on March 25, 2007
"Deadwood" either is your cup of tea or isn't, and if it isn't, then you probably have no business even considering prchasing these DVDs; the third season in't gonna change your mind. If it IS your cup of tea, and you're just wondering whether or not the third season meets the high marks set by the first two seasons, allow me to answer: it does. In some cases, it even surpasses them.
The third season finds the camp in a general tizzy about the upcoming elections for mayor and sheriff, and Al Swearengen in a bit more specific tizzy about the impact the arrival of George Hearst has had on his life and livelihood. In a sense, the entire season is about the power play between these two titans, with Cy Tolliver trying to edge himself into the mix somewhere and Seth Bullock trying to figure out what his place is in the whole mess.
Amongst the other plot threads explored in this season: Jane's growing friendship with the increasingly troubled Joanie Stubbs; Alma's opening a Deadwood bank; the feud between Steve and Hostetler; the oddly touching relationship between Trixie and Sol; Elsworth's marriage to Alma, which may not prove to be the bed of roses he had hoped for; the appearance in town of the Earp brothers, and of a troupe of actors; and, of course, Seth Bullock's ever-present willingness to be grumpy with the wrong person, Farnum's weasly nature, and Merrick's desire to write about it all.
The plots don't matter much, though. The dialogue and the acting are what make this show great. "Deadwood," in its three seasons, had so many iconic moments that it makes most other shows look like film-school projects in comparison.
In addition to the regular cast standouts -- Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, W. Earl Brown, William Sanderson, Brad Dourif, Molly Parker, Powers Boothe, Robin Weigert, and so on, ALL of whom do Emmy-caliber work -- I think special mention needs to go to Gerald McRaney, who turned up right at the end of season two but becomes an integral character in the third. His portrayal of Hearst is just awesome. Not that he's better than anyone else on the show; he just immediately fits in with the tone of the show, so much so that it really feels as if his character had been there all along, lurking in the shadows somewhere.
Much has been written about the fact that HBO decided to cancel the series, and pretty unexpectedly; but don't fret too much about the show ending on a cliffhanger. Not all plot points are resolved, but there is at least a sort of closure; it's like the first two seasons, where it feels as if a chapter has ended, but the novel will continue. Well, it looks like the novel WON'T be continuing -- HBO has claimed that there will be two two-hour movies to wrap things up, but no filming dates seem to have been set, and it's been months since anyone had anything to say about that project -- but if the series has to end with the close of the third season, I won't feel as if I was cheated too terribly badly. I'd prefer it had run for ten or twelve years, but hey, we're lucky the doggone thing ever even got made.
David Milch's Deadwood in its final (alas) Season 3 is even more eccentric than its predecessors as it delineates the titanic struggle between the scruffy entrepeneurs of Swearengen, Bullock, Starr and Alma Garrett with the ruthless implacability and arbitrariness of unfettered wealth and power as represented by George Hearst. The language in this Season is even more baroque, circuitous, arcane and delicious as Milch explores the strange nexus between detached Victorian propriety and the profane, muscular and gritty gutter modernity of the mining camp.
Likewise, new characters are introduced that provide side stories of no other purpose other than the fun of exploration of new characters and context, most noticeably the acting troupe of Jack Langrishe (the incomparable Brian Cox) as a sort of Greek chorus while allowing an examination of the role of Art in human community. No doubt, had the series continued, these were storylines for future exploitation. There is a nice subplot concerning Hostetler, Fields (nice to see Franklyn Ajaye again) and Drunk Steve, the appearance of the morally ambiguous and lethal Earp brothers, and the onslaught of Hearst's army of Pinkertons and their Captain Barrett. There is the continuing exploration of the harsh and bitter lot of women and the paradoxical and confused relations between the races and the dominant and minority communities, and much much more, all presented with extremely droll and idiosyncratic humor amid occasional eruptions of violence.
