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The first three seasons of Longmire are damn good television. Not perfect, by any means. In particular, the first season has a few cringeworthy teething pains (Vic pretending to offer to strip in a club for some evidence made me wince, and Walt threatening to drench a man in raw meat and let a bear out of a cage on him made me groan), a number of questionable writing decisions dog the third season's finale, and the some subplots have abrupt, unsatisfactory conclusions that seem ripe to be followed up on and then never are. But the setting is beautiful and well shot, the heroic characters are entertaining and (usually) believably-flawed and likable, the villains and mysteries are, if sometimes a bit predictable, always either menacing, tragic and interesting, or both, and there's a lot of really smart political commentary in there about modern Native American life.
So, naturally, the idiot network suits killed it, despite its having good ratings, and they did it for the stupid, short-sighted reason that its viewing audience skewed too old.
But then, Netflix picked up the show, gave more creative control to the people making it, and they turned out two more seasons with a third on the way. Sounds great, right? I mean, that's how the story's supposed to go! The art gets taken away from the stupid, soulless people who never understood it, and given room to be free, it's better than ever... right?
Unfortunately, no. I can confidently state that both seasons represent significant downgrades over what came before. Some of this is probably down to production problems: can't get old cast members, that sort of thing.
And Season 4 visibly struggles under the weight of trying to bridge the mostly-concluded plot of the first three seasons with the new directions they want to take the show for these new three. Old characters are written very poorly, and come across as unsympathetic in ways that don't quite feel intentional. New characters are introduced, only to be clumsily discarded without enough development. The murder cases of the week often feel like time-wasting intrusions onto the ongoing story arc, or vice versa, in a way the first three seasons' never did. Said ongoing story often relied on contrivances. The last major story arc is easily the best part, leaving aside the truly atrocious way it treats the new deputy character, but even it has some clunky writing problems regarding the cartoonishly-evil antagonist.
I dropped the show partway through Season 5. Every trend that I disliked in the previous season had continued, and worsened, and the first few episodes go out of their way to reverse every good thing in the last season. I won't say it's all terrible from beginning to end, and there are a few good plots here and there, but it's either flailing around with its creative decisions or doubling down on terrible ones. The characters are simply no longer sympathetic, and the show is no longer good television.
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