Longmire: Episode 5 Help Wanted (Review)

Longmire promotional poster for Season 4 It is an interesting way to watch this new season about the Wyoming lawman Walt Longmire. The fourth iteration of Longmire, in keeping with the Netflix mode of operation, has all 10 episodes on offer at once. After immediately sitting down and watching the first three episodes, after all the death of Branch needed to be solved and then there was the whole Barlow killing his kid…

Things get back to “normal” in episode four and the decision was made to review each “new” episode seperately. The main factor was that four was directed by Peter Weller who was returning to play Lucian Connally, the late Branch’s uncle and the late Barlow’s brother. While Walt and his deputies worked to solve the mystery, and the murder, of a dead girl found in a duffle bag, there was a bit of closure for the Connally family as Lucian points out his late brother’s major character flaw.

Longmire is adept at providing the non-Native American viewers an insight into life on the reservation and the troubles faced by the members of the “local” tribe. From alcoholism to domestic violence these messages are portrayed a number of ways and all are effortlessly integrated into the storyline of the week. Now that Netflix has put all the episodes up these messages still run smoothly without the interruption of a week-long wait.

Plus, with all episodes on offer, there is the added bonus of being able to remember small details from the previous episode that makes an appearance in the next segment. Last week, in the opening montage of Walt getting his life, and self, sorted back out after the   killing of Barlow, the FBI investigation and his finally being able to move on after catching his wife’s killer, we saw Longmire sitting at the corner of his porch with a pile of books and beer cans.

The last book he reads (in that montage) is John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. In the short time given, perhaps all of two to three seconds, we can see that Walt has been touched by this book. (Steinbeck’s tale is a staple of high school literature study that has been dissected ad nauseam by teachers since it became one of those “must read” books.) In episode 5, Help Wanted the Steinbeck classic makes a return.

This episode shows a depth to Walt that makes the lawman seem more rounded and more real. At the start, Walt’s tattered copy of the story about George and Lennie is plopped onto the top of his office desk. The room is filled with a group of seated people (six men and two women) wearing name badges and with their own copies of the book. Bar one, Barry Sloane as Zach, has no book in hand.

Rather comically, the scene feels at first like Walt has started a book club. This illusion is soon set aside when it is revealed that Longmire is using it as an aid. He is interviewing  to replace the now  empty deputy position. Walt asks the assembled applicants what they thought of the book. One, Monte,  tells him about the book and another states she did not like it. When Zach is questioned, he reveals, “Uh, sorry, I’m a slow reader, so I didn’t finish.”

The book figures twice more in the episode. Each time it reappears adding a layer to the action or scene. Later at the end of the episode when Zach actually finishes the book and he tells Walt that he is glad he did,  Longmire is then able ask Zachary about the ending of the tale:

“So what would you have done? To keep George from shooting Lennie?”
“I think George shot Lennie ’cause he felt it was the only option he had left.”
“I’d like to get there before things ever got that bad.”

Zach leaves and Walt catches him in the hallway asking him when he can start.

With the book opening and closing the episode one could feel that the message of this segment could be lost. This was not the case and the main storyline of veterans needing help and not being able to get it, combined with the theft of pharmaceuticals designed to alleviate PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) blended right in.

The obvious correlation was that, like George with Lennie, the people who stole the antidepressants felt they had no other choice. Tight writing like this is hard to come, even more so with  a “murder a week” show about a small community sitting next to the Cheyenne reservation, yet this is precisely what one gets with Longmire.

There is, however, one bone of contention with this particular episode and this too revolves around Longmire’s fixation with the Steinbeck book and the other time is shows up as part of the plot. Walt’s life is put in jeopardy when the third member of the team who stole the drugs comes up behind the lawman and demands that he drop his weapon. Having no real choice in the matter Walt does so and the woman, Rebecca, who is holding the gun readies herself to shoot Longmire in the head.

Walt (Robert Taylor knocking it out of the park here) talks about George and Lennie and how George’s shooting of his friend could be seen as an act of love. The woman has cocked the semi-automatic, her finger is on the trigger and the suspense builds as it looks like this she  is about to shoot Longmire. The camera revolves around after a close up on Walt’s face and the camera continues to move and suddenly the gun is seen from the side and it is not cocked at all. The hammer is closed.

What should have been a mood intensifying moment becomes a jolting splash of freezing reality, as in a split-second, and another camera angle, the gun is once again cocked and ready to fire as we move into a close up of the back of Walt’s head.

Shame on you, director James M. Muro for taking what should have been a brilliant moment and messing it up. There is no editor listed, rather interestingly Adam Bluming is listed as editor on the episode prior and the one following but not on Help Wanted. This does pretty much lay the blame on the door of James, the director.

Mood killing moment aside (And let us face facts here, how hard was it to miss the whole gun cocked, not cocked thing in the editing process? These were close ups.  Seriously??) this was a brilliantly written and acted episode. Kudos to the cast and it has to be said, Barry Sloane must be one of the most tired performers in Hollywood at the moment. Starring in the ABC series The Whispers as well as showing up as a new character in Longmire, and still turning in performances that rock.

Great episode and message regardless of the close-up gun faux pas. Hopefully the rest of the season will prove to be that little bit tighter.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, http://MikesFilmTalk.com Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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