Frankly, I could write paragraphs on individual subtext stories and performances but I would be preaching to the choir or waxing eloquent to deaf ears. So, with a nod to the marvelous leads of Tim Olyphant's intemperate, explosive, rigid yet true Seth Bullock ("His holiness, the maniac sheriff"), Ian McShane's towering and oh so humanly complicated rascality as Al Swearengen, and Molly Parker's beautiful and beset Alma Garrett, and now Gerald McRaney's detestable tyrant George Hearst, with apologies for foregoing naming all the wonderful actors of this brilliant ensemble, we bid farewell to the steadfast and reliable Sol Starr, the loyal and courageous Charlie Utter, the beautiful and sorrowful Joanie Stubbs, the vicious and cruel Cy Tolliver, the resilient and fiery Trixie, the threadbare yet noble Doc Cochran, the fawning and pathetic weaselry of EB Farnum, the drunken yet endearing Calamity Jane, and so on. I could list virtually every player for fine work in creating the complicated characters of Martha Bullock, Ellsworth, Merrick, Dan Dority, Adams, Wu, Johnny, Tom Nuttall, Jarry, Hostetler, Fields, Drunk Steve, Richardson, Aunt Lou, etc. All the players, central and supporting, did marvelous work.
Congratulations to Milch and his production staff and this fine company of actors who brought the complex language, both elevated and earthy, to vibrant life, with wonderful sets and costumes, writing, photography, direction and editing. A marvelous imagining of characters and place, with intriguing themes of sex and relationships, race and custom, of friendship and isolation, loneliness and community, of ambition and greed coupled with sacrifice and care, and without and within, an all too human fallibility. I would have welcomed many more Seasons of this complicated and quirky exploration, but it was not to be. However, as one fine Amazon reviewer put it "we were lucky to have it at all", in all its glorious self-indulgence. This fine effort will be sorely missed by those of us who loved its daring and unique creativity, but at least we can be grateful for its preservation on DVD. As the dieing old actor says "The Masks lie, Comedy and Tragedy are the same", and Deadwood brought it all to us with a howl and a roar.
The third, and possibly final, season of HBO's critically acclaimed Deadwood had it's share of slow moving moments to be sure, but the series as a whole lived up to the excellent precedent set by the previous two seasons of the show. As the third season opens, sheriff Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) makes a run for re-election, which gets side tracked by forging an uneasy alliance with Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) against the vendictive George Hearst (Gerald McRaney) who comes to the camp with some deadly plans for everyone involved. The lives of newly weds Alma Garret (Molly Parker) and Whitney Ellsworth (Jim Beaver), as well as Sol (John Hawkes) and Trixie (Paula Malcomson) are in jeopardy as Hearst prepares to wreak bloody havoc, which is mainly what this season of the series is focused on. Also during this season, we witness the recovery of Cy (Powers Boothe), as well as bonding between Calamity Jane (Robin Weigert) and Joanie (Kim Dickens), and the debilitating health of Doc Cochran (Brad Dourif). If you've been a fan of the show for some time, you know what to expect with Deadwood in terms of it's vulgarity and violence, so if you're new to the show, you won't really be won over by anything here. That being said, the third season of Deadwood is some truly great TV regardless, and the ensemble cast as usual is superb; with Olyphant, McShane, and McRaney being the best of the bunch. As the previous reviewer stated, if this is indeed the final season of the show with no other kind of resolution, there isn't any real cliffhanger that leaves the viewer cursing at the screen (a la Carnivale). That being said, hopefully this isn't the last hurrah for Deadwood, and there will be another chapter before these characters ride off into the sunset.
on October 31, 2008
I was hooked on Deadwood from the start and in particular absolutely mesmerised by Ian McShane's performance - acting at its absolute finest, perfect timing and pacing of his lines and expressions. Comedy, violence, anger and angst, all delivered in impeccable and perfect pitch - a complete masterclass in the art. And this from the same man who played Lovejoy!
The sets were superb, the supporting ensemble pretty good... but unfortunately, by Season 3, it seemed like things were starting to unravel, probably when the director/producers realised the viewing figures were waning, HBO had lost interest and that the end was nigh.
