Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Longmire: “8 Seconds”

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Everyone’s having relationship troubles on tonight’s Longmire. A man is beaten nearly to death for having an affair with someone else's husband. Walt is still struggling with guilt over moving on after his wife’s death. Cady decides she wants to end things with Branch. And Vic is married to an asshole. The first we see of Vic, she and her husband are going at it hot and heavy in bed (Vic’s casual “Grab my ass” is pretty hot), and then the call comes in that Walt needs Vic’s help at the Red Pony. This, unsurprisingly, pisses off the husband, because he has a special role to fill: the spouse who doesn’t understand or respect his partner’s career. These people tend to pop up in crime dramas on a regular basis, and it’s the easiest (and most predictable) direction for a writer to take in trying to define a periphery character. We know hubby is selfish because we heard from Vic last week that he keeps dragging around the world for his job; we now know he’s a dick because he calls Vic “Victoria.” That may not seem like much, but on a show like this, if you call someone by their first name when everyone else uses shorthand, you’re either a crusty professor, or you’re a dick. Hubby is door number two.

Not that it matters much. He’s only in two scenes, first in the cold open, and later to snipe at Vic for being out so late. (And get possessive and demanding, which are other familiar signs of dickdom.) At first “8 Seconds” seems like it might be about Vic’s problems, but it quickly swings over to the case of a rich man getting beaten near to death in his home, and Walt takes over. The sheriff gets one of his better entrances here, as the reason he called for Vic’s help is because he was drinking at the Red Pony and wanted someone to give him a ride home. A call comes in before Vic can drop him off, and our story starts up. Some of the show’s attempts to make Longmire a tortured, grizzled soul don’t really work; we get another hint this week about him not being “clean,” but honestly, whatever he’s got in his past is almost certainly not going to be devastating as all the build-up wants us to believe. But I like the idea that he screws up in small ways, like drinking too much. It fits his sumbitch profile, and makes him vulnerable without necessarily softening him.

Each week we’ve been getting a glimpse into some new subculture, and, in case the title didn’t tip you off, this week Walt and the others spend some time at the rodeo. Not enough time, honestly, and it’s frustrating to watch the show get right up to the edge of a potentially interesting new world before shrugging it off and going for a resolution which could’ve happened anyone. Chris Sublette’s brutal beating had nothing to do with horses or rodeos (apart from the electric prod that put the guy in a coma) or even the painting he and his wife had hanging in their living room. Chris was having an affair with another man, and that man’s son caught them screwing, went crazy, and attacked Chris. It’s a problematic conclusion to say the least. We don’t hear much of anything about Zac, the assailant, until his confession in Walt’s office, and there’s precious little justification as to why the sight of his dad screwing around would drive him over the edge. It plays out as though the fact that Dennis (the dad) was nailing a guy is justification enough; that anyone who saw their father having a gay hook-up could theoretically become violent. That’s lazy writing, and there’s no emotional power to it—the only interesting moment is when Zac begs his dad to tell the truth, and Dennis lies again, and Zac goes into a rage. Maybe you could read some history into that, something about the life Zac’s been living, but it’s not enough.

A shame, really. Before the final act, “8 Seconds” wasn’t a classic, but it had the regular fun exchanges and interesting ideas that keep this series from being a complete waste of time. Walt having Branch toss water on dirt so they can get boot-prints from a suspect was a slight but clever bit of old school wit, and Walt letting that same suspect go through with his audition for sponsors before taking him to jail was predictable but effective. (I like that he failed, too.) For a while, the mystery looks like it’s going to hinge on the fact that some riders use “hot shots,” ie electrical charges, to make their rides buck harder and make for a more impression show, that’s a fascinating tidbit; I also never really thought about the idea of rodeo riders needing sponsors. But Longmire still struggles with the idea of committing to subjects for more than just a scene or to. Right now, it’s just bits and pieces; Barlow, Branch’s dad (Gerald McRaney, Major Dad himself) pops in a couple times, indicating he’s the real pressure behind Branch’s run for sheriff; Walt is friends with a rodeo clown named Bob; and Lizzie, Walt’s potential (and still twitchy) love interest resurfaces. Potentially interesting threads, but none of them run long enough to grab, and until the show either learns to focus, or finds a way to solve its mysteries with greater aplomb, it’s going to keep being a hollow experience.

Stray observations:

  • It’s always funny to me when guys hit on a Katee Sackhoff character like she’s normal people. It just seems so obvious that she could (and would) kick your ass if she wasn’t interested.
  • I hope the show doesn’t set up a romance between Vic and Walt. I think the two actors have fine chemistry together, but it doesn’t come across as romantic. (Also, the age difference is hard to ignore.) That said, we need a better potential partner than Lizzie, who still seems to be hitting the meth pretty hard.