Having grown up on Westerns, and not being a big fan of them, I know most of the genres tropes and clichés inside and out. Which is why I was surprised that I enjoy Thurston as much as I do. It’s being re-aired on The SFN (sfntv.com), but I missed its original run.
The first episode of Thurston is a little slow; introducing us to the townsfolk of Thurston after the founder of the titular town dies of a heart attack. Of most importance is Maggie, who lives alone on a broken down homestead.
The second episode opens with Pearl, the wife of Thurston, mourning her late husband and closes with Maggie being found by her abusive husband John.
The third (and most recent) episode is where the most drama occurs. After being raped by John, Maggie begins to prepare him breakfast as he guzzles down a flask of booze. He grabs and threatens her if she doesn’t go with him, and in a hood move Maggie shanks him with a kitchen knife.
From there, she grabs a rifle and chases her husband out of the house and into a bear trap. He orders her to set him free. In response, Maggie shoots him in the head. The local sheriff, who had stopped by to check on Maggie, tells her he saw nothing and walks away.
Then we shift over to the other storyline, where Pearl gives a eulogy at her husband’s funeral. Rather than uplifting and loving, it’s dour and regretful as she recounts how the man she called her husband died well before the man they had buried. She then warns the people of the town that they are all just as damned as he was as long as they stay in the accursed town of Thurston.
Closing the episode is Pearl riding out of the town on a carriage as the local Madame, Rosie, sings a hymn to those gathered for the funeral.
The show looks back at the genre in many ways, incorporating many of the basics of Westerns, but at its heart it’s a human drama. Production is also consistently good, as the audio is almost flawless and the camera work is steady. There is a hint of film grain that gives it a nice aged look to accompany the period. Music is sparse, instead relying on ambient noise and set pieces to build tension.
Creator Kathryn O’Sullivan has made a quality product that should definitely be checked out, whether you like Westerns or not.