As a fan of Craig Johnson’s series of crime novels about Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire, I was a little disappointed with the first season of the TV series version that aired on A&E.
You can catch up with what I thought here, but it boiled down to: Not enough of Johnson’s trademark mix of tall, dark and quiet heroes and quirky plots.
Last night’s second-season debut, though, was closer to the target. The episode was based in part on a Craig Johnson book, “Hell is Empty,” which puts the sheriff in harm’s way as he transports a series of prisoners – including a man who killed a child several years ago – through his county and over a mountain … just in time for a blizzard.
The single hour of television couldn’t begin to capture all of Johnson’s straightforward plot and rich characters. But it came closer than any first-season episode.
The series is also coming closer to hitting the mark in the way it portrays Johnson’s characters. I’ve got to say I’m enjoying the heck out of Robert Taylor as Longmire, for whom “less is more” truly describes his spare speaking habit. Really, the less the writers give the sheriff to say the better – and not because Taylor’s not a good actor. He’s good, but he’s perfect with a long stare and grumble
I loved “Battlestar Galactica” vet Katee Sackhoff as Walt’s deputy – and is very tentative love interest the right way to describe her? – Vic Moretti from the moment she was cast and I’m still enjoying her.
Bailey Chase and Cassidy Freeman are quite good as Walt’s ambitious deputy and daughter, respectively.
I’m growing to like the terrific Lou Diamond Phillips as Henry Standing Bear, Walt’s longtime friend and confidant. Phillips is making questionable casting palatable.
One big plus for me with last night’s episode was an injection of the Native American mythos and mysticism that marks Johnson’s books. As Walt trudged through snow to track the prisoners, Henry and other figures – including an impressive owl – appeared to him. Thanks in part to Henry, spirit guides and the connection between the Wyoming characters and the earth are present throughout the books.
I’m still not convinced I’m buying the subplot about the death, before the show started, of Walt’s wife. She died from cancer in the books and, while her passing has left a huge shadow across Walt, it isn’t the stuff of an ongoing mystery.
I wasn’t sure I was going to check out “Longmire” this second season. The season premiere definitely encouraged me to come back for more.