Why I Should Binge-Watch Deadwood

Dave Lange

WHAT IS Deadwood ABOUT?

A grimy and thoroughly compelling western drama that revolves around the gold prospectors and other people who inhabit the dusty mining camp of Deadwood, located in the Dakota Territory, during the 1870s.
Original TV Home: HBO

Number Of Seasons: 3 (March 2004 to August 2006)

Total Episodes / Time Table: 36 (approx. 48 to 60 minutes each) = approx. 36 hours.

Viewing Strategy: You can watch the entire series in less than two weeks by watching three episodes per day.

 

WHO’S IN IT? Top Up arrow

Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Jim Beaver, Brad Dourif, John Hawkes, Paula Malcomson, Leon Rippy, William Sanderson, Robin Weigert, W. Earl Brown, Dayton Callie, Keith Carradine, Anna Gunn, Sarah Paulson, Gale Harold, Powers Boothe, Gerald McRaney. There’s also a lengthy list of guest stars that includes: Stephen Tobolowsky, Kristen Bell, William Russ, Peter Coyote, Nick Offerman, Dirk Blocker and Gordon Clapp.

 

WHERE IS IT NOW? Top Up arrow

HBO Now, HBO Go, Amazon, CraveTV, iTunes, YouTube. DVD and Blu-ray boxed sets containing all three seasons are also available.

 

WHY IS IT BINGE WORTHY? Top Up arrow

Deadwood_0304_4Set in the late 1800s, Deadwood was a trailblazing series, thanks to the brilliant creative mind of executive producer and head writer David Milch (Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue). An outstanding, star-studded cast highlights the entire production, including a pre-Justified Timothy Olyphant, who tops the list as Seth Bullock, a Canadian who headed for the U.S. at the age of 17 and became a marshal in the Montana Territory before setting out for Deadwood with the intention of opening a hardware store with his longtime friend, Sol Star (John Hawkes). Ian McShane sparkles throughout the series as Al Swearengen, a notorious and merciless saloon owner who more or less rules over almost everything – and everyone – in the camp.

The setting is historically accurate. And many of the characters in the series were actual people, including Seth Bullock, Sol Star and Al Swearengen. Others historical figures who show up early in the series include: Wild Bill Hickok (Keith Carradine), Calamity Jane (Robin Weigert), Charlie Utter (Dayton Callie), E.B. Farnum (William Sanderson), A.W. Merrick (Jeffrey Jones), Jack McCall (Garret Dillahunt), Rev. Weston Smith (Ray McKinnon) and Johnny Burns (Sean Bridgers). There are other “real” people who become later additions to the cast, including: Wyatt Earp (Gale Harold), Samuel Fields (Franklyn Ajaye), Martha Bullock (Anna Gunn), Andy Cramed (Zach Grenier), Jack Langrishe (Brian Cox), Con Stapleton (Peter Jason) and George Hearst (Gerald McRaney).

The series is reflective of the early days of Deadwood, now a small city in South Dakota. There is a lot of nudity and violence throughout the series. Perhaps much more shocking at first, though, is the dialogue, which is filled with so much profanity that it will burn your ears. And, although the frequent use of the “N” word and various “C” words may seem offensive (warning: some lines are quoted below), Milch insisted back when he was making the series that the use of such language was both historically accurate as well as a true reflection of the lawless nature of Deadwood – and the “wild west” as a whole – during the 1800s.

Deadwood_Ssn-2_0305_2Deadwood was a popular hit for HBO and many still consider it to be one of the best series HBO ever made. There are many funny moments as well as harsh ones.

Fans of the show were shocked when production abruptly ended after the third season. Although there was soon talk of a couple of HBO movies that would give fans some closure, they never materialized. Rumors of a movie have recently resurfaced, however, and a spokesman for HBO did concede to the media that “very preliminary discussions” have taken place. Whether it actually happens remains to be seen.

A lot of cast members moved on to other prominent TV shows after Deadwood ended. Among them: Timothy Olyphant (Justified), Molly Parker (House of Cards), Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad), Ian McShane (Ray Donovan), Dayton Callie (Sons of Anarchy), Gerald McRaney (House of Cards), Powers Boothe (Nashville), W. Earl Brown (True Detective), Paula Malcomson (Ray Donovan), William Sanderson (True Blood), Leon Rippy (Under the Dome), Robin Weigert (Sons of Anarchy), Zach Grenier (The Good Wife), Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story) and Titus Welliver (Bosch).

