453 of 474 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2008
Of all the TV series I have watched beginning to end, Deadwood is the one I keep coming back to. Even though I've seen every episode countless times, I still pick up something new with each viewing. It still makes me laugh. It still makes me think. It still gives me chills, and it still makes me cry. It is a brilliant man, executive producer and head writer David Milch, at the peak of his powers as a storyteller. Watching Deadwood is like reading a 1200 page novel from 150 years ago. Broad themes in a small setting, complex and conflicted characters, and detailed scenery make for a completely immersive experience.
The plot of the series revolves around where order and community come from. Deadwood was settled outside of U.S. territory in the 1870's after a gold rush, thus leaving it in complete anarchy. Each of the three seasons is well-structured in terms of conflict. The first season deals with how the inhabitants of the town arrange themselves in this lawless town. The second season has the varying factions band together to thwart an invasive government. The third season pits the town against the hyper-capitalism of mining magnate George Hearst. Within that structure is several smaller stories that both manage to stand alone and meld with the larger themes.
The real strength of Deadwood is the characters. Milch has created perfectly fleshed-out portrayals of historical figures and some made-up ones, too. Saloon owner Al Swearengen is a ruthless operator who cannot help but long for an easier, more peaceful way. Seth Bullock demands justice from those around him, but constantly surrenders to his temper and his libido. Calamity Jane is a many layered character, tough and kind, offensive and caring, vulnerable and impenetrable all at the same time. These are only a sampling of the many deep and conflicted characters in the show. By the third season, there were nearly 30 cast regulars, all of which were people you genuinely cared about.
The only thing that could keep people away from Deadwood is the language. Milch is a lover of dialogue, and he writes in complicated verse. More than one viewing is required to even catch the most basic plots and motivations. What can be equally off-putting is the vulgarity. Those with sensitve ears can expect to be bombarded with f-bombs on a semi-sentence basis. If you're having a hard time getting through the first couple episodes, check out the extras on the first season. Milch explains why he wrote the way he did in a way that made perfect sense to me, both from a creative and an historical sense. In those extras, he will divulge a lot of spoilers, but it's far better to experience the series than be turned off by its profanity.
The Complete DVD set, in addition to the many commentaries and extras included in the original single season releases, contains new material that makes the upgrade worth it. Milch explains where he would've taken Deadwood had he been allowed to continue it in the most valuable addition. A lengthy roundtable discussion with the actors is very entertaining. Also included is actor Titus Welliver giving a handful of convincing impressions of actors auditioning for the part of Swearengen. The size of this set also equals one single season release, so if your shelf space is limited, the complete series set gets another plus.
In closing, Deadwood affected me more than any TV show I've ever watched. I jumped out of my chair to cheer on Dan while he fought Hearst's man Captain Turner in a brutal fight to the death. I quote Calamity Jane's beautiful description of a revealing dream. I cried when Jewel asks Doc to "give her a whirl." I could feel the joy in the town after Tom Nuttal's big ride. For anyone who wants the most out of their TV shows, Deadwood is truly perfect.
348 of 373 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2009
...and bummed by the loose ends, don't worry. It all turns out well. As a lifelong South Dakotan and a history major I can tell you it all ends well. Yes, George Hearst did fix the election and steal the office of Sheriff away from Seth Bullock. Bullock had been a U.S. congressman from Montana before coming to Deadwood, though, and had friends in Washington. When they found out that Hearst had fixed the sheriff's race, they appointed Seth Bullock U.S. Marshall for the Dakota Territory. That gave him authority over all law enforcement in the area, canceling out Hearst's move. Bullock would meet a young Teddy Roosevelt in the Dakotas and they became lifelong friends. Bullock even led the inaugural parade when Roosevelt became President of the United States.
79 of 86 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2012
Deadwood is an excellent series. I'm not even going to debate the quality of the show. If you haven't seen it you're missing out.