Which probably explains why the massive build-up to a climactic showdown never happened - they ran out of budget. Committed to a set number of shows for the rest of the season, they just stretched it out to fill. A massive anti-climax and disappointment, and an affront to the show's loyal fans.
Hearst arrived and everything was building up to some sort of epic confrontation. Hired guns arriving in town, Mr Wu fetching his army of Chinese from San Francisco... I thought we were going to go out in an epic blaze of glory.
Instead, we had characters standing around agonising on what to do next, marching around from one building to another, doing the odd Shakespearean-style soliloquoy, indulging in embarrassing lesbian scenes (Calamity Jane must rank as the most irritating and unwatchable character in any TV series) and all manner of other pointless and dull interludes.
Meanwhile key characters from Seasons 1 and 2, like Sy Tolliver, became sidelined in Series 3, characters going nowhere and with no real motives or objectives in life.
Tolliver spends most of Series 3 standing around ranting and raving, but for reasons which totally escape me. What his purpose was, and what his relationship with Hearst was, all seemed to melt into nothing, so he was reduced to standing on his balcony looking angry and gritting his teeth.
All this wouldn't have been so bad, but as the guns massed, the taunts grew, the violence simmered and boiled, the random acts of brutality caused ever more teeth-clenching... what happened? Nothing! Nothing at all! Hearst rode out of town after Bulloch clenched his teeth at him one last time, and that was it! How feeble was that?
The whole series just fizzled out, with the election supposed to be some sort of climactic finale. But the significance of the election, or who was standing for what, and why, completely escaped me. It just seemed an irritating, confusing and weakly-scripted diversion in the background, not the major plotline.
When the election finally took place, the results were confusingly blurted out in Al's pub by a minor character, nobody seemed bothered by them (including the viewers), or even heard them properly, and the meaning and impact of it had become totally lost, to the point where it hardly seemed to matter.
This review gets three stars for Ian McShane's brilliant character acting, for the sets, and for HBO's bravura in putting this ambitious series on in the first place.
But it desperately needs some sort of finale, a tying up of loose ends, as some sort of payback for the long hours the loyal fans have put in following it all.
Oh, it also gets bonus points for the magnificent horse in the credits (called Bobby, I believe), and for Ellwood's wonderful dog (can anybody supply any more information on him?)
on June 25, 2015
SO much promise and HBO pulled the plug. The story arcs were invested with much screen time,but some, as with the acting company diversion, were worthless and likely the cause of the viewer decline that forced HBO to execute the entire series. This was a fantastic series that lost its way. Olyphant was a disappointment when measured by his turn in Justified, where he was superb. Ian McShane was the anchor for Deadwood. So many worked with focus to make this an epic series and the writers/producers dropped the ball. Lost Opportunity would have been a better name for this series.
on July 22, 2015
Superbly acted and written. However; this series deadended right in the middle of nowhere. Leaving you totally hanging and confused. Season 3 started a process and a progression of all the characters that was very clearly headed to further history in the making and ended with tons of unanswered questions and unresolved issues. Enough to make me and my wife wish we never watched it to begin with.
on January 24, 2008
SPOILER WARNING I loved Deadwood up to the last two episodes. The ending of a story is the most important element and this ending soured the entire Deadwood experience for me. The entire third season built up to a grand confrontation which never happened. The series just sputtered out with the main characters, both noble and corrupt, basically giving in. As Seth Bullock said in the last episode "I did nothing." Neither did anyone else, including the writers. Sorry folks, the ending was depressing and disappointing. Though one of the third season episodes has the greatest bare handed street brawl ever filmed.
on January 31, 2016
The one thing about Deadwood is that it never fails to please. While Season 3 differs from 1 and 2 in that it centers primarily with George Hurst (Gerald McRaney).
