Customer Review

153 of 159 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HBO strikes gold - again!, 17 Jan. 2008
This review is from: Deadwood : Complete HBO Seasons 1-3 (12 Disc Box Set) [DVD] (DVD)
1876. The Black Hills. A gold-rush attracts the desperate, the greedy and the vicious to a frontier town called Deadwood, a two-street mining camp dominated by saloon bar owner and pimp, Al Swearengen. Against this simple but deadly backdrop, plays out a story so rich in character, detail and incident, that most other dramas seem pedestrian by comparison.

HBO seems to have hit on a winning formula but the outcome is anything but formulaic. Like Oz, The Sopranos and The Wire, Deadwood is another stunning production that this reviewer finds outstanding, especially in light of the fact that I am not overly keen on the Western genre.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Deadwood (at least for British audiences) is that the character who dominates the series, around who all things seem to revolve, cut-throat Al Swearengen is superbly acted by Ian "Lovejoy" McShane. No, really. McShane steels every scene he is in; a brutal, profane man, who talks to a box containing the decapitated head of a dead Indian, who verbally abuses his prostitutes and other employees with an acid tongue, McShane is a revelation. Around him orbit a stellar cast. I shall mention no names because each and every one of them turns in an amazing performance. When taken together, the whole ensemble shines.

The writing, too, is again full of character and subtlety, almost too much to take in at one sitting. It is both heart-felt and honest, laugh-out-loud funny and yet brutal and savage. It takes a little time for the ear to adjust to the syntax employed; the lexis, too, seems of a particular age but once attuned, this particular writing style allows a range of expression that doesn't seem permissible in contemporaneous writing.

If you have enjoyed other HBO productions but are not sure about this one because you are none too keen on the genre of cowboys, shootouts, Stetsons and cattle-rustling, Deadwood has none of it. Over the three series (and hopefully at least one full film, just to round the story off), the story is as much about encroaching civilisation on a pioneer town - the first tentative steps of the law, the advent of the telegraph, the bicycle and elections - as it is about the people who actually lived and died in the town.

The only negative aspect to this series is the lack of a full conclusion at story's end. Sure, life goes on and I certainly don't expect a trite, all-loose-ends-tied-up kind of ending but the climax just leaves so much hanging open, it is begging for another series (or possibly even a film). That said, it's about the journey, not the destination and when the ride is as memorable as Deadwood, then an open-ended conclusion is a small price to pay.

Do yourself a favour: roll the dice and take a chance on Deadwood and you will enjoy every minute that you spend in the town, every racist drunk, every plague, every tombstone. Life in the muddy quagmire was never so enjoyable.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 18 Sep 2011 15:01:32 BDT
the only reason the series never concluded all storylines is because it was cancelled after season 3 and david milch never had the chance to wrap everything up. Apparently HBO offered him a mini series to finish everything another alternative was a film.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Nov 2011 07:02:15 GMT
Thanks for your comment, Mr Mauchlin. I had read that series creator David Milch left the show to pursue other projects, rather than HBO cancelling Deadwood; HBO then floated the idea of a film (or two) to wrap things up but this was never agreed upon and the sets were eventually pulled down.

Posted on 27 Apr 2012 12:48:07 BDT
J. Giles says:
Thanks so much for the in-depth and intelligent review, Mr Martin. Within the first three paragraphs you very strongly convinced me to purchase Deadwood and enjoy the ride. I take my hat off to you, sir.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 May 2012 12:57:22 BDT
Very generous comments, Giles. I do hope that you feel I haven't convinced you to waste some of your hard-earned!

In reply to an earlier post on 6 May 2012 15:13:07 BDT
J. Giles says:
Not at all. My parcel arrived yesterday morning, and ever since I have been glued to the television watching Deadwood. A truly fantastic show.

Posted on 3 Apr 2013 00:05:47 BDT
J. T. Hooker says:
I've just finished series three and I have to say that Deadwood is one of the finest TV shows I've ever seen. I was fixated throughout, and hooked at the end of each episode. It's borderline criminal that a fourth series wasn't commissioned, and indeed it even looks like the pair of two-hour films shall never come to pass.

Many thanks for a solid and accurate review.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Apr 2013 11:00:29 BDT
Thanks for the generous comments. In a recent Guardian interview, Ian McShane spoke highly of Deadwood but also underlined the possibility that it won't be returning.
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