The Big Picture

  • The “High Noon” episode of
    Longmire
    changes the series forever, revealing shocking truths and delivering gripping Western drama.
  • Walt Longmire and Barlow Connally’s intense showdown in “High Noon” sparks a new era of challenges and revelations.
  • A powerful performance by Robert Taylor as Walt Longmire in “High Noon” sets the stage for a potential future return of the beloved series.



When Longmire was resurrected by Netflix for a fourth season, fans were ecstatic to see Robert Taylor as the titular Sheriff Walt Longmire. Despite the powerful cliffhanger Season 3 left audiences with, A&E still opted to cancel the Western mystery series, which opened the door for Netflix to take over. Thankfully, the streamer brought the show back with the same action-packed flavor, and the show was as good as ever. But one episode early in the fourth season changed the direction of the series forever.


Longmire Netflix Poster

Longmire

Walt Longmire is the dedicated and unflappable sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming. Widowed only a year, he is a man in psychic repair but buries his pain behind his brave face, unassuming grin and dry wit.

Release Date
June 3, 2012

Creator
Hunt Baldwin, John Coveny

Seasons
6

Studio
A&E


“High Noon” Is a Climactic Hour of ‘Longmire’

Written by Longmire co-creators Hunt Baldwin and John Coveny and brought to life by prolific series director Christopher Chulack (who also helmed the pilot and series finale), “High Noon” is the aptly titled third episode of Netflix’s fourth season that evokes the same sort of Western ambiance as the classic Gary Cooper film with which it shares a name. In the Season 3 finale, “Ashes to Ashes,” former Absaroka County deputy Branch Connally (Bailey Chase) discovers that his greedy land developer father Barlow Connally (Gerald McRaney) has been secretly working with shady businessman Jacob Nighthorse (A Martinez). But to make things worse, Branch finds out that Barlow is the one responsible for the murder of Walt Longmire’s wife Martha, having borrowed Nighthorse’s personal assassin to do so. With Martha out of the way, building an Indian casino would become a quick reality. At least, that was the plan.


However, in confronting his father, Branch is murdered by Barlow, shooting his son mercilessly while claiming that he still has time to “make another” successor to the Connelly name and fortune. And thus ended Longmire‘s tenure on A&E. Season 4 begins with news of Branch’s death, and Walt soon discovers that it wasn’t a suicide but a murder. As always, he believes Jacob Nighthorse is to blame. Well, three episodes in, and we get to “High Noon,” which finally puts an end to all of Walt’s questions and gives him the answers he so desperately longed for. Pitting Walt and Barlow against the other has been a long time coming, especially since Branch has so often been caught in the middle, and “High Noon” doesn’t pull any punches (even if Walt does his best to).


The whole episode centers around Walt believing that Nighthorse killed Branch on his land. As a result, he does everything he can to get onto Nighthorse’s property, even using Bob Barnes (John Bishop) as his unofficial agent. But when Nighthorse is shot at and calls out Walt as the would-be assassin, things get all the more complicated when our favorite sheriff plays coy about where he was, leading Deputy Vic Moretti (Katee Sackhoff)––and even the audience––to believe that maybe Walt was responsible after all. Walt Longmire may be a stand-up guy who does things by the book, but sometimes his anger blindsides him. Thankfully, that isn’t the case this time around. Walt didn’t shoot at Nighthorse, but the way they argue, you’d think he might have.

“High Noon” Keeps Tensions High and Revels in Its Western Flavor


The stakes are high in “High Noon,” and they get higher by the minute. Questions reign as Vic believes that Walt may have shot at Nighthorse, Tribal Police Chief Matthias (played by Dark Winds star Zahn McClarnon) calls in the FBI to investigate, and, on the other side of town, Walt’s daughter Cady (Cassidy Freeman) discovers the connection between Barlow and Nighthorse. All of this comes to a masterful head when Walt finds Barlow in his home, there to confess that he was the one who shot at Nighthorse. But, to Barlow’s surprise, Walt already knows that Barlow was the one who killed Branch, bringing his entire house of cards down. And that’s when Walt finally pieces together the truth about who’s responsible for Martha’s death.

Since the beginning of the series, Walt Longmire has been searching for who killed his wife. At first, he thought it was drug addict Miller Beck (John Lee Ames), only to learn he was hired by Jacob Nighthorse’s enforcer, David Ridges (David Midthunder). Walt and his deputies figure all this out throughout the show’s first three seasons, but it isn’t until “High Noon” that he discovers Barlow’s role in it all. In an instant, Gerald McRaney commands the scene as Barlow, explaining to Walt his master plan in the same vein as a villain might in an Agatha Christie novel. He’s frightening in all the best ways, and though there are other more compelling antagonists on the show, it’s this moment that shows just how sadistic and cruel Barlow Connally truly is — a far cry from his brother (and former sheriff) Lucian (Peter Weller), to be sure.


