Radio Drama Review: Powder River, Season Three

The third season of Powder River picks up several months after the second left off and begins in with a noticable change. With son Chad Macmasters (Chad Alerud) gone, Marshall Britt Macmasters (Jerry Robbins) becomes a darker character. He’s no longer raising a young son, but drinks hard, and is just a far tougher morose character. Even after Chad returns home in the second episode this remains the case because even though Chad’s home, he’s basically viewed as full grown man and there’s little reason to hold back from his darker impulses.

The first half of the season really continues in the same vein as the second. Chad has gone undercover with the Lucas Clyde gang and become a wanted man. Macmasters along with the rest of the Powder River regulars has to to track down the gang, and this is the central point of the first four episodes of the series, including some interesting twist on how non-vigilante justice was dispensed in the old West.

The fifth episode gave some needed comic relief while also educating as Deputy Clay Tucker (Deniz Cordell) had a toothache and the town’s citizens offer suggestions for taking care of it that will make listeners thankful for modern dentistry and then this this leads into the three part series of episodes, “Morgan’s Town” which has Powder River’s top guns trying to catch a cattle rustler and murderer that committed a murder-that he couldn’t possibly have committed. It makes for a nice mystery and plenty of action as they have to go to the town that Morgan owns and controls lock, stock, and barrel in order to gain the evidence they need to convict him.

The second half of the season is different. It seemed to be trying to get away from having nearly every episode involve the chase of the villain of the week.  Unfortunately, the quality of these episodes was decidedly mixed due to airtime given to a new actors who didn’t seem to be on the same level as the existing cast and a few plot points that strained credulity.

Perhaps, the most disappointing part of the set was the two part finale which features a crooked saloon owner hoping to take over Claremont. After sizzling finales for Season 1 and 2, this one fizzled. Simply put, the saloon owner wasn’t a worthy foe for Britt Macmasters and Sheriff Dawes. The guy was in way over his head and didn’t know it. He wasn’t a nice person, but unlike Lucas Clyde or Morgan, I didn’t think this guy was a threat. In addition, the episode with the relationship or potential relationship between town reporter Sandy Dolan (Diane Capen) which had never really been developed and seems to suffer from no interest at all from Macmasters.

This isn’t to say that the second half was without good episodes. “The Bride from the East” was the best episode of the season. It starts out looking to be a lighter episode with Clay having told a girl he was corresponding with that he was a General and trying to rope the town into upholding his outrageous lie. However, when the woman (Kate Manson) arrives, it turns out she has a secret of her own. Manson is superb and the episode is both education and well-written. I also have to say that the two part episode featuring the return of Sam Donato (Sheriff Wilkins from Season One) was fun listening even if there were a couple points that were far fetched.

Despite some stumbles towards the end of the set, as a whole, Season 3 of Powder River works with some good solid exciting stories and some dramatic twists. As both “The Awful Tooth” and “Bridge from the East” show, the series is thoroughly researched, and has an authentic western feel. While not as great as the brilliant Season Two , Season Three is a worthwhile installment for fans of Britt Macmasters and friends.
Rating: 4.25 out of 5.0

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