After coming to an end with season 6, the modern-day Wester Longmire gives its characters and fans the closure they very nearly missed out on.
When A&E abruptly canceled Longmire after season 3, it did so on a wild cliffhanger that not only left the fate of Branch Connelly up in the air, but also the fates of Walt Longmire, his Absaroka County deputies, Henry Standing Bear, and many others. It was one of the best examples of Netflix stepping in to save a series that fans were passionate about, and it resulted in the show living on for an additional three seasons, so it could find proper closure in season 6 with the series finale, ‘Goodbye is Always Implied.’
Maybe because it had already been canceled once, it felt particularly necessary for the finale to acknowledge and address the desires of its viewers, desires that were likely only there because the series had been sowing those particular seeds since season 1, but still. That means a finale that has to wrap up the ongoing Malachi-Jacob Nighthorse battle in a satisfactory manner, while still answering the questions of what would happen in the personal and professional lives of Walt, Vic, Cady, Henry, and the Ferg. The extra-long finale managed to execute both with surprising efficiency, setting up the still kind of weird romance between Walt and Vic prior to what was going to be an epic shootout with Malachi and his forces as they tried to wrest control of the casino from Nighthorse before killing him and Henry.
Although he’s a common fixture both on and off the reservation, and it’s true that he had a score to settle with Malachi, Henry’s involvement in the situation felt a little perfunctory, at least until Nighthorse announced his plans to name the owner of the Red Pony bar as his successor at the casino. The move gave Henry’s presence there some added weight and aptly ramped up the tension surrounding the question of Nighthorse’s survival. In the end, Jacob was saved as much by the intervention of Walt as he was by Malachi’s Bond-villain-like need to make his adversaries die an overly elaborate death.
The shootout nicely bookended Vic’s concern over losing Walt, which at long last prompted the reticent sheriff to reveal his feelings for her, and later served to underline just how right Vic is to be concerned over Walt’s well being. His deputy is able to save her boss from a charging SUV, but she’s a little late in protecting him from Malachi’s knife, which later prompts a look of awe as he applies vodka to his wound, and a cataloging of his various scars in lieu of a more conventional form of foreplay. It’s not quite Outlander, but the payoff to all those seasons of (maybe misguided) sexual tension between the two was surprisingly steamy for a show that doesn’t normally focus on that kind of thing.
But the Walt/Vic romance was handled as well as could be expected, and it even came with its own nice character moments in previous episodes, like her father’s sudden arrival and his attempt to strong-arm his daughter and Walt into her returning to Philadelphia. That, followed by Vic’s dismal performance at the Running Eagle Challenge, set up her asking for a raise instead of resigning in a way that proved to be of the more satisfying moments of the series. As far as the finale was concerned, Vic’s questions about the future stability of her and Walt’s relationship kept Longmire from delivering too pat an ending for the couple.
As it turns out, ‘Goodbye Is Always Implied’ had a few surprises like that up its sleeve, most notably, Walt’s retirement from the sheriff’s office and his gentle nudging of Cady to become his replacement. It was an out-of-left-field move that may not have been entirely earned, but nonetheless earns points for not going with the obvious choice in Vic. With Zach newly re-deputized and in a relationship with Cady, the only one left to settle his personal affairs was Ferg, who, presumably due to scheduling conflicts with Mary Wiseman, didn’t get to have a lovely face-to-face with Meg, and instead had to settle for running his big speech past her mother before slapping on a tux and walking off screen with some flowers to where Meg was presumably waiting. It’s hard to begrudge a series for circumstance that are out of its control — if that is indeed what happened — but Wiseman’s absence in the finale is so obvious as to be glaring, and perhaps should have been handled differently.
All in all, though, Longmire managed to give its fans some deserved closure, and while it was mostly a happy ending, there was just enough melancholy to Walt and Vic’s last scene to keep the episode from descending completely into fan service territory. Sending the former sheriff in search of buried treasure is a nice touch considering how long that plot thread has been running through the series, but one has to wonder just how the devoted fan base will respond to their favorite Wyoming lawman giving up his tin star.
Longmire seasons 1-6 are available on Netflix.