23 Jan 2015
There is so much content out there that sometimes good shows slip past our attention. We found Thurston as a selection for HollyWeb Fest. How did I not know of this show before? I love westerns; howdy, howdy, howdy, yippey kay yay and all that rootin’ tootin’ cowboy stuff.
Well, no cowboys and open range and singing around the campfire here. Created and written by Kathryn O’Sullivan and directed by Paul Awad, Thurston presents a dark, gritty look at life in 1881 in the small Kansas mining town of that name. It’s a town of people with secrets, rivalries, and pasts they can’t quite escape – a town that is “nothing but broken dreams and broken people.”
At its heart, Thurston is a story of female empowerment. The central characters through whom the story is told are four women. Maggie (Catherine Frels), who came to Thurston after having escaped, or thought she escaped, an abusive husband who treated her as property; Rosie (Susannah Wells), the prostitute; Jo (Lisa Nanni-Messegee), whose was kidnapped by the Snead brothers after they killed her husband during a robbery; and Agnes Snead (Colleen Zenk), the matriarch of the Snead family and Thurston’s former madam.
All of the women are presented as strong characters, albeit with different strengths. After killing her abusive husband when he tracked her down, Maggie declared her independence saying no man was going to tell her what to do anymore. Rose is the only member of her family that survived the plague the decimated the town’s population, overcame being shot, and now has to deal with a forced marriage. Jo escaped her kidnappers and doesn’t flinch when her nursing skills are needed. Agnes Snead rules over her three sons, a sort of evil twist on Barbara Stanwick’s Virginia Barkley, with a philosophy of don’t send boys to do a women’s job.
For the most part, the men in Thurston exhibit their own strengths and are not presented as weak characters in counterpoint to the strength of the women. Sheriff Hart (Steven Quartell) and Marshall Robinson (Garry Westcott) certainly hold their own, and Cyrus McCormick (James O’Sullivan) is still mostly unknown as a character. The three Snead brothers are a different story, though. Harlan (Evan Casey) is a cruel, former lawman who hasn’t been able to escape his mother’s control. Amon (Felipe Cabezas) is truly an idiot as a result of an accident. The youngest, Owen (Garrett Brennan) is bullied by his brothers and is happiest when he escapes his mother’s clutches. The end of Season 2 introduced us to Edmund Snead (Walt Willey), a charming gambler, a nastier take on Brett Maverick. The upcoming interaction between Edmund and his wife Agnes will be interesting to see and promises some fun.
Thurston is a dramatic story that has elements of soaps but without the over the top campiness usually associated with that genre. Colleen Zenk and Walt Willey are both veteran, long time, soap actors; she of As the World Turns and he of All My Children. Ms. Zenk brings just the right amount of scenery chewing to her portrayal of Agnes Snead to make her time on the screen fun; and Mr. Willey portrays Edmund with a smarmy charm learned from his years on soaps. Overall, all of the cast performed admirably, creating characters that were believable.
Thurston is one of those gems of a web series. A terrific story is unfolding, one that is well written and well acted. The location was beautiful and the cinematography showed it off while still depicting some of the harsher aspects of life in Thurston in 1881. We’re looking forward to Season 3 to see where Ms. O’ Sullivan is going to take us.
Watch Thurston and learn more about the cast on their website.