The remarkable first season of Deadwood
represents one of those periodic, wholesale reinventions of the Western that is as different from, say, Lonesome Dove
as that miniseries is from Howard Hawks's Rio Bravo
or the latter is from Anthony Mann's The Naked Spur
. In many ways, Deadwood
embraces the Western's unambiguous morality during the cinema's silent era through the 1930s while also blazing trails through a post-NYPD Blue
, post-The West Wing
television age exalting dense and customized dialogue. On top of that, Deadwood
has managed an original look and texture for a familiar genre: gritty, chaotic, and surging with both dark and hopeful energy. Yet the show's creator, erstwhile NYPD Blue
head writer David Milch, never ridicules or condescends to his more grasping, futile characters or overstates the virtues of his heroic ones.
Set in an ungoverned stretch of South Dakota soon after the 1876 Custer massacre, Deadwood concerns a lawless, evolving town attracting fortune-seekers, drifters, tyrants, and burned-out adventurers searching for a card game and a place to die. Others, particularly women trapped in prostitution, sundry do-gooders, and hangers-on have nowhere else to go. Into this pool of aspiration and nightmare arrive former Montana lawman Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) and his friend Sol Starr (John Hawkes), determined to open a lucrative hardware business. Over time, their paths cross with a weary but still formidable Wild Bill Hickok (Keith Carradine) and his doting companion, the coarse angel Calamity Jane (Robin Weigert); an aristocratic, drug-addicted widow (Molly Parker) trying to salvage a gold mining claim; and a despondent hooker (Paula Malcomson) who cares, briefly, for an orphaned girl. Casting a giant shadow over all is a blood-soaked king, Gem Saloon owner Al Swearengen (Ian McShane), possibly the best, most complex, and mesmerizing villain seen on TV in years. Over 12 episodes, each of these characters, and many others, will forge alliances and feuds, cope with disasters (such as smallpox), and move--almost invisibly but inexorably--toward some semblance of order and common cause. Making it all worthwhile is Milch's masterful dialogue--often profane, sometimes courtly and civilized, never perfunctory--and the brilliant acting of the aforementioned performers plus Brad Dourif, Leon Rippy, Powers Boothe, and Kim Dickens. --Tom Keogh, Amazon.com
All twelve episodes from the first series of HBO's controversial television western, set in the violent and corrupt South Dakota town of Deadwood in the days after Custer's defeat at the Little Big Horn. In this series, Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) must negotiate a settlement between one of his prostitutes and a violent customer, Wild Bill Hickok (Keith Carradine) is killed while playing poker, and Bullock's (Timothy Olyphant) attempt to track down a murderer leaves him a marked man. With tensions rising between Bullock and Swearengen, Cy Tolliver (Powers Boothe) opens up a rival saloon and whorehouse and challenges Swearengen for control of the settlement, at the same time as the United States government threatens to annexe Deadwood and bring the rule of law. Episodes are: 'Deadwood'; 'Deep Water'; 'Reconnoitering the Rim'; 'Here Was a Man'; 'The Trial of Jack McCall'; 'Plague'; 'Bullock Returns to the Camp'; 'Suffer the Little Children'; 'No Other Sons or Daughters'; 'Mister Wu'; 'Jewel's Boot is Made For Walking' and 'Sold Under Sin'.