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Don't get me wrong, there have been great westerns to come before
Deadwood, but none of them really got it right. There is just a reality
that some people aren't willing to deal that after 50 years of our
history being whitewashed through film and TV, we're finally starting
to see the truth. David Milch has done his research and discovered the
wonderfully bizarre contradiction of languages used in the old west.
Watching the cast of Deadwood converse with a combination of old world
English laced with profanity straight from the gutter is incredible and
feels right for the first time. Where do people think our language came
from? People always want to think that they were the first to do
something, when things like profanity, substance abuse and prostitution
have been around since before man walked erect.
Along with the incredible dialog and storytelling, David Milch has introduced possibly the greatest character to ever come to TV or film...Al Swearengen. Ian McShane plays Al with the same intense conviction and truth that the character himself lives by. In Al's world things are black and white and never apologizes for a second for living his life by a strict code of morals of his own making. I don't think we've ever seen a character go from crying after a mercy killing to watching a murder he orchestrated stone faced.
This is indeed a special show that is continuing to pave the way for the facts of our history to finally be told with truth...Instead of the whitewashing we've seen our whole lives to make us feel better about ourselves.
I felt I needed to write after reading the comment made of the show. Everyone is entitled to an opinion but the individual the wrote the comment "Falls Short" does not know anything. I live in Deadwood and with the exception of stuff added by Hollywood to quicken the story it is quite close to our history. None of the characters are fictional, the all lived at one time. I admit the show in vulgar but cleans up as the show continues and the town grows from a miner's camp to a town. Don't let the first few episodes scare you off. The show is very good and quite close to the truth. If you like old west history you will love Deadwood.
Ian McShane as the evil Al has established himself as one of the greatest actors of the moment and of the time. He's up there with Pacino, DeNiro and Keitel. The magnificent writing and directing of Deadwood support him completely in mesmerizing the audience. This is for my money the finest work being done on television today. The show has a sure moral compass and a daring to take the violence to the level of Shakespeare or the Greek Tragedy while maintaining verisimilitude with brilliant dialogue and perfect art and set direction, as well as a flawless supporting cast each of whom engages us immediately and convincingly no matter how intimate or distant the focus might be. I can't get enough of this show. I want to see it all in reruns, to cherish it later on DVD. Each episode is fresh and surprising and at times astonishing. But Ian McShane steals the show, no question of it. His face is profoundly expressive and his lines are so marvelous that some of them surely must be ad lib. The guy's a scoundrel but my heart's breaking for him. The Season Finale was the single greatest television drama I've ever seen. We have here a villain who isn't morally bankrupt. And thank heaven, we have a show runner and a writer who isn't morally bankrupt either. Bravo!! I've run out of superlatives. Please, more. And more. And more.
Judging by other comments, the realistic portrayal of the crude
language and immorality may be a bit too much for those used to tame,
glossy horse operas where the Good are very, very good and the Bad are
very, very bad.
As for the language being "over the top," anyone who's spent time in an Army unit or aboard ship in wartime knows this is EXACTLY the kind of language young men under stress use, and probably even worse back in the late eighteenth century when most of them were uneducated, illiterate and had a projected life span of around 30. If they were lucky.
Most people familiar with authentic Western history will recognize this as a very accurate portrayal of Deadwood, or any other frontier boom town, with all its ugliness and warts. Like it or not, it's history. I think they did a superlative job so far (first two episodes).It also looks like it's going to be the most accurate version of Bill Hickock's death -- which was far more than just the simple barroom murder usually portrayed -- ever put on film.
The number of truly spectacular actors here is simply staggering. Ian McShane's riveting performance is no surprise for "Lovejoy" fans; he was long overdue for something equal to his talent. Who else stands out? Damn near everyone. Calamity Jane, Tolliver, Farnum, the Doc ... there aren't enough "supporting actor" awards from any source that could do justice to such a large, stand-out cast. For those of us who despair of the putrid crap in the theaters, peopled by actors who should be doing dinner theater in Dubuque, well... now we have hope. And DEADWOOD truly puts the lie to the propaganda about public broadcasting being necessary to provide "quality programming that commercial television just can't or won't do." In the entire history of public radio and TV they have NEVER reached this level of excellence even once -- yet cable (once referred to disparagingly as 'pay TV') pulls it off on a shoestring budget. Score one for capitalism.
