The CBS Home Entertainment separate February 11, 2020 DVD sets of the (reviewed) S118 and S19 of "Gunsmoke" brings viewers close to the end of the trail as to this 20-season Western that is about so much more than high-noon shootouts and cattle rustlers battling sheep farmers. It is predicted that CBS will release an S20 DVD set no later than June 2020.
S19 E1 moderately departs from the standard formula of US Marshal Matt Dillon facing daunting physical (and sometimes philosophical/existential) challenges in trying to keep or restore peace in Reconstruction Era Dodge City with a little help from his friends. This entourage includes excitable quirky and illiterate deputy Festus (Ken Curtis), grizzled and caring Doc Adams (Milburn Stone), and tough but compassionate honest businesswoman saloon keeper Miss Kirty (Amanda Blake).
The first sign that we are not in Kansas anymore is the rare voice-over narration that sets the stage (no pun intended) for this "very-special" two-part episode. The exposition explains why renegade Indians, such as Union Army tunic-wearing Blue Jacket (Gregory Sierra) go off the reservation.
This ties into why these neer-do-wells drag off women either to keep for themselves or to sell to 19th-century white slavers. Dillon is on the trail of these partners-in-crime to rescue a Dodge City woman. This ultimately leads to Dillon trying to make an "honest woman" out of a cynical "saloon girl." A little girl who is along for the ride adds a "Cousin Oliver" element to the episode.
The next outing arguably jumps the shark by having Dillon, who is suffering from amnesia, falling in love with a widow (Michael Learned) when he is far from Dodge on the hunt for an outlaw (Victor French). Of course, this involves whether Dillon will hang up his gun and get hitched when his memory returns. This theme is repeated in the S19 season-finale in which Dillon does not quickly bounce back from a gunshot injury and in an S18 episode in which the former mentor (John Anderson) of Dillon now is a poverty-stricken traveling town drunk.
A Dexter Riley-era Kurt Russell guest stars in a S19 episode as a wholesome young guy whose plans for wedded bliss are detoured when his father is killed. One of many well-presented themes this time is that the adage that the man who is seeking revenge should dig two graves is especially true when a boy tries to do the job of a man.
The penultimate S19 episode is straight out of Tennessee Williams. The trouble begins when a widow (Louise Latham) with delusions of grandeur alienates her son by trying to coerce him into having more ambition as to his job as a bank clerk and regarding the "fallen woman" who is the love of his life.
Things take an actual tragic turn as to this yenta actively blocking a romance between her daughter and a nice young man in an effort to get the girl to marry the son (Parker Stevenson) of a wealthy landowner. Suffice it to say that all are wiser, but none are happier when it comes time to ride off into the sunset.
All of this demonstrates that relations largely are the same whether one lives in 19th-century Dodge City or 21st-century New York City. Family members remain relative problems; and the heart still wants what the heart wants.