By Rick Bentley / The Fresno Bee
Published Sep 15, 2015 at 12:02AM
LOS ANGELES — Fans of “Longmire” were stunned when A&E canceled the drama after three seasons. To make matters worse, the final episode in the third season featured several big cliffhangers.
The shock and frustration wore off quickly when Netflix opted to order a fourth season that is available now.
Executive producer Hunt Baldwin says the cliffhanger wasn’t written as a way of forcing the cable network to keep producing the show, which is based on the novels by best-selling author Craig Johnson.
“Obviously, when we wrote that, we had a lot of story left to tell, had every intention of telling that. And we were surprised that there was a period of sort of a purgatory last season when we didn’t think we were going to get to finish. So, needless to say, we are thrilled that we got to move to Netflix and finish telling that story,” Baldwin says. “We threw a lot of knives in the air at the end of Season 3, and a big part of the story we’re telling in Season 4 is what happens when those knives fall.”
“Longmire” picks up with Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) finding out who is behind the murder of his wife. Walt gives in to his darker impulses and takes off in pursuit of the killer with revenge on his mind.
Meanwhile, Branch Connally (Bailey Chase), the deputy fired for violent behavior, believes he has already figured out who the real culprit is. But during his confrontation with this suspected killer, a gun goes off.
Taylor didn’t believe it when he got the message that A&E had pulled the plug after three seasons.
“I thought it was a joke. I didn’t believe it. I got a text saying they canceled it, and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s great — I had an interview that I didn’t have to do,’” Taylor says. “I was skiing in Australia, so it was cold. It took me a week or so and I reconciled myself to not doing it again, but I always believed we weren’t finished.”
The reason the show got canceled by A&E was that the audience skewed older than the cable channel bosses wanted. Netflix has no such concerns.
There will be one big difference in Season 4: Because Netflix is a streaming service and not under the tight confines of commercial television, the producers will be able to make each episode as long as needed.
That extra time will be used to focus on the stories dealing with Longmire and Henry Standing Bear, the character played by Lou Diamond Phillips. It’s taken some work in the writing room to expand supporting players because the novels are all written as first-person tales from Longmire’s perspective.
Phillips is pleased the series makers were able to expand on supporting players like the one he’s playing.
“Season 3 was sort of an epiphany for me because they were taking Henry Standing Bear into places that I don’t think Craig would have investigated in his novels,” Phillips says. “We’re very, very true to those characters. We’re very true to the soul of his writing. But they have expanded the universe to include the supporting cast, to let us know about their lives that are not ever really investigated in the novels.
“So there were times when I had to wrap my head around Henry not being a zen warrior and maybe being a little overly caffeinated at times and dealing with some emotional baggage that is not really introduced in the novels.”
The theme of Season 4 — decided upon before the A&E decision — is second chances. Cast and crew of the drama agree that’s a perfect way to describe what happened when Netflix came along to save “Longmire” from the TV trash pile.
The 10-episode fourth season stars Taylor and Phillips along with Katee Sackhoff, Chase, Cassidy Freeman and Adam Bartley. Gerald McRaney and Ally Walker guest star.