This is a stunning achievement. Performance, writing, direction, casting, design, everything about it is of the highest quality. It seems so obvious and in your face at first with little in the way of compelling traditional story (ie each episode has a 'plot') but every layer has another layer beneath and they all build into an amazing portrait of this moment in time. (real or fictional it makes no difference to me) For all the apparent lawlessness and depravity on display it is about love and responsibility being forged against the most brutal of times. Ian McShane is a stunning revelation and Timothy Olyphant is superb as the calm fury at the centre of the storm. Cannot praise it highly enough. Better than Sopranos - and that's saying something.
Though i never considered myself a western fan, i realize i've seen a good many, from the Anthony Mann masterpieces, to Leone's revolutionary films, to more recent flicks like Unforgiven. But none has moved me like Deadwood. While the series did have some ups and downs (like life itself), it is truly enchanting. The season finale alone is one of the most moving things i've seen on TV, and having rewatched it many times (the joy of tivo) i still find myself driven to tears. The dialog is fantastic, bordering on Shakespearean at times as others have pointed out. Its a shame that so many seem to be bothered by the language, perhaps i am just overly jaded. Remember though that profanity at that time was predominantly based on religion (or rather defiance of such). These days of course, hellfire and tarnation don't have quite the same effect. If the dialog were more "period", i imagine it would be like watching yosemite sam cast as swearengen (heaven forbid). In their translations of Kurasawa movies, Critereon has faced the same issues, and i agree with their and David Milch's choice. Stay true to the meaning and feeling, more than the literal. Especially with profanity, this is key. Profanity's entire purpose is to offend, and if it becomes through age or paradigm shift inoffensive, it loses all meaning and effectiveness. It helps bring us into the world of deadwood, and better understand and relate to the characters who live there. Which, IMHO, is a wondrous thing to experience.
After executing his last legally ordained job as a Montana marshal,
Seth Bullock moves to a gold-mining camp known as Deadwood, where he
and his partner Sol Star strike a deal with Al Swearengen, on a lot for
their hardware store
While suspicions arise that 'road agents' may have been the true perpetrators of the killing of an entire family on the Spearfish road, competition arrives for Swearengen in the form of the Bella Union, a new joint from Chicago operated by Cy Tolliver
Deadwooda town without any laws or courtsis the center of a gold rush and is presided over by Al Swearengen, a saloon owner, and a brothel operator His showing makes two different things between the coward and the lapse of momentary fear Let him doubt those he's trusted, this camp will run red with blood
The show centers on Seth Bullock, a young man with a powerful temper who got a lot of Hickok's qualities But being a man with an active conscience Bullock declines to accept the horrors around him
We are rapidly introduced to most of the other important characters:
Wild Bill Hickokan asset to any saloon, and any joint he frequentscomes to look for business opportunity and sits there, losing at poker He is the fastest gun around While his respect for Bullock grows, he commissions 'Montana' to do a review of the Garret claim...
Cochranthe town doctor who takes heat from Al Swearengen every time one of the whores is poorly sickwas full of opinion and took the most comprehensive view when he treated the bright widow Now he doesn't feel at such perfect liberty to opine on her husband's case as he did on hers
E.B. FarnumJudas Goat looking fellow, coyote-moving typeis Swearengen's water boy, the innkeeper of a thousand faces staring straight at extinction
Brom Garretthe naïve city investor who had to go all his $20,000 to turn Farnum away and purchase a gold claimpursues his remedies in some other fashion
Sophiathe little survivorcould settle who killed her people, road agents or Sioux
Jewelborn with difficulties and hardships that got no curewants the doctor to brace her leg so her dragging it doesn't drive Swearengen crazy
Charlie Utterwho considers himself an important hand at the freight business plays a man too loyal and honest for his own good
Whitney Ellsworthwho saw something he shouldn't have, a man pushed off from a ridgeseemed very competent and trustworthy
Mr. Wuthe only source of opium in the campfinds a common language with Searengen when an opium theft occurs
Smiththe Reverend who has a distinct, clear set of moralsknows from past experience that it's a solace having friends
Ian McShane is a joy to watch He gives a first-class performance as Al Swearengen, the oppressive boss who can order the execution of any man in the settlement with just a word McShane who runs his Gem with the help of his cronies, emits power in every order he gives
While McShane is a marvelous villain who generates a palpable menace, Boothe is maniacally evil as Cy exuding despicable charm Well dressed Cy is the gentleman on the outside while more cruel as Swearengen in beating, kicking, and killing
Such a performer was found with Timothy Olyphant, very effective as a formal marshal who understands the danger of his own temperament Seth Bullock stood before Alma Garret as a married man to his brother's widow after he was killed He took their five-year-old boy as his own son
The 4 show women that are trapped in a man's world are: Molly Parker as Mrs. Garret, the beautiful addict wife who suspects foul play She inevitably feels she's had some part in what befalls her husband; Kim Dickens as Joanie Stubbs, the very attractive solitary woman who uses to make Cy warm; Paula Malcomson as Trixie, the prostitute who must've done some fancy to keep Al from Killing her She tries to help Alma with the orphaned child while keeping her master in the dark; Robin Weigert as Calamity Jane, the sewer mouth that follows Hickok around When she confronts the greasy-haired dangerous man who pulls all the strings, she fell apart, broken and weak
There's something powerful and moving about 'Deadwood' It's truly a drama of memorable characters, dark and ultra-violent If you love Westerns, don't miss it!
