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Customer Review

469 of 491 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The pinnacle of modern storytelling., December 10, 2008
This review is from: Deadwood: The Complete Series (DVD)
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.
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Showing 1-10 of 32 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 27, 2008 7:52:36 PM PST
John McNally says:
I couldn't agree more. I just finished watching the series for the sixth time, and I'm still picking up nuances and subtle reverberations. An absolutely brilliant show.

Posted on Dec 5, 2009 8:02:42 AM PST
T. Fleming says:
Mr. McNally nailed my feelings exactly. Deadwood absolutely spoiled me. It is hard to watch anything else afterwards, in fact Hollywood has lost the magic, Deadwood rises above the dreck. David Milch is absoluely the best writer on the planet, and whoever did the casting was spot-on. I only wish that HBO had not been so short sighted to cancel this series. I have recently acquired Milch's Deadwood book to get my fix, and will continue to rewatch the series whenever network TV, Comcast, Netflix, Amazon-on-demand wear thin. If you haven't seen Deadwood do yourself a favor, turn off the phone and web, block out all interruptions and sit down to Shakespearian artestry set in the badlands of the late 19th century.

Posted on Nov 21, 2010 6:17:39 AM PST
A. Dorsey says:
Thank you for this review! I am going to purchase the series based on your insights.

Thanks for taking the time to put this down in writing.


In reply to an earlier post on Nov 27, 2010 2:24:43 AM PST
J. Dowty says:
The only show I can think of that's better is The Wire, but I prefer Greek tragedies over Shakespearian stuff. Deadwood can be way too depressing, but in a bad way.

Posted on Dec 20, 2010 11:21:22 AM PST
I am thinking about getting the series for my dad. I have never watched it but from doing research, sounds like HBO cancelled the 4th season and there is movie or the ending somewhere out there. My question is, does the boxed series set come with the ending that was later made?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 22, 2010 1:22:17 AM PST
J. Dowty says:
The ending was never made, unfortunately, and probably never will be.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 27, 2010 8:40:32 PM PST
The closest thing the series gets to resolution is a 30-minute extra in which creator David Milch talks about what might have happened. The series is almost certainly dead, as Milch has a new series debuting in the fall. Also, make sure your dad doesn't have a problem with upwards of 75 f-bombs an episode.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 4, 2011 3:53:17 PM PST
Keep in mind that the majority of the story can be resolved by looking up the history of 'Deadwood'... for example, the fourth season would have ended in the town burning down...

I also doubt this will ever be resolved via some tv or HBO production. If it was, it would almost have to be on the big screen now. Tim Olyphant is now a B+/A- player... John Hawkes is up for an Academy Award... Brad Dourif was up for an Academy Award a long time ago... so it would be very expensive just to get the stars back. But HBO does have a big screen department... so you never know! :)

Posted on Feb 15, 2011 8:35:44 AM PST
S. Dean says:
Can you tell me if the complete DVD set has all the same special features as the individual seasons along with the new material?

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 25, 2011 11:47:16 PM PST
The special features from each season's individual DVD release do come with the complete set, including all the featurettes and commentaries.
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