“High Noon” feels like your classic Western, particularly the aforementioned Gary Cooper film. Just like Cooper’s Marshall Kane, Sheriff Longmire is a man who stands alone in his struggle for justice. Sure, both Kane and Longmire had allies––and Walt’s allies even help––but in the end, he faces his enemy all by his lonesome. The final moments between Walt and Barlow are a mixture of enraging and cathartic. Barlow’s evil deeds make the audience as angry as Walt is, but it also feels good to know that everything is out in the open. So, when Barlow pulls an empty gun on Walt and the sheriff fires two rounds into the land developer’s chest, it may be shocking, but it feels like the only way this story could end. The final shot of Walt looking over his land, reminiscent of classic Westerns like The Searchers, is perhaps the best visual clue that things on Longmire will never be the same.


“High Noon” Launched ‘Longmire’ Into a New Era

Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) rests on his porch in an epic Western shot in the 'Longmire' episode
Image via Netflix

“High Noon” changed the game for Longmire. Season 4 had already brought in a bunch of new changes from the start, but three episodes in, it seals the deal. Despite Walt’s efforts to save his life, Barlow stabs himself with Walt’s knife in an attempt to frame the sheriff for murder. While that frame job doesn’t quite stick long-term, it does lead to a heap of other problems that shape the next two seasons of the show. For starters, Barlow may be dead, but his plans are still carried out posthumously. In Season 5, Walt is sued by Tucker Baggett (Brett Rice), the head of Barlow’s estate. This “wrongful death” lawsuit threatens to bankrupt Walt, remove him from office, and take his land––which would then be turned into a 36-hole golf course, just like Barlow wanted.


This civil suit gets even more intense in the sixth and final season, leading to a lot of bloodshed and even the suicide of Lucian Connally, who hoped to exonerate Walt by killing Tucker Baggett himself. While the events of “High Noon” act almost as a direct sequel to the Season 3 finale “Ashes to Ashes,” the Season 4 episode concludes the multi-season mystery of Martha Longmire’s murder while simultaneously beginning a new overarching plotline surrounding Barlow’s will. Longmire had already changed quite a bit when it was brought back by Netflix. The episodes were longer, the cast was smaller, and it seemed like the show was willing to go places it hadn’t been before. “High Noon” is almost a coda to the A&E years of the show, officially ushering audiences into the Netflix era by closing out the mystery that kept the sheriff up at night for years.


From here on out, Walt would be much more careful about the deputies he’d hire, the people he’d trust, and how he would accuse Jacob Nighthorse going forward. In fact, by the series’ end, Nighthorse and Walt would even come to an understanding that they’d never had before. There’s a lot to love about “High Noon,” but the closure it gives Walt Longmire is at the top of the list. Robert Taylor’s performance is powerful, and he evokes so much raw emotion as he pieces together the truth about Martha’s murder. Even when we believe that the sheriff may be bending the law to entrap Jacob Nighthorse, Taylor plays the part so narrowly that we can see things going either way. By the time Walt is proven innocent, only to shoot Barlow Connally and watch him bleed out on his front porch, well, it’s about as good Western television as you can get, and there’s no one better for the part than Robert Taylor.

Could Walt Longmire Return for More?

Robert Taylor as Walt Longmire in the 'Longmire' episode
Image via Netflix


Episodes like “High Noon,” despite their deviation from the source material, make it clear that Longmire needs to return for more. For every “High Noon,” there are half a dozen other episodes (like Season 1’s “Dog Soldier”) just as excellent in the show’s impressive canon that reminds us just how good we had it with this Western. Six seasons and 63 episodes isn’t nearly enough of Robert Taylor’s tenure as Walt Longmire, and to this day folks still talk of seeing him return. “There’s a constant buzz about the return of the series, a potential Season 7 or made-for-TV movies, but nothing concrete,” noted Craig Johnson, the author behind the original Walt Longmire Mystery books, noted back in 2022 (via Cowboy State Daily).


While there’s still no news about whether Longmire could return in the future, the fact that people are talking about it is a good sign. With how popular shows like Yellowstone are nowadays, you’d think that Longmire would be a shoo-in for Netflix to revive. At the very least, Craig Johnson is still penning stellar Walt Longmire stories in his ever-growing collection of novels. With well over 20 different installments in the original book series (which started back in 2004), Johnson’s Sheriff Longmire continues to solve crimes in Absaroka County even though his show went off the air nearly a decade ago. In fact, a new installment, First Frost, is set to hit bookshelves this spring. You just can’t keep a good sheriff down.

Longmire can be streamed on Netflix.

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