Deadwood – TV Review

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The Wild West was an ugly, filthy, smelly time and place to be living, and Deadwood shows this in all its darkness. The show is set in the late 1800s as various states in the United States are being created and people from a variety of backgrounds are trying to escape their past and forge a new life.

Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) and Sol Star (John Hawkes) are new in town, setting up a hardware store to provide to the miners that are flooding into the area during the gold rush. Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) is the unofficial head of the town, the owner of The Gem, the town’s pub and brothel. Cy Tolliver (Powers Boothe) moves into town and opens the Bella Union Salon in competition. Wild Bill (Keith Carradine) is also in town, with his companions Charlie Utter(Dayton Callie) and Calamity Jane (Robin Weigert). There are so many more characters, from the whores and heavies that work in the establishments to the Chinese community whose pigs often devour the bodies of those who have died suspiciously.

The show is heavily layered and extremely rich in both plot and character. Watching season three with friends, I recall a long conversation about how Shakespearean it is; not only is much of the language impenetrable yet the intention of the characters clear through performance, there is murder, violence, betrayal, power-struggle and profanity. Oh, so much profanity. The statistic quoted on Wikipedia (true or not, I’m not prepared to count it myself) is that the f-bomb was dropped 43 times in the first hour, 2,980 times throughout, which apparently works out to one per 1.56 minutes of footage. There is also a good explanation for the choice of profanity given the time period of the show – essentially, that using appropriate swearing for the time would make the characters seem comical, so they chose to use modern swearing.

Some people cannot get past the language and graphic violence of the show, which is a shame. It is a wonderful, wonderful show.

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