Hurst comes to Deadwood after Mr. Garrett's claim hits a motherlode and dies from Dan pushing him off a ledge. The season centers in Hurst's interruption of the camp and day to day operations. Swearengen (Ian McShane) and Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) become unlikely allies. Together they attempt to thawart Hurst's play against Alma's claim.
The season ends, sadly, with Hurst getting his way. Rumor in 2016 speculates that a film or another series of episode will be produced to actually wrap up the program in a more tidy way.
on November 28, 2010
I am late in arriving to Deadwood as I do not subscribe to HBO. That being said, this series was probably the best television I have ever watched.The writing, story line progression, acting, historical content, sets are all excellently done. Keep in mind this in not the typical "western" full of cowboys and such.Set in Goldrush Era South Dakota, Deadwood presents a different picture of the West. The series presents the gritty life of those who came west to seek their fortune. It is best described as muddy.
As for the characters, I love the development of "bad guys" that are so complex that you end up cheering for them and sympathizing with them. In the same light, the "good guys" are so complex that they make you angry and disappointed. There are no clear good guys and bad guys. The secondary characters, such as Jane and Richardson, are captivating and sad and as complex as any of the main characters. In the end they were among my favorites. Jane's story is tragic when you can see her good heart at the same time she is self-destructive and sad. Richardson is sweet and harmless and yet kicked around by nearly everyone. Ellsworth is a man of character and ethics and is [spoiler alert] cut down for his troubles.
I am not a scholar but the entire series struck me as a modern day Shakespeare play.The style of dialogue feels like it was written by the bard himself. The soliloquies that are rarely seen in modern drama are a common tool in Deadwood that offer insight to the character's mind. The "side kick" characters, in pairs or trios, offer commentary on the passing events and tools for a main character's means. I'm sure that a Shakespearean scholar could offer a better comparison than I.
In the end, the ultimate tragedy is that Deadwood was never allowed to finish telling the story. HBO in their judgement of fiscal needs over dramatic integrity chose to cancel the show before it could accomplish a true wrap up to the story. This proves that the entertainment business is solely about money and not about the story. They did a disservice to the fans, the writers, the directors, the creator of the series and everyone else connected to the project. That being said, the 3 available seasons are certainly worth watching. It is a refreshingly brilliant change from the usual dribble on television.
on August 2, 2007
I agree with many of the glowing reviews for Season III. Deadwood is a show with piss and vinegar characters, comically morbid scenes, and skewed Shakespearean dialogue. The principal annoyance from the first two seasons, Robin Wiegart's overkill portrayal of Calamity Jane, smoothes out and the actress hits her stride. Unfortunately, Timothy Olyphant (featured in the upcoming Hit Man), while mostly pitch perfect as lawman Seth Bullock, still has only one look while striding through the thoroughfare: gritted teeth, furrowed brow, wooden gait. This has not changed through three seasons, although the character finds enough other ways to show his boiling temper, so that this contrivance seems hardly necessary. And while others have been singing the praises of Gerald McRaney as Hearst, I must disagree. The part is extremely well written, true, but McRaney never sheds the aw shucks 80's teen movie Dad vibe and tone of voice (he might as well have just gotten off the train from Shermer, Illinois), so that the actor's attempts to glare menacingly fall flat and acts of extreme violence seem completely out of place. The gravitas of actors like McShane as Swearengen and Boothe as Cy Tolliver overpower McRaney, and when the script calls for them to be intimidated by him, it just doesn't feel truthful. Perhaps that's simply an indication of how high McShane set the bar for villainy in Season 1. This does some damage to season 3, as the show is all about power plays and intrigue. As a side note, once his "muscle" is dispatched, it is odd that, in a town with so little regard for human life, while bullying the town's power brokers, Hearst could simply stroll freely by himself, unencumbered. For the show to be consistent, it seems like he should be dead by about episode 7 (although this would have consequences, not to mention the historical inaccuracy), but Hearst opening the door to an irate Charlie Utter in the season finale after he stepped up security after the Trixie incident strikes me as odd. Even with these minor setbacks, Milcher and crew managed to create one of the most memorable shows on television.