After six seasons and a network change, Longmire has come to an end. The finale, “Goodbye is Always Implied” was an extended episode that tied up virtually every loose end in the series and changed the character’s lives once and for all. If you can’t help but spoil yourself, keep reading, because this is the last trip to Absaroka we’ll be taking.
Let’s start with the bad guys, since without them there’d be no show. Walt’s two greatest problems—the Irish mob and Malachi Strand—provided a combined, singular threat this season that mostly operated on the fringes. We hardly saw prominent figures like Strand, Eddie Harp, or Shane Muldoon. Rather, their hired goons infiltrated the FBI and Jacob Nighthorse’s personal security team. The plan was multi-layered: wrest control of Nighthorse’s casino away from him and use it as a front to transport and distribute heroin. Malachi’s influence with members of the tribal police would keep them from investigating things on the res, while the Irish mob’s mole inside the FBI would take financial kickbacks in return for keeping Longmire and the FBI in the dark.
But, then, like everyone else, Muldoon underestimated the soft-spoken Malachi and ended up with a bullet in his head. Malachi then revealed to the res that Nighthorse had used Tribal funds (to the tune of $1 million dollars) to pay his bail to avoid being killed in prison. (Malachi, of course, left out the part that he himself was gunning for Nighthorse in prison.) All his workers walked out and refused to work for him as long as he was still running the casino. To this end, Malachi would convince Nighthorse (at gunpoint) to sign over the casino and bring everyone back into the fold. However, Malachi’s one flaw was the same one many villains have: it wasn’t just that he scored a touchdown, he had to spike the ball in the end zone and do a little dance, too.
Though Malachi’s influence is revealed, he was still not wrong about Nighthorse’s corruption and embezzling. While it’s not revealed if Nighthorse himself remained on the res, for the good of the people, he did step down from his position in the casino and handed operations over to Standing Bear. This not only allowed Nighthorse to save some face within the community but showed that he did, in the end, care enough about the future of the Cheyenne in Absaroka. Standing Bear, for his part, had always wanted to do more for his people, and was able to run the casino to that end. No more heroin, no more dirty deals. One would assume that it became like most normal casinos, with just the right amount of desperation. However, we do not know the state of Standing Bear’s restaurant, the Red Pony. Given how much he cares about the place, it probably didn’t need saying that he still kept it running as well.
Malachi’s personal dislike for Nighthorse extended to Henry Standing Bear. In his desire to play with his food before eating it, Malachi gave Standing Bear the opportunity to escape and warn Walt. Together, they raided the compound Malachi was hiding out in. The usual happened—shootout, flashbacks, abuse of the slow-motion gimmick, etc.
The end finds Malachi dead and Walt with his twelfth or thirteenth scar (he seems a little confused by the number as well). Combined with his umpteenth awkward conversation with Vic, it was clear Walt was ready to make a change on his own terms. The course of their conversation was an acknowledgement of fan criticism over the years over their will-they-won’t-they relationship; namely that neither of them would actually acknowledge the damn thing to others let alone themselves. Admittedly, the circuitous conversations in cars was wearing thin, and when Vic finally came right out and said that she was tired of them, there probably wasn’t a single fan of the series that didn’t attempt to high-five their screen.
Walt and Vic both had close calls this season, and both lost people close to them. Walt lost Lucien, and several years on, is clearly not over the death of his wife. In Lucien, Walt realized there was only so long he could do this job before his identity would become too wrapped up into it and he would push away everyone he loved. In short, he would live too long and have nothing to show for it.
Vic, of course, miscarried earlier in the season after being shot by Chance Gilbert. By the end of the finale, it’s clear Vic would never recover from the loss, same as Walt would never quite recover from the death of his wife. “I’ll never love you as much as my child and you’ll never love me as much as your wife.” By splitting the difference—Walt retiring, Vic and him deciding to live together, allows them both space to operate their lives separately and together.
Finally, the series comes full circle, again with a Longmire for Sheriff sign appearing on the road into the county. Instead, now, it’s for Cady Longmire to take on the role. The decision does feel out of place (despite seeing Cady capably handle weapons before) but it speaks to the greater theme of the series. Longmire and Standing Bear are the conscience of the county; Longmire for the city, Standing Bear for the res. As Walt says, the Natives and the Whites run a friendly, but parallel course. In order for things to remain peaceful, you need the balance of two strong leaders. In this part of Wyoming, it’s always a Longmire and a Standing Bear.