If you want to experience the real old west first hand, look no
further; you'll find it in 'Deadwood'. There has never been a show or a
film that came as close to showing what life must have been like in
those lawless young towns that got built nearly over night wherever
gold was found. A magnet for all kind of fortune seekers (gold diggers,
whores, outlaws but also settlers who were just hoping to build a
better life), the town of Deadwood was notorious even by the standards
of the time. In the show, this "cesspool of vice" is brought back to
life with great attention to historical detail. You'll find no
romanticised view of pioneers who lived and died by "the code of
honour", but real people whose moral standards are in most cases
murky at best. And the world they inhabit is a rough, dirty, violent
place where only the fiercest and the most cunning survive.
As far as the historical characters depicted in the show are concerned, the writers naturally had to take some liberties (after all, nobody knows exactly who said or did what at the time), but the depiction of the era and the historical background are very accurate. Yet this is not a history lesson; it's an immensely entertaining western-show blessed with some of the best writers and actors working in television and film today and especially the cast of 'Deadwood' really can't get enough praise: there is not a single performance here that isn't excellent. Of course, the one who steals the show is Ian McShane. His Al Swearengen is one of the most morally complex and fun-to-watch characters I've ever seen (and he misses absolutely no opportunity to show you just what the first five letters in "SWEAR-engen" stand for). The power-struggles in Deadwood he is involved in and since he wants to maintain his position at the top of the food-chain he's involved in all of them are equalled in complexity and entertainment value only by those in top-notch shows like 'Game of Thrones', 'House of Cards' or 'Breaking Bad'. And the lengths Al is willing to go to achieve his goals secure him a place in the top ten of "all-time great bad-asses".
So my verdict: While certainly not for the easily offended or those who prefer a "sanitized version" of the old west, 'Deadwood' offers a fascinating look at a time we mostly know from myths and legends and gives us a chance to revisit those and see them from a different angle. Great, intelligent and informative entertainment. 9 stars out of 10.
Favorite films: http://www.IMDb.com/list/mkjOKvqlSBs/
Lesser-known Masterpieces: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls070242495/
Favorite TV-Shows reviewed: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls075552387/
I love this show. This is a worthy successor to the Sopranos. Brilliant acting, brilliant writing, brilliant direction. It's been a long time since someone came along and breathed new life into the Western genre. This is probably the best ensemble cast ever assembled for a TV show. The show's creators surpass Peckinpah in presenting the cruel, gritty, violent life in parts of the Old West, when people sought to make a life for themselves in a lawless environment, after the Indians were wiped out but before there was government. People have different motives and intentions for living in such a place, and those elements mix into a pungent brew in a place called Deadwood.
This show is wonderful, great characters and perfect actors chosen to
portray them. But what seems most amazing is how the show transcends
the simple western genre and creates a complete world full of rich
The best examples of this are McShane's Swearengen and Olyphant's Bullock, the "villian" and "reluctant lawman" respectively. Swearengen is a stomping, violent, angry, ruthless, brilliant, petty and hilarious whore-master. Bullock is conflicted, passionate, belligerent, but ultimately the most justice minded person in the town. Both men could have easily fallen into the classic trap of genre entertainment, but they in fact rise above it and create complete people.
I recommend this show to everyone, but be warned, the swearing in constant. And i mean constant.
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