Monday, July 10, 2006

Deadwood: Fight club

I'm packing up for the trip to LA, so some briefer-than-usual comments on the very bloody outcome on "Deadwood" after the jump...

Ho. Ly. Crap. That was one of the most amazing fight scenes I have ever witnessed in a movie or TV show. Everything about it was mythic: The whole build-up over the last few episodes with Dan and the Captain taunting each other, shirtless Dan greasing himself up for the fight, Dan's "Come scare me in the thoroughfare" note, the brutal clumsiness of the fight itself, the fight going wrong just as Dan predicted, Dan coming back just as he predicted, Dan ripping out the Captain's freaking eye, and Al's barely perceptible nod to Dan to finish things, followed by Al walking back into his office without so much as a glance at Hearst's balcony.

Whew! Can I say that again? Whew! Or maybe, wow! Now, I love me some Jackie Chan/Jet Li lavishly choregraphed violence, but seeing something this ugly, this clumsy reminds me just how awful the real thing is -- especially when we cut back to Dan sitting naked in his room, his face buried in his hands, unable to deal with anyone or anything for a very long time. Outstanding work throughout (including the comedy in the scene where Bullock enters The Gem) by W. Earl Brown.

The dangling eyeball was the most shocking moment, but this was an episode full of stunners: Steve the hooplehead talking proud Hostetler into eating his own shotgun, a doped-up Alma throwing herself at a terrified Ellsworth (isn't it usually the guy in the sham marriage who wants to take things too far?), and Seth drawing down on Hearst and dragging the most powerful man in the camp towards a cell.

Since HBO sent out only the first five episodes, we have now reached the point where my knowledge of what's to come is the same as yours, and I couldn't be happier. I have no idea how Hearst will respond to this public humiliation, or how Al will try to counter it; whether Steve gets to keep the livery or the General insists on staying out of respect for Hostetler; how both Seth and Martha will react to the news that Alma's free and easy again; whether Alma can kick the dope again (if they stick to the consecutive day formula, probably not).

Hell of an episode. Unfortunately, I now feel the need to resolve all my conflicts by greasing up and beating someone to death with a thick tree branch. Hey, it's better than wanting to blow my head off with a shotgun whenever I deal with a customer service rep who won't do what I need.

Some other random thoughts:
  • More of the Doc this week than last, but his voice seemed hoarse and his bearing weak. I think he may be a lunger.
  • Milch never manages to work every regular into every episode, but it seemed there were more characters MIA than usual: No Joanie, no Jane, no Mose, no Martha, no Wu, and no Jewell. Am I forgetting anyone? Or did any of these people pop up and I just missed 'em?
  • I love Brian Cox as Langriche, and Dennis Christopher gets a lifetime pass from me for winning the Little 500, but feel like the theater company may be one subgroup too many on this show. On the other hand, I loved Richardson's more astute than it sounded, "Are they performing now?" as he watched the group move through what appears to be a long-standing series of off-stage routines.
  • Someone asked in the comments last week whether Con could actually be such an awful lover. I think we have our answer to that. The guy makes Commissioner Hugo "Motorboater" Jarry seem like the world's most attentive lovemaker.
  • Am I the only one getting a little tired of the Trixie/Sol dynamic where she berates him for not knowing about things she refuses to tell him? It's especially frustrating because he rarely has significant scenes with anyone else anymore.
  • Nice moment where, after mocking the General for the entirety of their conversation, Aunt Lou turns serious and wishes him and Hostetler luck.
  • Shouldn't the "what goes up must come down" rule of physics endangered Seth or someone else after he fired in the air to signal Steve and Hostetler?
  • Well, Hearst saw right through Al's plan to use Adams as a Judas goat, didn't he?
  • Some funny Farnum moments, including him trying to make himself look more important to Al's guys and him furiously scribbling "Bella Union" on a piece of paper to avoid another beating from Seth.
My note-taking wasn't as thorough this week, so no Milch-isms. Feel free to nominate your own.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

I look for the Trixie-Sol dynamic to resolve since she's finally figured out what's wrong. Every time they had one of these at-odds conversations, I thought: Al would have understood what she meant; she's got to stop 'talking to Al'."

The fight scene? What a call-back to "My man beat your man's balls off" in Season 2.

Anonymous said...

It was an amazing, brutal episode. I only wish that Hostetler had shot Steve instead of himself. Now that's injustice.

I would like to see Sol do more than talk to Trixie. He needs to interact with Bullock more, or maybe Charlie or even Jane.

Anonymous said...

The "what goes up must come down" rule does apply, but the bullet usually just plinks off the top of your head - it hurts, and it _might_ knock you out, but it won't kill you.

That was a recurring joke on Arrested Development; P.J O'Rourke also talks about it in his coverage of the end of the first Gulf War. Apparently, the falling bullets of the really big machine guns - like M-60's - can kill you, but the smaller bullets just bounce off.

-Darren MacLennan

Alan Sepinwall said...

In Matt's review of the episode, he says Hostetler's decision to commit suicide -- as opposed to trying to kill Steve, or just grabbing his money and leaving -- was the first plot development in the show's history that he didn't buy at all. I'm not sure that I agree -- I could see this as Hostetler recognizing that, no matter how hard he tries, he's always going to live in a world where he's at the mercy of people like Steve -- but I was wondering what others thought.

Anonymous said...

I think you're right, that Hostetler realized Steves are everywhere and he just couldn't take it anymore.

Still wish he'd at least shot Steve first. I was sure he was about to grab a pitchfork and stab Steve to death with it. Damn!

Anonymous said...

Re: Hostetler's decision to kill himself... I didn't buy it either. Felt entirely like a storyteller reaching for a moment, not an organic outgrowth of that character. Let's face it, Hostetler likely spent much of his life as a slave... yet he had the strength of self to end up, in freedom, as an entrepreneur. There's nothing I can see in this conflict with Steve that would push a strong man over the edge; Hostetler had to have overcome a lot worse in his life.

John said...

I thought Hostetler's death was an irrational moment--like all suicides--but not entirely out of character. If he'd been a happy man eagerly looking forward to his new life in Oregon, that would have been one thing. But he was miserable, probably clinically depressed in today's terms, and that combined with Steve's incessant provocations led him to a mad final act: If I'm so much of a cheating liar out to wrong you and laugh at you, how come I'm dead, asshole?