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said, this series was probably the best television I have ever watched.The writing, story line progression, acting, historical content, sets are all excellently done.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.