". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, June 7, 2013

Longmire in the West, Jesse Stone in the East, Sired by The Virginian

Longmire (2012) A&E, Season 1, streaming, netflix.

Based on Craig Johnson's novels that feature Walt Longmire, this is another locale-oriented murder mystery series. Set in Wyoming, it's shot in New Mexico.(Does New Mexico, like Louisiana, provide incentives to Hollywood that Wyoming doesn’t?) The cast is long on an interesting selection of actors from whom, as the series progresses, interesting characters and deepening relationships, emerge.

Walt Longmire is the Country Sheriff of fictitious Absaroka County. Absaroka is home to the small city of Durant. Absaroka contains a Cheyenne reservation, mountains, prairies and national forest, i.e. this is a western, the geography of the ur-Western, Owen Wister’s The Virginian (1902), which declared Wyoming “white man’s country,” the place of national healing and reconciliation, for white men, where, after the Civil War lovely eastern white women learn to submit to manly gentlemen warriors.

Standing in here for the Virginian's Vermont school marm, Molly, is  Katee Sackhoff, Starbuck from BS-Galactica. Vic is Longmire’s young homicide detective, a new hire out of Philadelphia, Vic(toria) Moretti.

Lou Diamond Phillips is owner of the Red Pony bar-restaurant, Henry Standing Bear, Longmire’s Cheyenne friend, his door and his eyes into into the res.

Like Walt and Henry, Branch Connally is locally born and bred. The younger deputy is played by Bailey Chase, who was Graham Miller, Riley’s Initiative buddy on Buffy. Branch’s character is the same irritating mix of upright, confused and dick-headedness that Graham’s was in Buffy. In Longmire, we meet Branch’s family, which makes sense of his character – it’s not a set-up of mean antagonist that you usually get to the older, good and decent man.

Example of guest cast and supporting characters: in the third episode a local drug snitch-informer for Longmire is played by James C. Leary,who was Clem, Buffy’s friendly, floppy-eared, saggy-skinned, poker-playing-with-kittens-as-stakes, Dawn-sitting demon.

Then there was ep. 7, “8 Seconds,” which forefronts a married art gallery dealer and her wealthy beer distributor spouse, named – Sublette! Ha! It turned out that the husband is in the closet, which provoked an attack by a confused boy who discovers Sublette is having an affair with his father ….

The deeper into the series we get, the more involving and deeper it becomes. The smaller supporting roles get breadth, which works in the same way in Robert Parker's Jesse Stone, another successful locale-oriented television adaptation The nine made-for-television movies were produced by, and star Tom Selleck.  Neither of these are quite your usual tv.

As has Jesse Stone,  Longmire has lost his wife before the action begins. Stone’s wife kicked him out; Longmire’s is mysteriously dead, about which he feels guilty for reasons undisclosed. This convenient singlehood allows Longmire, like Stone, to  be broody as well as available for romantic/sexual opportunities. Perhaps because Longmire has a grown-up attorney daughter, Cady, in town, helps. Or, you could say, Longmire has a trio of women who take care of him: Cady, Vic, Ruby, the department's administrator, an older, though not motherly woman, thank goodness.

 Unlike Jesse, Longmire isn’t a drunk. Though Walt drinks, he does not drink to excess – or on the infrequent occasion that he does, he has good reason and handles it responsibly, calling Vic out of hot sex with her husband to drive him home.

I am applauding the writers of Longmire – so far they haven't writen in a hot sex encounter for Walt with a much younger woman in any episode, thank goodness, which we do have in every Jesse Stone episode, many of which come through unintentionally as ridiculousJesse even has a young nun yearning for him, despite having a good thirty-five years on her, who gets a bit jealous of him sexing up non-nuns. The threat of hot sex is always there for Walt, however, if only because Vic and his daughter keep telling Walt there are women attracted to him.

Longmire in the land-locked, mountain and prairie West, Jesse Stone’s on ocean coast Massachusetts, both are equally stunning landscapes. Involving landscape is always a big draw for me -- as long as the characters develop to at least some degee from their place. This can be used in many ways, even in opposition.  Justified has played successfully against that on occasion, bringing in Detroit mobsters who do not know or understand how things work in either Harlan County or Kentucky, which brings them down. Vic's an unwilling transplant to Absaroka County; this is just another in her her husband's constant re-locations as a nabob in the Natural Gas Bidness.. She's a big city girl, who misses a big city police department and regrets not having its resources, like SWAT teams.  Decent Los Angeles Jesse’s been forced to re-locate to a foreign place because he's a drunk and no one else would have him.

Significantly, Walt Longmire’s a believably decent man, who loves his land and community. Walt’s a bit old-fashioned – he won’t have a smart phone. He’s a guardian, aging out of his powers and out of his time, who makes up for this with intelligent and efficient use of what he does have – or what what his team has, such as smart phones. He can still fight like an aroused bear when necessary, but would always prefer not to.

It’s enjoyable to watch this decent, competent, non-flashy Sheriff of Absaroka County.  But then, I do love a good western.

Longmire’s second season began in May, 2013. The new season's episodes can be watched streaming on the A&E site.

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