By Dave Andrusko
Editor’s note. This ran previously, but as it happens, I am re-watching the entire “Longmire” series beginning with the first episode before Netflix decides to cease streaming a series it stopping producing original programming for several years back.
I will never forget this episode.
When an actress plays a woman on a television program who is pregnant and usually unmarried, the writers can either allow the baby to be born, abort him or her, or have the mother suffer a miscarriage. Often critics, especially pro-abortion critics, descry the miscarriage as an evasion—that is, she should have aborted and would have been if the writers were more “realistic.
What my wife and I saw last night in the fourth episode of the final season of “Longmire” will never, could never, be characterized as a copout. We were both moved, with me close to tears.
For those who don’t know Longmire, the series is in its sixth season. It started on A&E and migrated to Netflix where it has gathered a determined and loyal following. The show is 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 way “charismatic” is ordinarily understood, it is deeply misleading. Walt Longmire 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 last night’s episode. (Of course we could have bingwatched the entire series, but Lisa and I are rationing the last season’s episodes.)
Victoria is pregnant; we know only that it 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.
Last night she has a shoot out with Chance Gilibert, a psychopathic head of a clan who had previously captured and tortured her. She kills him in exchange of gunfire 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 she 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.
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. 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 are shown how devastated Victoria is by the loss of her baby. How for the first time she “hadn’t been alone.” How riddled with guilt she is for going after the criminal and in process being shot and 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.)
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 sobs before she crumbles.
I cannot convey in words how tenderly Walt talked about the baby, or how devastated the man was 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 lot.
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.