For a western, Longmire is uncommonly exciting and suspenseful. I wonder if a part of that is the constant fear for Walt’s life, as seen in the first part of “Carcasses.” Not only is he an older man, though there is no way I would question his ability to do anything because of his age, but he is so quiet and still that it is a surprise when he bursts into action. But that’s not why I am in fear for his life. I think it’s because we know he doesn’t care about his own wellbeing. No man would walk through the snow after a serial killer who will just die in the wilderness, risking his own life, if he cared for it. I was having a lengthy discussion with someone about how selfish you had to be to truly care for others. We agreed that there had to be a certain level of selfishness, but when it comes to giving everything of yourself for someone else, you don’t care.
Longmire cares about everything and everyone but himself.
There is a bit of self preservation in not caring about yourself, but not much. The self preservation is that you feel you need to be around to protect others. That is readily in evidence in the opening sequence. Tracking a murder victim found on the property of Holly Whitish, who clears the carcasses from the road and turns them into compost, by the contents of his stomach – a turducken burger – the Sheriff’s department ends up at a truck stop rife with prostitution. When they bust the ring, one prostitute tries to run away. The glances the sheriff gives as he notices things builds great tension, so when he takes off after the big rig to stop its progress, it is probably one of the most exciting bits of action without being a knock down, drag out fight. And I spent the entire sequence afraid something would happen to Walt.
The fleeing prostitute remembers that the victim smelled like tar, so they track him to a road crew. They get a name, Ross Lanton, and head to his house. It’s deserted, but with neighbors across the way, they’re sure to get answers. The neighbors, a married couple, look suspicious. The wife is shaky and avoiding eye contact and the husband, Greg Collette, has bruises on his face. They are not shy about interfering in Ross’ marriage. In fact, they are the reasons why Lanton’s wife left him a few weeks earlier.
Meanwhile, at Henry’s bar, the carcasses and compost lady, Holly, is really drunk. She says something to a woman coming on to Branch and is told to leave. She comes back minutes later with the carcass of a deer. She is obviously traumatized by something and we learn it’s because she knew the dead man she’d found while adding deer carcasses to her compost. It was the man who raped her 20 years ago. She was young and out doing what her parents told her not to do. She was offered a ride home by a stranger who had been flirting with her in the bar, but instead of taking her home, he took her down a gravel road, raped her, then pushed her out of the car and left her. When she told her parents, they told her that this was God’s punishment for her going against what they taught her. When Walt asks her if she killed Ross, she says she didn’t, but God did, since she prayed that God would make him pay for what he did to her. Walt gets Branch and Ferg to search Holly’s house while he goes to talk to the prostitute who helped him find Ross the first time.
The prostitute did turn out to be at the truck stop on the day that Ross died and she saw him get into a dark sedan with tinted windows. This clue leads them back to the Collette’s place. When they get there, they hear gunfire. Realizing that, with all the shots, nothing was being broken, Walt goes. Randi Collette is flashing back to her days in the military. She yells something about the children being dead while holding a gun to her husband’s head. We learn that she has PTSD blackouts. She doesn’t remember what she does or where she goes while in them. On the day that Ross was murdered, Greg found her in her car the next morning. She wants to be arrested if she is capable of killing someone while in her blackout.
Both Ferg and Branch find evidence that could convict Holly, but Walt is still uncertain. He wants to make an arrest that is beyond a shadow of a doubt. Branch tries to talk to him about Katie, getting Walt to admit he doesn’t know where Katie is – but it also offers him a break in the case. He decides to find Holly’s son because parents don’t always know where their kids are or what they know. When they get to Montana, they realize that Dakish was part of Ross’ road crew. When they get him back to Absaroka County, he tells his mom that he’s known since he was 12. He tried to visit his grandparents who turned him away saying he was the son of a rapist and he would grow up to be the same. He snuck into the registrar’s office of his college to check out his birth certificate and Ross Lanton’s name was right there on the certificate. So he joined the work crew to see what he was like. The night he went out, he took the gun because Ross Lanton had to pay. But first, he needed to see if he deserved to die. They went to the truck stop together and while Ross availed himself of a prostitute, the prostitute who has helped out the entire time, he waited. When he came out, the look on his face made Dakish know that he would kill him. The more Ross talked, the angrier Dakish got until finally he shot Ross. He hid the body in his mom’s compost pile because he thought no one would check. He looks at his mom, sorry he’s disappointed him but she tells him that she’s only had two prayers in her life – that she wouldn’t be so alone and that Ross Lanton would pay for what he did to her – and Dakish was the answer to both.
Afterwards, Walt calls Katie to apologize. He tells her, “Don’t bury the pain, don’t lock it up inside. It’ll tear you up in the long run.” This is the heart of who Longmire is, someone who has let the pain tear him up in the long run. And this is why this show can be so compelling.
The way that rape is approached in “Carcasses” – from the prostitute who didn’t consider Ross forcing himself on her rape because he “paid for it like everyone else” to the woman who was so distraught she brought a dead deer into a bar to the men whose reaction to the concept of rape, whether they did it or was witness to its aftermath – is well done. The emotional elements of the son avenging the mother he loved or the tender but firm way that Walt applied his compassion and his justice hit just the right note. My favorite line from the episode was from the prostitute when Henry, upon hearing how Ross treat her, gives her a look of pity. She says, “Oh, now you feel sorry for me? That’s 20 bucks extra.” It is easy to want to pity those who make different decisions than you do, but it is also nice to see someone own those decisions and not let the thoughts of others pull them into an emotional mire that is hard to get out of. That toughness is something inherent in westerns and I’m glad to see it show it’s face in this one.