First of all, Trixie's botched hit on Hearst shows the perils of nude assassination. If she'd just gone topless, she might have been able to aim better and do more damage with her teeny purse gun, but she had to go a step too far by lifting her skirt and trying to distract Hearst with her answer to the carpet/curtains question. (Question for the gallery: did Trixie have more than distraction on her mind when she popped her top? She's been fairly respectable for the last two seasons; was there a part of her that felt she had to look like a whore again before doing such an extreme, illegal act?)
Second, let's all hang our heads in a moment of silence for our pal Ellsworth. In his honor, I present the first, and arguably best, of the show's profane monologues:
"I may have fucked up my life flatter'n hammered shit, but I stand here before you today beholden to no human cocksucker, and holdin' a workin' fuckin' gold claim, and not the U.S. government tellin' me I'm trespassin', or the savage fuckin' red man or any of these other limber-dick cocksuckers passin' themselves off as prospectors had better try and stop me."Poor damn Ellsworth, sweetest man in the Black Hills (the above speech excepted). He's happy to be Alma's beard (and to let Sophia touch his own) and he has to die because Hearst was in a snit that no one rose to his bait last week? I should've known he was in trouble as soon as he began that monologue to the dog (ala Steve's speech to the horse what kicked him), or even last week when Alma started displaying genuinely wife-ly feelings towards him, or hell, when Hearst and his goon started talking about tents, but the shooting caught me unawares. And Gregg Fienberg's decision to use the corpse-eye-view camera to show Alma's reaction was just devastating.
What Hearst doesn't get -- what he'll never get, at least Milch's interpretation of him -- is that every time he tries to scare the citizenry, he only brings them closer together. A couple of years ago, Al killed Alma's husband and tried to kill both her and Sophia; now he's her port in a storm. Ellsworth's death has turned Charlie into drinking buddy with Dan and Johnny, had the guys helping Jewel up those damn steps, had Aunt Lou send over a sympathy basket (and can she start putting some freaking grinded glass in Hearst's food already?), made allies of Sol and Al (who have always been uneasy around each other because of Trixie), and brought the best out in the Doc. (The scene where he explained to Alma the import of Sophia getting to see Ellsworth's body was a thing of beauty.)
And meanwhile, ol' George stands around, barely slowed by the bullet wound, whining about how "I was not made to crush my own kind." Poor, poor baby. And great, great Gerald McRaney, who scared me about 17 different times in the episode, most notably when he sent Langrishe scurrying into his room. Given the historical straightjacket Milch has to write in, can this season end with anything more than Hearst deciding on his own to get the hell out of town? Do the reinforcements provided by Wu and Hawkeye (who I'm guessing is going to prove Al very, very wrong) lead to a full-on battle, or just a stalemate. Or do we, for the love of God, end this "season finale" (one of the phoniest uses of that phrase I've ever seen) on a cliffhanger?
Some other random thoughts:
- It's hard to look at the scene where Seth hugs Sophia and Alma and not think about what might have been. Poor Martha. Every time it looks like she has all of Seth's heart, some tragedy has to befall the other woman in his life to distract him.
- Pick a theory for why Cy had a hissy-fit with his whores: 1)He thought Hearst had hired bare-breasted Trixie for a quickie and was annoyed that his fancy-dressed women were passed over; 2)He thought Hearst was dead and was mad that he backed the wrong horse; 3)He saw Ellsworth's body and realized that Hearst was prepared to kill anyone and everyone in camp -- including Cy himself; 4)Like last week, he's just mad at feeling left out of all the action to hang around with his whores and Leon and Con.
- Good of E.B. to grow a pair and all, but why would Al or Seth or anyone else want the two-faced weasel around for any kind of discreet strategy session?
- Not since Spider-Man and Superman met for the first time have I been so excited by a cross-universe team-up like the one between Jewel and Richardson.
- Richardson also had the one saving moment of the usual time wasting with the theater company, when he introduced himself to Claudia by reminding her that he juggled on Amateur Night. I've said it before and I'll say it again: as a foil/sidekick to Al, Langrishe has been a great addition, but as emcee of this pointless group of actors, he can't get out of town fast enough. (Though here's another case where history gets in the way; Jack was apparently a Deadwood fixture for years.)
- Duck, duck, duck... Goose! Just thought it had to be said.
- Line of the night: "Wu big man!" Had to smile for the guy having his moment. Though did I miss the explanation for why he's stopped dressing American?
One more episode. I can't believe it -- especially since I'm skeptical that the movies will ever happen. Sigh...
What did everybody else think?