Walt and Barlow have a fateful confrontation over Branch's death.
We're taking an episode-by-episode look at Season 4 of “Longmire,” which currently is available for streaming on Netflix. Be forewarned: There will be spoilers a-plenty in each of these overviews.
THE PLOT: After getting a call about an SUV recklessly swerving on an Absaroka County road, Walt arrives at the scene just in time to see Barlow Connally (Gerald McRaney), drunk at the wheel, drive his vehicle into a ditch. But he gives the guy a pass, figuring Barlow still is getting over the death of his son, Branch. Instead, Walt takes him back home — and, just before he leaves, confides in Barlow that he doesn’t think Branch committed suicide. Barlow says he suspects Jacob Nighthorse (A Martinez) is behind the crime. So does Walt.
Trouble is, Walt is having a hard time gathering evidence against Nighthorse, despite his best efforts to prove soil samples from Nighthorse’s property match the dirt in the shell casing found near Branch’s body. When someone takes a couple of shots at Nighthorse’s house, Vic fears Walt may have been the shooter. And her worst suspicions appear to be confirmed when she finds an empty beer can — Rainier, Walt’s brew of choice — near where the suspect likely fired two rounds. Meanwhile, Cady lands a high-paying job at the new area branch of a prestigious law firm. But she quits when she finds the firm represents Nighthorse’s casino — which her late mother tried, unsuccessfully, to block. When she turns in her resignation, she is pointedly reminded by her condescending superior that, since she signed a nondisclosure agreement, she can tell no one about anything she learned during her brief employment. Meaning she can’t tell Walt that, instead of being sworn enemies, as they have long claimed, Nighthorse and Barlow actually have been business partners — and, worse, Branch may have been caught in the middle.
So Cady takes it upon herself to visit Barlow, hoping to gain additional info that might tie him to Nighthorse. She doesn’t get quite what she wants, but she learns just enough to fire Walt’s interest. One thing leads to another, and Walt eventually finds himself entertaining a surprise visitor, Barlow, in his home. Over beers — Rainiers, naturally — the two men have an increasingly tense conversation about Branch’s death. Barlow admits that (a) he and Nighthorse have indeed been secret partners, (b) he killed his own son, impulsively, after Branch learned of the partnership, (c) he contrived to make the murder look like a suicide, (d) he took the shots at Nighthorse’s house, then tried to frame Walt, and, most important, (e) he had David Ridges murder Walt’s wife years earlier. Having sufficiently stoked Walt’s rage, Barlow then draws a gun — so Walt shoots him, twice. Unfortunately, that was just what Barlow wanted him to do: The gun was empty, because Barlow wanted to make it look like Walt murdered an unarmed man. Even more unfortunately, when Walt tries to rush Barlow to the hospital, Barlow grabs a knife from the sheriff’s pocket and finishes himself off. “Good luck explaining this,” Barlow taunts Walt with his dying breath. Walt replies: “I’ll be ready. And you’ll be in hell.”
TAKEAWAY NO. 1: It’s interesting, almost amusing, to see how much emphasis is placed on Rainier beer in this episode. First, when Walt brings Barlow back home, there’s specific mention made of Walt’s preference of Rainier to imported European brews. Later — after Vic notes the incriminating can on Nigthhorse’s property, and then quickly stuffs it in her jacket pocket — there is a long, lingering closeup of a beer glass bearing the Rainier logo while Walt and Henry (who, unfortunately, doesn’t have much to do in this episode) have a chat at the Red Pony. All of which pays off in the final scene, of course, when Walt tells Barlow that he knows how Barlow knew to plant the beer can at the scene of the crime, and blah, blah, blah. In Scriptwriting 101, that’s known as foreshadowing, or introducing details that will be of significance later in the narrative. Also known as The Law of Chekhov’s Gun, named after the playwright, not the Star Trek character: Don’t introduce a gun in the first act if you don’t plan on having someone shoot it in Act III. In this case, however, you can’t help feeling this also is an illustration of The Law of Product Placement.
TAKEAWAY NO. 2: The episode also illustrates The Law of Longmire’s Knife. There’s a closeup of the weapon in the pocket near Walt’s holster long before Barlow gets his hands on it. No, it doesn’t have a Rainier logo on it.
TAKEAWAY NO. 3: After suspicion fleeting falls on Walt in the wake of the shooting at Nighthorse’s house, Vic warns Walt: “I won’t lie for you.” But then she hides the beer can in her jacket pocket. And then, while confronting him with the seemingly incriminating evidence, she says: “I’ll lie for you.” All of which raises the question: Are we seeing the lead up to The Law of Lead Characters Coupling?