Monday, July 31, 2006

Deadwood: Brave, courageous and bold?

Thoughts on Wyatt Earp, Steve getting karmic justice from the General's horse, the first performance at the Chez Ami theater, Johnny and Merrick coming into their own, and all things "Deadwood," all after the jump...

Ever since Milch told me during production of season one about the (possibly apocryphal) story of Earp and Bullock's confrontation, I've been waiting for the not-yet-legendary lawman to ride into town. And yet the longer I waited, the less appropriate the story seemed. While the legendary Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is still a few years in this Earp's future, the show laid the myth of the Old West to rest along with Wild Bill. The days when the camp's problems could be solved by Bullock slapping leather are a long time gone, as Milch has repeatedly made the point that in civilized society (which Deadwood is in the process of joining), disputes are settled more often with words than guns. But between the arrival of the Earp brothers and Hearst's goon army -- all of them bearing torches, during a season when characters have made repeated mention of the camp burning down -- I'm damn curious to see how this gets resolved without a little bit of old-fashioned gunplay.

As Matt says in his take, Gale Harrold seemed a bit too laid-back as Earp, though he was still much more interesting here than he is in the pilot for "Vanished." Still, it was interesting to see the various citizens of the camp play their respective roles in response to the arrival of this new "hero," whether it was Farnum desperately trying to remind people that he's still the mayor, Al casually poking holes in Earp's story, Cy practically drooling while trying to recruit Earp to his side, Johnny stepping up to challenge Morgan (since Dan fought the Captain, Johnny's seemed a lot tougher, no?), and, of course, Bullock clenching his jaw and getting pissed at the newbies.

Matt, who's been a bigger fan of the theater company scenes than I am, wrote that one of this episode's themes (if not this season's) was "Life itself as a drama populated by real people playing themselves -- actors making up lines and trying to fool people into believing their fa├žade and granting their wish, whatever that might be." In addition to the ones I mentioned above, there was also Merrick continuing to do an impression of a brave man -- to the point where even he's starting to believe it a little -- and Joanie as do-gooder guardian of children, among others.

While Langrishe's con job on Hearst (is he the West's first chiropracter?) was hysterical, this was also the first time I really got into the rest of the company, especially in that scene where Jack sat there with his old friend, setting the stage for his very dramatic death, followed by the other actors emerging from the shadows to take care of the body. Really lovely stuff.

And then there's Steve. Once, he screwed a horse, and now a horse has screwed him something fierce. Milch is fond of having characters deliver monologues to people and things that can't understand them (Al to his severed head, Leon to the puddle), and Steve's pathetic rant to the horse about his hope that the General would stay to keep him company was right up there. As my friend Phil said, Steve getting horse-kicked doesn't make up for the non-sensical suicide of Hostetler, but it at least gave one of the show's more ridiculous characters a poignant end.

Are we supposed to read Jane and Joanie's awkward parting from the rooming house as Jane having morning-after regrets about whatever they did together, or simply her disgust at listening to the landlord's homophobic rant? In the real Deadwood, Jane apparently became a famous whore for a while. I have a hard time reconciling Robin Weigert's performance with the idea of Jane tempting men, but her friendship and/or relationship with Joanie could be sending her down that road -- if there was a fourth season, dammit.

God, I love this show. We have, what, four hours left? Sigh...


Anonymous said...

Only four more eps? Quelle bummer :(

I enjoyed seeing Earp taken down a peg by Al, and I've read some of those stories about Earp's less-than-heroic exploits, so I liked seeing him portrayed that way.

And yay, an Alma-free ep! I did miss Trixie, however.

I also have trouble seeing RW's Jane as a future whore, but I guess we'll never get to know how she would have handled it.

As for Steve: Eh, not the end I wanted for him, but at least the horse has shut him up. Serves him right before being such a prick.

Anonymous said...

I've always considered "Deadwood" a show about its own language, and Milch's dialogue (and monologues) are the true joy of watching, as opposed to the plot. I gasped out loud when Steve asked the horse, "Implyin' what by that fuckin' lordly look?"... gasped at its poetic beauty, the surprise of it, the rhythm of it.

Also savored Brian Cox's reading of "Don't imbibe overmuch the evening chill." There's never been writing like this on American television. It is to be treasured.

Anonymous said...

I think it's possible that they were, once upon a time. But I never thought it was particularly germane.

Ignatious said...

superb post. please write more about deadwood. :)