The Glory Of The Unfulfilled Promise: Deadwood and YOU WERE ALL RIGHT

Merry Christmas, Cocksuckers!

As I finished up TV: The Book, last week, I realized that I’ve not watched many of the “great shows” that premiered when I was a bit too young to watch them. (I watched plenty of things that I was actually too young to watch then, but they were mostly on Network.) and begrudgingly decided that I’d give one of the big early HBO greats it’s shot. My mom has been working her way through The Sopranos, and so while that seemed the logical choice, it’s also so big, and part of me is still really stubborn and doesn’t want to give the men in my family the satisfaction of finally watching it.

So I chose Deadwood instead, kind of at random. Later, as I read articles and analysis I saw people saying, “if you don’t know by the end of the pilot that you love it, it’s not for you.” I could not believe how wrong headed that was. The pilot features a rote round of frontier justice (Bullock preventing a lynching by hanging the prisoner himself), Al beating the shit out of Trixie after a john has already beaten her, Alma prostrate in her room and dosing herself with opium,and so many other things that didn’t feel special or interesting at all if you’re me.

But the language. Oh, the language hooked me. Lilting sentences and long speeches drenched in creative profanity and frank imagery and Ian McShane delivering one of the coolest, cruelest villain performances I’d ever seen, and Timothy Olyphant as a the sexy stoic hero I didn’t need but kind of wanted in my current landscape. So I kept on, and all of a sudden it was several hours later and I’d finished season one and I was madly wildly in love with this show.

I was in love with it’s use of solioquy, with it’s incredible ensemble, and with it’s women. With Alma, and Trixie, and Joanie and Calamity Jane. All nuanced, difficult and fully formed. I was on board with Sherrif Seth Bullock and Pimp with a heart of gold Al Swearengen, and the evil, weasel Cy Tolliver.

I knew where this was all ending though, it was ending in a build up to a climax that would never come, and I was ready for it. But as those final few moments geared up, as the folk of Deadwood prepared themselves to make their stand against George Hearst’s goons, I swallowed, realizing the mix of beauty and frustration in that expectation. No we’d never see that fight.

There’s something magical in that. In the spell cast by this show, which adheres to Aristotelian Dramtatics far more than it does to it’s Western genre and modern television genres. Unity of time, place and action are observed, only a handful of settings are used, each episode covers a day, and one revelation or action (usually from the episode preceding) drives the plot.

But there’s also Shakespeare here. Al rants to a box containing the skull of a murdered Indian chief. Trixie and Sol continually push one another to the brink with sharp tongues, Seth and Alma sigh longingly over the love that can never be.

To quote another TV giant I took in this year, “All this happened before, and it will all happen again.” And my lit geek brain, happily rekindled in this year of pushing myself to read harder than I have since graduation was thrilled by the stimulation.

Anyway, there’s a movie coming in the spring, so yay!

Also, all you Cocksuckers were right, and I’m sorry and I’ll probably watch The Wire now, OK?

 

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