MUST SEES … Top Up arrow

The End Credits: Don’t miss any of them. Each episode wraps up by pairing its closing credits with a different song. And each of those songs reflects the mood of its episode. Each one is worth sitting back and taking in. As for must-see episodes, all of them are on the list. A few, though, do stand out …

Deadwood (Season 1, Episode 1): Naturally, it sets the stage for the series. It also gives a sense of the extreme hardship – and the mud, muck and outright filth – that settlers had to endure as they toiled to carve out a life for their families in such a harsh setting. The episode doesn’t waste time diving into profanity, either. Brace yourself.

Reconnoitering The Rim (Season 1, Episode 3): This episode introduces the fictional character of Cy Tolliver (Powers Boothe), an aggressive businessman who opens an upscale saloon called the Bella Union right across the street from Al Swearengen’s much-less-refined Gem Saloon. Although the Bella Union was an actual place, the character of Tolliver was based on a man named Tom Miller, who was the owner of that saloon in real life.

Here Was A Man (Season 1, Episode 4): Significant historical plot points emerge here. Let’s not say too much right now.

A Lie Agreed Upon, Part I (Season 2, Episode 1): This episode introduces Seth Bullock’s wife, Martha (Anna Gunn).

Boy-the-Earth-Talks-To (Season 2, Episode 12): George Hearst (Gerald McRaney) comes to Deadwood, and soon turns things upside down with his own ruthless way of doing things. Yes, George Hearst was a real person – and the father of famed newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst.

Levithian Smiles (Season 3, Episode 8): Another historical figure – Wyatt Earp (Wyatt Earp) – arrives in Deadwood, along with his brother (Austin Nichols).

A Constant Throb (Season 3, Episode 10): This episode is notable for a number of things on the screen and behind the scenes, including the fact that it was written by W. Earl Brown, who also plays Gem Saloon bartender and henchman Dan Dority.

MOST SHOCKING EPISODES Top Up arrow

Deadwood (Season 1, Episode 1): They didn’t call it the Wild West for nothing. The episode graphically illustrates that. The violence against women is stark, as is much of the other violence against everyone else.

Here Was A Man (Season 1, Episode 4): One of the most appealing and intriguing characters of the entire series makes an unexpected – and extremely disappointing – exit at the end of this episode. But the story is historically accurate. To say anything more would give too much away.

Plague (Season 1, Episode 5): Seth Bullock (Tim Olyphant) is out to hunt down a murderer and has a brutal encounter on an Indian burial ground. It ends up being one heck of a fight that will make you wince.

Suffer the Little Children (Season 1, Episode 6): Cy Tolliver (Powers Boothe) deals with two would-be thieves (Jesse Wilde, Kristen Bell) in a merciless way, showing himself to be every bit as cold-blooded as Al Swearengen (Ian McShane).

Sold Under Sin (Season 1, Episode 12): Deadwood wends its way from being a mining camp to becoming a legitimate town. In the process, Bullock becomes the sheriff. Meanwhile, the health of Reverend Smith (Ray McKinnon), who has been suffering seizures, takes an bad turn, which prompts Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) to take matters into his own hands.
Begin great lines section

THAT LINE WAS SO GREAT… Top Up arrow

“I’d like to suggest an idea to you, sir, that, I pray, as a Christian man, you would entertain on its own fuckin’ merits.”

– From Deadwood (Season 1, Episode 1): An prisoner named Clell Watson (James Parks) proposes that he be freed and allowed to join Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) on his planned trek to start a new life in Deadwood. The line occurs a mere 3 minutes and 45 seconds (including the opening credits) into the first episode and is actually the second time the F-word is used in the show. However, it’s the first time it is used as an adjective. Get ready, though: There are countless more times it will be used that way – along with many other words of profanity. So, be forewarned.

“That’s a deal, you loud-mouthed cocksucker.”

– From Deadwood (Season 1, Episode 1): Well, you were warned. This is the first of many, many, many times that this particular “C” word is used in the series. It happens as Marshal Bullock berates vigilante leader Byron Sampson (Christopher Darga) after Sampson warns Bullock not to use the usual town scaffold to hang Clell Watson for stealing Sampson’s horse. Bullock agrees and then simply hangs the prisoner from the front porch of his office.

