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Have Cheetah,Will View #156 – “Lawman: Season Two” (1959)

It’s 12:07 pm

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As the snow fell like crazy last weekend,the cheetah thought it would be a great time to jump into our time machine and head back to Laramie,Wyoming and see what Marshal Dan Troop and his loyal deputy Johnny McKay were up too.  Thanks to our trusty deep cover informant at Warner Brothers Archives,it wasn’t but a quick trip back to see what the second season of Lawman brought us.

 

When we last left Laramie,both Marshal Dan Troop (John Russell) and Deputy Johnny McKay had suffered some heartbreaking losses in the first season….Troop lost his brother who died protecting Dan and Johnny and McKay had lost his best friend who despite being a bank robber,stood with Johnny against his own gang and died a hero.
The first season of Lawman was dark and violent so the producers decided to lighten things up just a tad by giving Troop a potential love interest in Lily Merrill (Peggie Castle) who opens up a new saloon,”The Birdcage” in the season two opener. It’s not all peaches and cream when Lily arrives as she was run out of Billings over a series of customers who were beaten robbed outside her saloon.

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Dan knows of the story and he makes it clear that he won’t put up with the same thing in Laramie. The sparks fly between the two and it isn’t until the real cause of the trouble is discovered that Dan and Lily make peace.
For the second season “Lawman”,the producers decided to lighten some of the episodes,adding some romance and comedy. John Russell was allowed to smile and laugh during the season and he had quite a smile. The bond of trust between Dan and Johnny grew much deeper as well as both men kept the peace as Laramie’s population grew to 1,780 people during the season…with only two lawmen as the ones keeping the peace,they had to have trust in order to stay safe.

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The guests on the season were outstanding as well as DeForest Kelley,James Coburn,Slim Pickens,Joel Grey and as the DVD box well tell you,of course Lee Van Cleef (but only in one episode).
There were a lot of outstanding episodes as the writing and scripts remained very strong. There were several episodes that were very emotional and heartbreaking and of course Dan and Johnny redeemed quite few characters as well. I found this to be one of the most outstanding themes of the show as well. Not everything was in black and white in Troop’s eyes. There was always something or somebody else that led Dan and Johnny down the road to the real truth in many cases.
The following episodes were our favorites of season two of Lawman and when you buy your DVD box set,see if you don’t agree with Paladin and I.

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“Shackled” Johnny is taking outlaw Bench Ryan (Robert McQueeney) to prison. Ryan has help in escaping but Johnny learns a secret that will help him face Ryan down.

This was the first of three guest spots for Robert McQueeney who was just outstanding in all of his episodes. Robert retired from acting and became a Catholic priest in Connecticut.

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“The Exchange” When Lily’s husband who has been from prison comes to Laramie with their son,it isn’t for a happy family reunion,he wants Lily to help him rob the bank and he isn’t above placing their son in the middle of danger. Lily is forced to keep quiet which almost leads to disaster. Mike Road ( “The Herculoids”) guest stars.

This episode showed that while Dan and Lily had feelings for each other,they still were missing the trust that they would need in any future relationship. Also telling was that Lily knew she wasn’t ready to be a mother as her son was sent to her sister in San Francisco at the end of the episode.

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“The Last Man” Another outstanding early season episode. When Chief Torn Cloud leads his small starving band of Sioux Indians to talk surrender and peace with a general with issues with Indians,Torn Cloud’s white half-brother Joshua Haney,doesn’t want his people to be placed on a cold barren reservation and willing to risk war to stop it.

Henry Brandon played Haney with a quiet dignity and gave voice to the miscarriage of justice that was doled out to several Native American tribes who were forcibly moved from their tribal grounds amid broken promises and treaties from the white man. For 1959,this was pretty damn cutting edge social commentary.

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“The Showdown”  Ex-gunfighter Lance Creedy is married and living a good life with his wife,Mattie. Former friend Blake Carr (James Coburn) comes to Laramie looking to get Mattie back as “his girl” and he aims to force Creedy into a gunfight. While Carr is deadly fast,Creedy hasn’t used a gun in two years. Dan steps in to hope to talk sense to Carr but instead has to face one of the most deadliest men he has ever encountered as a lawman.

James Coburn makes his only guest spot of the season in this episode as Blake Carr.

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“To Capture the West” Warren Stevens plays painter Frederick Jameson,who along with his Native American friend Tall Horse (Henry Brandon again),travels the country and painting what he sees. He and Tall Horse come into Laramie and Frederick spots a beautiful sunrise,when it looks like some local toughs are going to give them trouble,Jameson shows he is no mere painter.
Dan,Johnny and Lily are quickly charmed by the two men and while Jameson paints a special piece of art,Dan and Johnny are forced to face down a gang coming into Laramie.

This was such a sad and lovely episode with great performances from the entire cast.
The picture that Lily is given is seen in every episode that The Birdcage was featured in.

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“The Payment” The single best episode of season two.
Ron Fallon (Robert McQueeney) a feared gunfighter is in town. When a drunk and mean cowboy tries to start trouble in the Birdcage,Fallon steps in quietly. The cowboy starts to push Fallon until he his told who he pushing,then he steps back and looks to draw down until Dan comes in,gun drawn. The cowboy and his pals leave the saloon.
It is then we see that Fallon’s gun hand has been badly hurt and has been for a month. He has managed to hold off trouble strictly on his reputation and now he asks for Dan’s help. He has 6,000.00 to give to his ex-business partner’s widow and he wants Dan’s protection until he does. Dan agrees and initially Fallon’s efforts succeed but when the man’s son David (Troy Donahue) comes home,he says he is going to kill Fallon until Dan calms him down.
It only postpones the showdown as David rides into town where he buys a gun from the three trail hands who hold a grudge against Fallon. David wants a showdown but with Fallon crippled,Dan finds himself in the middle.

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This was a excellent episode and showcases the strong writing that started in season one. For a 30 minute show,there was a lot of quality character development and that is how a show becomes not only good but in this case,a true classic.
Lawman: Season Two has the entire 39 episodes included in this DVD release.
You can buy the entire series by going to the Warner Brothers Archive website.
The cheetah and I both loved this series and we gave “Lawman” a two thumbs/four paws straight up.

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What is your favorite episode of “Lawman” or western TV series in general? Share it with us by dropping us a comment below!

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