I’m a fan of Craig Johnson’s Wyoming-set mysteries about Sheriff Walt Longmire and the offbeat citizens of his county, so I’m more than willing to give A&E’s “Longmire” series, based on the character, a try.
Robert Taylor is really growing on me as Longmire and Katee Sackhoff is ideally cast as Longmire’s deputy, Vic Morelli. Although the show was filmed in New Mexico, the stark, beautiful scenery works for me.
There are some important differences between “Longmire” and the Longmire books, however. Realizing they’re two different animals, I’m overlooking the variances for now.
But just for the record, here’s the most obvious divergences from Johnson’s books:
Cady, Longmire’s daughter. Cassidy Freeman is well-cast as Cady, the young lawyer who plays a central role in some of the novels. But the producers of the TV show made a choice by having Cady a resident of Wyoming rather than Philadelphia as she is in the books. That would appear to eliminate the Philly subplots (more on that next). It’s easier to have a long-distance character in novels than on a TV show, when viewers might wonder, “Why are there so many scenes in which two people talk on the phone?”
Philly: There’s a strong Wyoming/Philadelphia undertone to the books. Cady has a Philly law practice. Vic is from Philly. After the book in which Cady is injured and Walt and Henry Standing Bear go to Philly to find out what happened, Cady meets and falls in love with Vic’s brother, Philly cop Michael Morelli. I’m going to miss the Philly element of the TV series.
Natives: Several of the books, especially the newest, “As the Crow Flies,” have major plots and characters that revolve around the Cheyenne, Crow and other Native American nations represented in Wyoming and Montana. The most recent episode had Walt in a sweat lodge ceremony, an element of the latest book. I’d like to see a much greater representation of indigenous peoples in the books as well as …
The mystical. Almost from the beginning, the Longmire books have featured an undercurrent of the mystical as filtered through Native legends and beliefs. The mystical elements, including spirit guides of sorts who help Walt through tough spots, add a touch most other crime novels don’t have. I wish the series had more of this.
Which brings us to Henry Standing Bear. Lou Diamond Phillips is a very cool actor and he brings a familiar face to “Longmire.” But I’m not sold on him as the in-the-flesh representation of Henry Standing Bear, Walt’s lifelong Cheyenne friend and local bar owner.
I’ve noticed at least one, maybe two, moments in the series in which Walt seemed to doubt Henry, even wondering if he was up to something. That’s a different and not entirely welcome spin on the rock-solid relationship between the characters from the books. And Phillips isn’t really physically right for role since Henry is such a huge figure. But Phillips is a nice presence and I’m willing to wait to see if he’ll establish himself in the part.
“Longmire” is a pretty good, if unsurprising, TV cop show so far. Here’s hoping it will grow to become even more.