We're taking an episode-by-episode look at the new season of the modern-day western drama.
Over the next five weeks, we’ll be looking at each Season 4 episode of “Longmire” currently available for streaming on Netflix. Be forewarned: There will be spoilers a-plenty in each of these overviews.
THE PLOT: Walt, Vic and Ferg search for the missing Branch — and find his body in an Absaroka County river. Although all evidence indicates that death was caused by a self-inflicted shotgun wound, Walt — fueled by guilt because he feels he “ignored” all signs of Branch’s mental state — continues to investigate even after the filing of the coroner’s report. He eventually discovers that a shotgun shell casing found in the gun chamber contains dirt, a telltale sign that someone put the shell casing in the gun after it was fired. Walt, who already suspects Nighthorse ordered the death of his wife, is convinced that the slimy casino owner is responsible for this death as well. During a tense face-off between the two men, however, Nighthorse denies culpability. Faithful viewers know what Walt doesn’t: Branch was having an angry confrontation with his father, Barlow, when a gunshot ended their conversation in the Season 3 finale. Barlow appears to be devastated by news of Branch’s death. But maybe…
TAKEAWAY NO. 1: After three seasons of wink-wink, nudge-nudge hints about simmering sexual attraction between Walt and Vic, it would appear the producers are ready to take things up a notch. Indeed, at the very start of the episode, Vic drives up to Walt’s house, takes time to primp just a bit, and walks up to Walt’s front door with a six-pack of Walt’s favorite beer — only to be shocked (and more than a little embarrassed) when Henry opens the door. Scoping out the situation in his typical sharp-eyed fashion, Henry asks her: “Did I miss something while I was in prison?” It’s the funniest moment in a mostly grim episode. More important, though, it also illustrates how just about everybody (but, possibly, Walt) has begun to notice Vic’s unspoken (so far) crush on her boss.
TAKEAWAY NO. 2: Henry is unhappy to learn what definitely did happen while he was in prison — Malachi Strand has taken over the Red Pony bar after Henry signed over the deed back in Season 3. Malachi offers to let Henry stay on as “the face of the Red Pony” (i.e., a paid employee who’ll keep the regular patrons coming), and Henry reluctantly accepts. But, truth to tell, Henry seems to have his mind on something else — specifically, the void left by Hector, the hulking avenger who served the Native American community by laying the smackdown on abusive husbands, school bullies and other miscreants. Up until now, Henry has been a steadfast proponent of nonviolent problem-solving. (Indeed, at the start of this episode, he dissuades Walt from shooting Nighthorse.) But there are some strong hints here that Henry feels obliged to take over where Hector left off. That would be a major shift for the character, and for the series itself. In fact, this could prove way more unsettling than any kissy-faced activity between Walt and Vic.
TAKEAWAY NO. 3: Everything about “Down By the River” indicates that the quality of the writing, the persuasiveness of the performances, and the polish of the production values remain at the same impressively high level after the transition from A&E to Netflix. The lead players are excellent, as usual, with Adam Bartley emerging as a standout in this episode for revealing heretofore untapped depths of emotion in Ferg. The scene in which Ferg struggles to break the bad news of Branch’s death to Cady — and ends up needing to be comforted by Walt’s daughter when he breaks down during their conversation — is as moving as anything we’ve seen in the previous three seasons of the series. Longmire is back, better than ever.