Longmire begins its final season with a cliffhanger resolution that gives over to a business-as-usual approach for the fan-favorite police procedural.
Perhaps because of its procedural nature and episodic structure, Longmire seems to have a less pronounced sense of finality at the beginning of its final season. The show that was once unceremoniously canceled by A&E, leaving fans with a major unresolved cliffhanger at the end of season 3, was resurrected for an additional three seasons by Netflix, who announced earlier this year that it would bring the fan-favorite adaptation of The Longmire Mysteries by Craig Johnson to a proper close. The news was bittersweet, which makes the idea of a proper end both appealing and a little disconcerting, as endings are still something most TV shows struggle with, especially for a series like Longmire, which was essentially built to carry on in perpetuity rather than tell a complete story from beginning to end.
At the start of season 6, Longmire is more concerned with resolving the potentially deadly cliffhangers from season 5 finale than anything else, and rightfully so. The last episode, 'The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of' left Lou Diamond Phillips' Henry Standing Bear on the verge of death, and Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) in danger of not only losing his job as sheriff of Absaroka County, but also his home and land to an incoming developer. That's in addition to the ongoing troubles Walt's had with Jacob Nighthorse (A Martinez), Malachi Strand (Graham Greene), and even his own daughter Cady (Cassidy Freeman), much less the series' not-so-subtle hints that romance might finally be brewing between him and his deputy Vic Moretti (Katee Sackhoff). But a romance might not be in the cards, as one of the bigger surprises from season 5 was the revelation Vic was pregnant, with would-be deputy Travis Murphy (Derek Phillips) as the surprising father-to-be.
Though all of the above are perfectly good questions to see resolved at the beginning of a season, they none feel particularly like the entry point to a final season, and because of that, when Longmire season 6 begins with 'The Eagle and the Osprey', its business-as-usual-approach and distinct episodic structure is both comforting and a little like the writers and producers maybe didn't get the memo. Expectations of a more endgame-focused final season premiere aside, Longmire's desire to get back in the saddle of solving crimes in Absaroka County and making its lead character's life as difficult as possible is certainly admirable. The same is true of the opening sequence's clever editing to make the viewer question whether or not Walt's been robbing banks in the off-season as the gentleman bank robber, Cowboy Bill.
A deliberately disorienting start makes it easier for the series to settle back into comfortable rhythms, which Longmire does rather quickly as the Cowboy Bill bank robbery turns out to be much more complicated than it first seems. With a less-than-truthful teller hiding the robber's note, an overzealous true-crime blogger filming the entire thing, and an armed citizen taking the law into his own hands with disastrous results, 'The Eagle and the Osprey' feels a lot like a typical episode of Longmire soon enough.
That notion is furthered as the premiere lingers over Henry's predicament and what will be his slow while a trio of Malachi's men taunt him with water and food. Longmire has always been fond of exploring visions and hallucinations as a means of peeking inside the minds of its characters, and here it's no different. In between his real-life visitors, ghosts from Henry's past infuse the situation with a hint of magical realism the series has always enjoyed toying with. Even then, you can only look at Henry's chapped lips and sunbaked face for so long before you're begging for Walt to show up and drag him off to the hospital – which he does, but not before pausing to be bitten by a rattlesnake with zero repercussions beyond a bandage on his hand near the episode's end.
Longmire has always played loose with elements like that, as though the writers revel in putting their characters in mortal danger and then resolving things off screen without a second thought. It's usually not too big of deal, but in this case it weakens Henry's rescue, as the snakebite feels particularly superfluous and only adds to what is already an overlong episode.
Though the premiere falls short in that regard, there are plenty of solid moments to even things out. Among them is Vic taking point on the Cowboy Bill case while Walt's out saving Henry. Sackhoff not only deals with the citizen shooter with greater finesse than we've seen from her character in the past, but Vic also takes the kid gloves off completely when engaging with Mayor Crane (Eric Ladin), hinting that she would make a great replacement for Walt should things not go his way this season.
In addition to a solid subplot for Ferg that sees him put his burgeoning relationship with nurse Joyce (Star Trek: Discovery's Mary Wiseman) in jeopardy, Longmire begins its final season by not deviating too drastically from its normal state of affairs. The second episode of the season feels even more oblivious to the fact that this is the end of the series, so it will be interesting to see how and when the show begins to address the finality of things, and whether or not Longmire plans go out big or if it will stay business as usual for the sheriff of Absaroka County.
Longmire season 6 is available in its entirety on Netflix.