Highly recommended.
- Bill Hunt