There is something I would like to address though, the packaging of this box. It looks nice and it's quite small for 19 discs sure, but this comes at a cost. My mother is a huge fan of the show, so we bought her this very set for Christmas (via a local competitor). We are fanatically careful with DVD and bluray discs around my house, If they get scratched I get angry, and I'm not the only one. We've taken the 1st disc out of the case roughly twice, it's already got 2 scratches. Not because of misuse, not because of poor handling, just from sliding it in and out of the box. If you want to protect this investment I suggest getting some other cases to store the discs in. Whoever designed the packaging on this set was not firing on all cylinders.
53 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2009
This is simply the best television show ever created, as far as I'm concerned. I have watched Season One 7 or 8 times by now, and Seasons Two and Three close to that many times, and I am still in awe, every time. I still feel the same thrill when the theme music kicks in, and I gain new insights every time I watch it.
The dialogue is not easy to follow, but it is well worth the effort. This is a show full of grimness, violence, and oppression, but also some amazing humor, most of it hidden in a tangle of words (EB Farnum's monologues are some of the funniest ever written). As others have pointed out, the profanity is extreme. The first time I watched an episode, I was shocked by it (though not particularly offended -- to me they're only words). Beyond that, it's complex, varied and rich in vocabulary. I've seen reviews on here by people who say that the dialogue in Deadwood shows the "dumbing down" of America. It's obvious they only watched the first 15 minutes -- the language is so incredibly elaborate and well constructed that a lot of people compare it to Shakespeare.
The characters are almost as rich and complex as the dialogue. Al Swearengen has got to be one of the greatest anti-heroes ever created and he is played brilliantly by Ian McShane. (In the first episode, watch poor Tim Driscoll talk himself down from a swindler's share of $6000 to a mere $20, withering under Al Swearengen's pitiless gaze.) Swearengen goes to great lengths to supress any hint of compassion in his soul (and usually succeeds), but it leaks out around the edges sometimes, in a way that is occasionally very nearly heart-breaking (his moments with Reverend Smith, for example). On the other side of the coin, Seth Bullock, the former marshall from Montana, is a man who struggles to supress his dark side but cannot entirely manage it. There's the shell-shocked Civil War doctor, Doc Cochran, who is so tragically frustrated by his limited abilities; Al's oily rival Cy Tolliver, whose charming smile hides a nature far crueler than Al's; the peacemaker partner of Seth Bullock, Sol Star, one of the quiet wonders of the show; and of course that mega-celebrity of the Old West, Wild Bill Hickock, portrayed so beautifully by Keith Carradine that it's a pity Milch had to stick to historical fact in his case.
And then there are the women: the whore, Trixie, and her love/hate relationship with Swearengen, her cranky and suspicious nature endangering her chance at a different life; the rich widow, Alma, whose struggle to break free of societal expectations and conventions is hampered by her addiction to laudanum and her cultural indoctrination; the madame Joanie, whose brutal life has somehow not pummeled the compassion completely out of her; and the pitiful drunk Calamity Jane, who wants so much to be a bad-a$$ but just can't quite manage to get herself out of a bottle long enough -- even she, though, can rise unexpectedly to meet a crisis.
On top of all this the sets and the costuming are simply incredible. I've since watched Westerns, even modern ones, that have just made me groan with impatience -- it's so obvious that they're filming inside a sterile set -- and yell at the screen, "Haven't you watched Deadwood?" Where's the filth? Do you really think those cowboys and miners took baths more than a few times a year? And don't you know that horses poop all over the place? (And as for the costuming, I would pay a LOT for some hats like the ones that Joanie Stubbs wears. Such a shame that those clothes were so impractical and uncomfortable, because day-yum! they look good!)
This is the true history of the west -- fictionalized of course, but not romanticized and prettified, here explored in all its ruthless grime and blood and pathos and sex, severed Indian heads and random murder, bloody fistfights to the death, unabashed and ugly racism, serial killers, opium addicts and degenerate titlickers, beaten-up whores and children trampled to death by horses -- and amidst all this, moments of transcending beauty, compassion, and kindness. You can practically smell the horses**t, the booze, and the vomit -- and Alma Garret's rosewater.
