Our rating: 4 out of 5
reviewed by Charity Bishop
The final season of The Man from Snowy River saw a lot of absences and said many farewells, but also offered audiences several unexpected twists and numerous feel-good moments.
With Kathleen abroad attending to family matters, Matt McGregor (Andrew Clarke) and his family are facing a bitterly cold winter in the high country. Quiet life at the small ranching community of Patterson's Ridge is soon interrupted by the appearance of Duncan Jones (Hugh Jackman). Tormented by his past and deeply troubled about the future, Duncan is taken under the wing of the McGregors and also American spitfire Montana Hale (Gabrielle Fitzpatrick). Her affection for him becomes problematic when it comes to her on-and-off romance with Rob (Guy Pearce). To make matters more difficult, the arrival of Jessie McClusky (Josephine Byrnes) sends the town into an uproar. A woman with a rumored disreputable past, most of the churchgoers want her to leave town, but most mysterious at all is the animosity Emily McGregor (Sheryl Munks) holds for her.
Rob's return from a cattle drive places him and Montana in new territory with regards to their relationship, and the return of a now-penniless Victoria Blackwood (Amanda Douge) further complicates matters. Through it all, and the trials to come, which include renegades taking over the town, Colin (Brett Climbo) being forced to defend family honor, a man turning up to claim Colin and Emily's adopted son, and the birth of Emily's first child, Matt remains the cornerstone of the family and of the town. Wild dogs, traveling gypsies, and broken hearts are just a sample of what is to be found in the last thirteen episodes of a television show that won Australian hearts. While it's true that it suffers most from the absence of Wendy Hughes, season four ultimately wins the hearts of all who watch it. The introduction of Jesse is nothing short of brilliance, a kind of mild replacement for Kathleen but with a much darker past.
Most of these episodes aired when I was young, and I never got to see all of them, most particularly the conclusion of the dramatic two-part series finale. Those two episodes alone are worth their weight in gold, to say nothing of some of the other fabulous moments in the show. Reconciliation and loss, misplaced love and newfound friends, from one moment to the next the series remained honest and upfront about its belief that family is important. Even though they spat a little bit, the McGregors truly love one another. All of them make mistakes, but are always prepared to help one another along the way. The only downfall of this season was its fast-moving romantic switches, which left me wondering just why Montana was written out. It might have been to pave the way for one last appearance by early seasons' favorite, Victoria, but seeing Montana and Rob trade such fickle emotions and attractions kind of lessened the impact.
There is a little more content than previous seasons, but nothing that bears mentioning in detail. Jessie is rumored to be a former Madame of a house of prostitution, something that is occasionally thrown into her face. When renegades take over the town, they make mild threats toward her, implying that if she doesn't send out some of her "girls," they'll take her instead. Jessie runs a clean establishment, and we never learn the details of her former life in mining towns. Several episodes feature mild innuendoes. There's one slang profanity -- "bleeding," and a fair amount of violence. Fist fights, runaway horses, gunfire, and occasional slaps, none of it gratuitous or inappropriate for children. Thematic elements involve a shoot-out, a deranged woman holding people hostage, and a handful of deaths and departures. One fantastic episode also includes an appearance by Death, played by a sinister woman in black.
I am rather sorry to be closing this chapter on the McGregors, and consequently, on a memorable part of my childhood, but now that the four seasons are out on DVD (through Australian manufacturers only) I can revisit Patterson's Rige time and again, and hopefully introduce a new generation to the values and virtues of the McGregors.