Season 2 of Powder River finds Britt MacMasters (Jerry Robbins) having resumed his role as a US marshall, a new sheriff (Joseph Zamberelli) in town, and the continued process of Chad MacMasters (Derrick Alerud) coming of age.
As the season begins, Sheriff Dawes takes over as the town’s full time law man and immediately clashes with the town’s people, arresting the town’s best shot Doc (Lincoln Clark) for carrying his pistol on the city streets. Dawes also seems uncomfortable with having a US Marshal in town and wants to assert his authority. However, the coming of Indian raids forces him to abandon these pursuits in order to ensure the town is protected.
While the first season of Powder River (originally intended as a limited series) was good, Robbins and the Colonial Theater players really stepped it up a notch, producing a consistently great Western adventure series. The highlights for me:
- Jenny White singing: Due to an Indian attack on the Overland stage, a great singer from back East ends up stranded in Clearmont and she agrees to perform at the local saloon while she’s there. The singing was authentic and the sound quality on the musical performance: superb. It’s fantastic for a series that really didn’t deal much in music.
- Chad MacMasters kidnapped: This four part story arch has so much going for it. The basic premise of Chad being kidnapped by a vengeful enemy of the Macmaster clan has a very old school feel to it. Colonial really took their time on this and developed this story perfectly. It’s one of the most emotionally engaging radio stories you’ll ever find. The drama and suspense reach high levels as the villain drags Chad into the unforgiving Eastern Montana winter, with Britt and friends right on their trail. This is a story that works on every level from start to finish.
- General Custer shows up: The appearance of General Custer in Clearmont is a great story. Chad is grabbed by the idea of becoming an Army Scout under Customer, but as a former Army man that served under the egotistical general, Britt knows better. My favorite scene in this three part story was Britt’s confrontation with General Custer.
- The Stunning Season Finale: The last two episodes of the second season really created a fantastic contrast. The fourteenth episode of the season found Clearmont celebrating America’s Centennial in grand fashion. The season finale, “Nothing Lasts Forever” is about the day after as the citizens of Clearmont learn of General Custer’s defeat at the Battle of Little Big Horn. The contrast between the celebratory mood of one episode and the mournful feeling of the other was striking. The programs originally aired in 2005, and the reactions of the people of Clearmont to the news seemed similar to how Americans felt on September 11, 2001 with the terrorist attacks. Chad decides to take a dramatic new step in his life, but his father doesn’t approve, leading to a tense conclusion that reveals a lot about the tough as nails US Marshal. In many ways, the whole season led up to this moment, particularly a shooting contest that father and son competed in earlier in the series.
I’m not a huge fan of westerns, but Season 2 of Powder River is just a very well-produced radio drama that’s worth a listen. If you’re curious about Powder River, I’d probably recommend starting with this season first as it’s a higher quality production and it’s not necessary to listen to season one to understand the series.
Overall, Season 2 has plenty of action, adventure, and drama and is a must listen to for your radio drama library.
Rating: 5.0 out of 5.0 stars.
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