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You Should Be Watching: 'Longmire'

Fans of Westerns and crime dramas will find much to like in "Longmire," a contemporary Western crime series based on the"Walt Longmire" detective novels by Craig Johnson. The show has particular appeal to an older audience, who may better appreciate a weather-beaten, 50-something sheriff riding to the rescue in his Bronco, rappelling down a cliff using belts and handcuffs or tracking a serial killer up a mountain in a blizzard.

Title: "Longmire"

Year it began: Premiered on A&E Network in 2012, moved to Netflix in 2015, sixth and final season aired in November.

Where it can be seen: Netflix

Who’s in it: Robert Taylor,  Lou Diamond Phillips, Katee Sackhoff, A Martinez, Graham Greene, Zahn McClarnon, Cassidy Freeman.

Typical episode length: 45 to 60 minutes

Number of episodes: 63

Brief plot description: Recently widowed Walt Longmire, sheriff of fictional Absaroka County, Wyoming, is a man of few words but has a reputation for integrity and detective smarts as he  hunts down murderers and navigates the hazards of small-town politics in the contemporary Wild West, with the help of his childhood best friend, a Cheyenne bar owner named Henry Standing Bear.

Why It's Worth Watching: Solid police procedurals with surprising plot twists are featured in each episode meshing seamlessly with season-spanning story arcs, starting with the death of Walt's wife. The crimes take place against a gritty backdrop of poverty, addiction and family dysfunction and many involve the Cheyenne Reservation where law enforcement is handled by the tribal police. The opening of the Cheyennes'  new casino offers ample opportunities for mayhem. The casting and writing are excellent.

Australian actor Robert Taylor is superb as Longmire,  a thoughtful man who plays piano, quotes John Donne and often takes little satisfaction in arresting perpetrators since the black and white of right and wrong is so often painted in shades of gray. Lou Diamond Phillips is excellent as Henry Standing Bear, and Katee Sackhoff brings a welcome toughness to her role as deputy Vic Morretti, a former Philadelphia police detective who has moved to Wyoming to escape her past. Lakota-Irish actor Zahn McClarnon turns in a superb, nuanced performance as Cheyenne tribal police chief Mathias. Graham Greene is terrific as Malachi Strand, the former tribal police chief with an ax to grind with  Longmire.

The series offers an illuminating look at the modern-day legacy of the injustices suffered by Native Americans.  One episode examines the fallout from malpractice Native American women suffered at the hands of white doctors in the 1970s, another the removal of native children from their homes and another the criminal behavior of oil rig crews on Reservation land.

The perpetrators are often sympathetic characters who have been pushed to the limit. One episode is a mystery surrounding the death of a farmer being pushed off his land by a big corporate player. Another involves a murder at a former World War II internment camp for Japanese Americans.

Walt lives alone outside town in a rustic log house with a sweeping vista of the mountains and vast open spaces, and the rugged beauty of the landscape and the danger posed by the often hostile terrain loom large in the show. Author Craig Johnson, in an essay in the Washington Post about his inspiration for creating the Longmire character, wrote about the "fascination with the epic, romantic landscape of the American West" and his particular interest in a sheriff, as "the only law enforcement officer who is elected and therefore directly responsible to his constituency, his people and his land. The job is specifically personal and therefore lends itself to an immediacy that the cop — protected behind his mirrored sunglasses — can never achieve."

The series was filmed in New Mexico, and the scenery is gorgeous. While the murders are grim, the circumstances often tragic and the gore occasionally a bit much (there's one in which horses locked in a barn burn to death), there are touches of humor, including a running joke about  Longmire's refusal to get a cell phone.

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