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Not to be Missed,
This review is from: Deadwood: Season 1 (DVD)
Ignore those who have criticized this highly original HBO series for its free-flowing cursing and hard-edged violence. While those elements are certainly in the forefront, they are only part of the entire mosaic. People that shut off their televisions because of the frequently used "coc**ucker" epithet (which seems to serve as a password of sorts around Deadwood) didn't give themselves a chance to experience the moving and genuine characterizations as they developed. That's a shame, for "Deadwood" is as unique and special in this regard as any series that HBO has aired to date.
The acting is superior. All concerned, from those in the lead roles to those "jest passin' through," convey who they are in depth. While some require more than one episode to fully reveal all of the subtlities and nuances of who they are, such texturing exists right from the start.
Some folks have given up on "Deadwood" after watching the first few episodes, claiming it was going nowhere at a slow pace. The fact is, there are a lot of characters introduced in rapid order. As such, they must become familiar and well-established in our minds before their stories can be told with anything resembling a meaningful impact. At such time, they begin to matter to us.
Once we understand who they are and why they are infused with such drive to achieve their dreams and goals (regardless of what it takes and who may suffer along the way), the audience becomes hooked. We care. These people are three dimensional. They are full of the traits and contradictions that all human beings possess, from the noble to the coarse. By the time the first season concludes, we can't wait to learn more about the residents of Deadwood. Their individual stories have become both engrossing and very real to us.
Focusing on the two main "villains of the piece", some folks have written that competing saloon/gambling house/whorehouse owners, Al Swearengen and Cy Tolliver, are virtually identical. I can only imagine that those who make such a statement have merely glanced at the surface and not dared to delve any further. In fact, the two are very different people, indeed!
There's one basic (and huge) difference that becomes apparent as the series develops: Al Swearengen is a pragmatist. His seemingly coldhearted actions are all committed in the name of "doing business." (And in many cases, Ian McShane's performance is so beautifully layered we get the sense that he is almost as disgusted by his actions as are we, the viewing audience).
Cy Tolliver, on the other hand, has strong sadistic tendencies. He frequently enjoys the pain and suffering of others. While he too can make the claim it's all a matter of necessity, Powers Boothe conveys that his character often relishes his use and abuse of power. His handling of the two "thieving kids" is proof positive of his preference for barbaric behavior. So, while the motivations that drive the two men may superficially resemble they also contradict, raising the very real possibility of conflict at any given time.
"Deadwood" is a one-of-a-kind series. For adults only, it's not for the squeamish. It's also not to be missed.