All my life I have loved "The Little House on the Prairie" books (not the TV show, mind you) and I reread them regularly and still love them. This show made me seriously re-examine those books, among many other things. It boggles the mind to think that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote them in the same place and era that this show occurred, and it makes you wonder what she left out of her books (admittedly they were written for children, so you wouldn't expect her to include everything, but still). This is definitely an NC-17 series, but it is one that every adult should watch who has an interest in the history of how our country was settled and what it was really built on (witness George Hearst in Season Three).
I introduce this series to people every chance I get and an am always happy to make a new fan. It still breaks my heart that HBO killed the series so abruptly. There was so much gold still left to mine. I cancelled my subscription to HBO when I knew it was final and will never subscribe to HBO again (so take that you c***s***ers).
I wish I could give this six stars out of five: I would.
42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2008
First, "Deadwood" has the most constantly profane and racist language, and graphic sex and violence I have ever seen on mainstream film. So, those who are offended by material of this nature should not watch. But if you can get past that, "Deadwood" is brilliant.
Let me begin by giving an example of the writing. In the following scene, Al Swearengen, Deadwood's ruthless leader, deplores the fact that the self righteous Sheriff, Bullock, is too involved in his adulterous affair with Alma (who controls a rich gold mine) to focus on the political struggles the community is facing in its attempt to be annexed into the United States. Swearengen watches Bullock leave the hotel after being with Alma. One of Swearengen's men remarks that Bullock means no disrespect. Swearengen replies:
"Horror is, you are f**kin' right. He don't know if he's breathin' or takin' it through f**kin' gills. He is that f**king c**t-struck. They're afloat. In some fairy f**kin' bubble, lighter than air, him, her snatch, and his stupid f**kin' badge...Self-deceiving c**k-sucker I am, I thought, when America took us in, Bullock would prove a f**kin' resource. Look at him, stridin' out like some randy, maniac Bishop."
"Deadwood" is a true western because it is the story of the creation of a community on the frontier. The town of Deadwood was born when gold was discovered in the Black Hills, lands ceded to the Sioux by treaty. All kinds of non-Native Americans, Europeans, and Chinese invaded the area. This action was illegal under the laws of the United States and, of course, considered grounds for war by the Sioux. So, the people who founded Deadwood, of every class, were all true outlaws. And Deadwood had no law but custom and the knife and gun. In three seasons, "Deadwood" tells the story of how the town was founded and ultimately annexed to Dakota Territory.
Many of the characters portrayed are based on historical personages. Formost among them is Al Swearengen the "Bloody King of Deadwood," who operated the town's first saloon and bordello. Swearengen is played by Ian McShane. It is the role of McShane's career and he is astounding. As the episodes progress, Swearengen's charachter evolves to amazing complexity, far beyond the simple villain he at first appears. We come to root with guilty pleasure for Swearengen, the murderer and whoremonger, and to admire his cunning as he allies with Bullock and others who attempt to hold their own against even worse and more powerful and morally corrupt forces; Cy Tolliver, the despicable overlord of a competing gambling house, Wolcott, mining engineer, serial killer of prostitutes and agent of the ruthless, implacable mining magnate, George Hearst, and against corrupt and idiotic politicians from Yankton who would deprive Deadwood's founders of political rights of self determination.
The thing I enjoyed most about "Deadwood" is the fact that it is brilliantly and blatantly Shakespearian. Scenes of high drama are artfully alternated with comic vignettes. A number of characters actually engage in soliloquies with strange yet understandable sentence structure. It is surprising and pleasing to see how well such scenes work in a western. For example, Swearengen keeps the head of a dead Indian in a box. When he is beset by fools, his lackeys, Swearengen, like Hamlet to Yoric, confides his feelings, questions and stratagems to "The Chief." In one such scene, Swearengen complains to The Chief about one of his men. Swearengen says:
"Dead, and without a body, you still outstrip him for intelligence."
There are a few pure and good souls represented in this savage work. Calamity Jane, played by Robin Weigert is a true Shakespearian "wise fool." In one of my favorite scenes (it made me laugh and cry) Calamity visits the grave of the murdered Wild Bill Hickock, who she adored. It is her custom each night to tell Wild Bill the news of Deadwood. On this night, she is joined by Charlie Udder, Wild Bill's other closest friend. She allows Charlie to tell Wild Bill the news. But he breaks down. He asks Calamity:
"Can I...can I tell `im some more tomorra?"
