“Laconic” is the operative word when you’re talking about TV’s most enigmatic lawmen: Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire of A&E’s “Longmire” and Kentucky-based U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens of “Justified” on FX.
Why “laconic”? Let’s go to the dictionary: “Laconic” is defined in Webster’s as “using or involving the use of a minimum of words” and “concise to the point of seeming rude or mysterious.”
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Well, no one’s accusing Sheriff Longmire or Marshal Givens of being ill-mannered. But these two are both men of few words who manage to maintain the most expressionless of poker faces even in the most stressful situations.
Why compare the two? Because “Longmire” is returning Monday (Memorial Day) for its second season on A&E at 10 p.m./9c. We had the privilege of watching the season premiere in advance the other day, thanks to the folks at A&E, and we couldn’t help thinking about Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) as we were becoming reacquainted with Sheriff Longmire (Robert Taylor).
Why? Because both are men of action, who shoot – or at least act – first and ask questions later. And they each ply their trade in the most un-urban of environments.
Longmire patrols a vast rural county of Wyoming, where he tracks and attempts to apprehend perpetrators in deep woods and even deeper snow, often driving hundreds of miles to do so.
Givens’ stomping grounds are the hollows and hills of Kentucky in a rural region where he grew up and still knows most of the area’s power players – from the criminal to the law-abiding. His face-offs with perps often end with the perps being shot – usually fatally.
For his part, Longmire’s quarries don’t seem to wind up dead quite as often as Marshal Givens’. But Longmire’s long silences usually have the effect of throwing the bad guys off balance just long enough for the sheriff to affect their capture.
The fact is, in the laconic department, Longmire has Givens beat. Givens isn’t exactly known for lengthy speech-making, but Longmire is so uncommunicative that “Longmire” would practically qualify as a silent if it weren’t for the dialogue given to this show’s more-talkative supporting cast (which includes “Battlestar Galactica’s” Katee Sackhoff as one of Longmire’s deputies).
Of course, the most laconic figure in the history of Western cinema is Clint Eastwood – whether he’s playing a mysterious gunman of the Old West or “Dirty” Harry Callahan in 1970s San Francisco. Both Walt Longmire and Raylan Givens owe Eastwood a debt of gratitude.