By Dave Andrusko
My wife and I are big fans of Netflix and we keep an eye on which episodes of old shows (for which no new episodes are being made) will no longer be available to watch. There is always scuttlebutt about whether Longmire, one of our favorites, will be dropped.
Why do I mention that? Simply because it dealt with an unplanned pregnancy and the loss of a baby in a powerful way that I wrote about a while back and would like to revisit.
Longmire was described as “Based on the Walt Longmire mystery novels by best-selling author Craig Johnson, this contemporary crime drama stars Australian actor Robert Taylor in the title role, the charismatic and dedicated sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming.”
The show began on A&E and migrated to Netflix where it finished a run of six seasons.
When a character on a television program (almost always unmarried) becomes pregnant, the writers can either allow her baby to be born, abort him or her, or have the mother suffer a miscarriage. Often critics, especially pro-abortion critics, get bent out of shape. To them a miscarriage is an evasion—that is, she should have aborted and would have if the writers were more “realistic.
But in real life there is an entirely new sensitivity to the tragedy of miscarriage. We have carried many stories about very, very wanted babies who died in utero or within hours of premature birth. That awareness appears in the fourth episode of that sixth and final season of Longmire.
No one who witnessed this keenly attuned portray would ever suggest the program copped out. My wife and I were both moved, with me close to tears.
Walt Longmire, as they say, is a man of very few words who is fiercely loyal to his daughter, his best friend since childhood, Henry Standing Bear, and his deputies. Walt’s integrity is impeccable and he’s the kind of man dads want their sons to grow up to be like.
His late wife was murdered (something we didn’t know when the series began in 2012) and there has long been an undertow of possible romance (someday) between Walt and his deputy, Victoria “Vic” Moretti [Katee Sackhoff].
Which brings us to the fourth episode.
Victoria is pregnant; we know only that she is early in her pregnancy. When Walt learns this from another source he tries every way he knows to keep Victoria out of harm’s way. (He is not the father, by the way.) This is the absolutely last thing the fiery independent, passionately self-sufficient Victoria wants.
In the finest tradition of climatic western shoot-outs, Vic exchanges gunfire with Chance Gilbert, the psychopathic head of a clan who had previously captured and tortured her. She kills Gilbert in the hail of bullets but suffers a gravely serious wound to her right thigh.
The next 20 minutes are some of the best television you will ever see. When Victoria awakes, Walt gently, gradually tells her “the baby didn’t make it.” Victoria’s early response is, “I just feel terrible that I don’t feel more terrible.” But we know from her face and her history there is a lot more going on in her heart.
Walt tells her that the baby actually saved her life–that someone who had lost as much blood as Victoria had usually doesn’t make it. But she had an extra source of blood because of the baby. (Walt doesn’t use the word but he is talking about the placenta which is a huge reservoir of spare blood volume, on both the maternal and fetal side.)
As the remainder of the episode unfolds, we see how utterly devastated Victoria is by the loss of her baby. She tells Walt that for the first time she “hadn’t been alone.” We see how riddled with guilt she is for going after the criminal and in process losing her baby whom she “knows” was a girl. (We know, in fact, that the nutcase had trapped Walt and had she not come to his rescue, Walt would have been Gilbert’s latest victim.)
In a memorable scene that takes places the next day, Victoria tells Walt, “How do you get over loving someone so much that you never met … my baby is gone and she is gone because of me.” Tough as nails, Victoria breaks down. All you hear are her exhausted sobs and then she crumbles.
I cannot convey in words how tenderly Walt talked about the baby, or how devastated was the man who believes he was the father. What came through like a siren in the night was that this baby’s life—brief as it was—mattered.
A human being died that night.
After the episode, “A Thing I’ll Never Understand,” ended, I couldn’t helping thinking about all the pro-death television shows which treat the life of an unborn child as a nothing—as “something” to be gotten rid of without a moment’s sorrow or regret or hesitation.
They can’t hold a candle to the truth Katee Sackhoff conveyed with great passion and even greater realism.