Rolling Stone

27 Deadwood

HBO 2004- 06


The sacred and the profane came together in transcende­nt fashion in David Milch’s talkative Western, which used the lawless Dakota territory of the late 1800s as a case study for how communitie­s and civilizati­ons are built. Deadwood mixed historical figures like volcano-tempered lawman Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) and cutthroat bartender Al Swearengen (the fantastic

Ian McShane) with fictional ones like wealthy widow Alma Garret (Molly Parker) and defiant sex worker Trixie (Paula Malcomson). More impressive­ly, its dialogue placed harsh profanity that would make Gary Cooper blush alongside some of the most poetic language ever written for the screen, big or small. (Swearengen, in the midst of evolving from vicious mob boss to the series’ improbable moral center, offers this as a pep talk to an upset colleague: “Pain or damage don’t end the world. Or despair or fuckin’ beatings. The world ends when you’re dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man, and give some back.”) Television in recent years has grown cluttered with unnecessar­y revivals of treasured old shows that already had proper finales. Deadwood, though, ended abruptly after a third season. Thankfully, the 2019 TV movie provided necessary closure for the characters and the audience who grew to love all those hooplehead­s and cocksucker­s.

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