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Thursday, October 5, 2017

October 5, 2017: LongmireStudying: Vic and Cady

[Later this month, the sixth and final season of my favorite current TV show (and one of my all time-favs as well), Longmire, drops on Netflix. So this week, after a repeat of my first post on the show, I wanted to AmericanStudy a handful of Longmire’s many fascinating characters. Leading up to a special weekend post on Native American popular culture!]
On the similarities and differences between two complex, compelling characters.
From its opening episode on, Longmire has balanced the male friendship and comraderie of Walt and Henry (and of the Western genre as a whole, which has been depicted as a boys’ club at least since Natty Bumppo and Huck Finn lit off for the frontier wilderness at the end of their respective stories) with two very well drawn and interesting central female characters. There’s Victoria “Vic” Moretti (Katee Sackhoff), a former Philadelphia cop who has relocated to Wyoming after she blew the whistle on crooked cops and who has badass and stubborn streaks to match her new boss Walt’s. And there’s Cady Longmire (Cassidy Freeman), Walt’s adult daughter and a talented lawyer trying to make sense of both her personal and professional lives in the small Wyoming town of Durant (and in the aftermath of her mother Martha’s death, a challenge she shares with Walt). Both are of course defined through their layered and evolving relationships to our protagonist and title character, but both are from the outset fully formed and compelling characters in their own right, and add significantly to the show’s ensemble and palette of characters and perspectives.
Yet while both Vic and Cady have remained key figures throughout the show’s five seasons to date, I would have to say that the evolving storylines have done more justice to Cady as a complex character in her own right. Vic’s two most consistent roles (other than as a very capable police officer, to be sure) have been as a damsel in distress and a potential love interest. For the former, she was threatened for multiple seasons by Ed Gorski (Lee Tergesen), a rogue ex-Philly cop (and ex-lover of Vic’s) who turns up in Wyoming seeking vengeance; but she has also spent a number of episodes as a potential target of both crazed survivalist Chance Gilbert (Peter Stormare) and her fellow deputy Branch Connally (Bailey Chase). All of those distressing situations have played into the will-they or won’t-they romantic dynamic between Vic and Walt, but she has also consistently been defined through her romantic relationships with first her husband Sean (Micheal Mosley) and then post-divorce with fellow deputy Eamonn O’Neill (Josh Cooke). Sackhoff gives all of these relationships and storylines depth and nuance, and of course both threats and romances as part of any human life as well as any story. Yet in all these situations Vic has been portrayed more as reacting to men in her life than pursuing an arc of her own.
In Season 1, it seemed as if Cady might suffer a similar fate, as her character was largely used as a wedge between Walt and Branch Connally (with whom Cady had a secret romance while he was running against Walt in an election for sheriff). But the dynamic of her evolving knowledge of and perspective on her mother’s death already added distinct layers to that role, and in subsequent seasons, with the Branch romance a thing of the past, Cady’s character has acquired a number of other compelling layers as well. More exactly, over the last couple of seasons Cady has become interestingly and importantly linked to the Cheyenne reservation, first through particular relationships and storylines but now in an ongoing role as a reservation lawyer (working, to add one more level of complexity, for Walt’s longtime enemy Jacob Nighthorse, on whom more tomorrow). While of course Walt’s friendship with Henry links him to the Cheyenne community (as do many particular episodes and mysteries), Cady is the first white character we’ve seen move fully into the world of the reservation, and the rareness and significance of that move has been noted by a number of Cheyenne characters. I’m interested to see where the final season takes both Vic and Cady, but have to admit that Cady’s arc is to me both the most uncertain and the most compelling of them all.
Last Longmire post tomorrow,
PS. What do you think? Takes on Longmire, or other shows, you’d share?

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