Calamity replies with kindness:
"Sure. What the f**k you askin' me for? I don't make the rules."
The scene is at once melancholy, hilarious, and profound. And there are many such scenes in this brilliant masterpiece.
"Deadwood" is an innovation, in the American western, so profound that it will be studied by many over time. Whether it will ever be matched is an open question.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
David Milch is one of the most brilliant and gifted writers in history. One only needs to see the discussion/interview with Keith Carradine to realize this man's true talent. This is the way it was, folks. This is history and entertainment at its best. However, the script of Deadwood is masterfully written as if William Shakespeare wrote it himself. The inhabitants were not this educated and certainly couldn't embellish English as well as David Milch. The classic Westerns many of us grew up with in the fifties were white-washed milk toast. They were not authentic, but the carnage and the constant barrage of profanity and savage brutality of Deadwood can be a shock to tender eyes, ears and hearts at first, especially those attuned to the eternal spirituality of Judaism or Christianity. I certainly was jolted. However, having been in Vietnam and places even worse - and knowing the history of Deadwood - this is the kind of society that emerges when there is no law. Keep in mind that in June, 1876, most of the 10,000 inhabitants of Deadwood were running from U.S. authorities. For the most part, with some exceptions, it was a cramped society of hardened criminals more resembling a Federal prison population void of guards than a lavish Hollywood production set of Wyatt Earp. Deadwood reveals the epitome of both good and evil in mankind. It illuminates the heart of the fallen man and boldly shouts that evil is - and will be - king in a lawless land.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2009
DEADWOOD was one of HBO's finest series and was certainly the best western television series ever produced. It had a compelling storyline based on actual events, fascinating true-to-life characters, gritty, realistic production values and the most X-rated dialogue ever heard on the tube.
When the show was suddenly cancelled after the 3rd season without giving the story or characters a proper conclusion, viewers were not just upset. They were angry.
Now, HBO Video is trying to make partial amends by releasing DEADWOOD, THE COMPLETE SERIES, a 19-disc box set that not only contains all 36 episodes of the series, but also a Bonus Disc that has series creator David Milch strolling through the DEADWOOD set and talking about how he would have ended the series had there been a 4th season.
Like the rest of the series, most of that final season would have been based on actual historical events and would have included a huge fire that destroyed the town.
Also on the extra disc is a documentary about the real Deadwood after the fire, plus a hilarious audition reel featuring series regular Titus Welliver.
© Michael B. Druxman
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2009
HBO killed this series and Rome in the same year and I canceled my subscription soon after. Deadwood was a gritty, in your face portrait of life in a mining town of the "real" wild west. Did they take dramatic license? Sure. Were the characters over the top sometimes? You bet. Was the language something out of a sailors wet dream? Hell yeah! It sure did tie together as a great show though and when it came up as a Deal of the Day on Amazon I decided I had to have it. The DVD transfer is great and the from the first episode I was right back into the series. If you can take the language, carnage, and occasional bit of nudity I would definitely suggest you give it a try!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2009
Deadwood is not for children. I have always enjoyed HBO's original series. The Sopranos put all others to shame. Deadwood is HBO'S second claim to fame. I have watched Deadwood twice in the past week since I got the new three season box edition. Each disk was perfect and the show was fantastic. It was the first time I have viewed the series and upon completion of the first running thru the 19 discs I started it all over a second time. The bonus features were my clue I was watching a story about real people in real times. Sure the show's writers took a few liberities to make the show move but be aware alot of the folks in the show are actually buried in Deadwood. I found out Al Swearington was born in Oskaloosa, Iowa just 20 miles from my home...
If you want to watch a show with heart that will have you rooting for the good guys and the bad guys....just watch Deadwood..Its a classy show...Be aware there is a lot of profany....
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed the series when shown on television and bought the dvds when released. However, nothing compares to the improved qualities of the bluray editions.