“It’s only Wild Bill Hickok you got stalled here in the muck – you ignorant fucking cunts.”

– From Deadwood (Season 1, Episode 1): OK, you were warned more than once. And, yes, this is the first of many, many times that the other “C” word gets used. In this instance, it comes from the mouth of Calamity Jane (Robin Weigert) as she admonishes a crowd of settlers on a wagon train after one of their carts breaks down, causing her and famed gunslinger Wild Bill Hickok (Keith Carradine) to be delayed on their journey through the Black Hills. As you can imagine, Weigert’s portrayal of Jane is a far cry from the way Doris Day portrayed her in a 1953 movie called Calamity Jane.

“Inform your dealers and whores of my credit and pour me a goddamn drink!”

– From Deadwood (Season 1, Episode1): Gruff prospector Whitney Ellsworth (Jim Beaver) confirms his line of credit at the Gem Saloon after handing over $170 worth of gold to saloon owner Al Swearengen (Ian McShane). Ellsworth has plenty of other great lines throughout the whole series.

“Comin’ out with your fly down might strike the wrong note.”

– From Deadwood (Season 1, Episode 1): Sol Star (John Hawkes) gives Seth Bullock (Olyphant) some quick advice as they prepare to drum up customers for their hardware business.

“We got chamber pots to sell ya. And if you don’t know what one of those is, the man livin’ next to you will appreciate your findin’ out.”

– From Deadwood (Season 1, Episode 1): Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) peddles his hardware items to the rough-and-tumble men of the mining camp.

“That’s all I say on that subject, except the next round’s on the house. God rest the souls of that poor family. And pussy’s half-price next 15 minutes.”

– From Deadwood (Season 1, Episode 1): Gem Saloon owner Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) offers an incentive for his customers to stop fretting about a family that was allegedly killed by Indians.

“I wanna know who cut the cheese. I’ll tell you this for openers. We are gonna set off an area on the balcony. And God help whoever doesn’t use it – because the next stink I have to smell in this office – and whoever doesn’t admit to it is going out the window, into the muck, onto their fucking heads, and we’ll seen how they like fartin’ from that position, OK?”

– From Reconnoitering the Rim (Season 1, Episode 3): Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) reacts during a meeting in his office after one of the men with him apparently experiences a bit of flatulence.

“How about that long-haired fucking blowhard, huh? I’ll tell you this, Cy, and you can mark my words. Crazy Horse went into Little Bighorn, bought his people one good, long-term ass-fucking. You do not want to be a dirt-worshipping heathen from this fucking point forward. Pardon my French.”

– From Reconnoitering the Rim (Season 1, Episode 3): Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) discusses the fate of General George Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn with Cy Tolliver (Powers Boothe) as Tolliver prepares to open a competing saloon.

“What slows me down is thinking about freezing my balls off in a creek for the cocksuckers I’d lose the gold to at poker.”

– From Here Was A Man (Season 1, Episode 4): Wild Bill Hickok (Keith Carradine) tells Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) about his reluctance to become a gold prospector, even though his wife is waiting back home for word of his success.

“Al, once that dope fiend throws her skirts over her head and high-tails back to New York, you think she’ll give one wet fart about what happened at this camp?”

– From Here Was A Man (Season 1, Episode 4): E.B. Farnum (William Sanderson) discusses how Al Swearengen should deal with a drug-addicted Alma Garret (Molly Parker) after it is revealed that her husband died while he was out to prospect for gold.

“Al, watchin’ you, even at a distance, was a pleasure and a privilege.”

– From Here Was A Man (Season 1, Episode 4): : E.B. Farnum (William Sanderson) sucks up to Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) after Swearengen finishes telling Wild Bill Hickok (Keith Carradine) an untrue version of the details surrounding the death of Alma Garret’s husband.

 

“May I say, Dan, ever since I resumed drinking alcohol, I cannot for the life of me figure out why I ever gave it up.”

– From Plague (Season 1, Episode 6): Newspaper editor A.W. Merrick (Jeffrey Jones) offers some personal thoughts to Gem Saloon bartender Dan Dority (W. Earl Brown).

“Will you keep a girl company?”

“I will, but I’m expensive.”

– From Plague (Season 1, Episode 6): Gold prospector Whitney Ellsworth (Jim Beaver) and Bella Union madam Joanie Stubbs (Kim Dickens) exchange their first words during his first visit to the saloon/casino/brothel. It’s the beginning of a comical little encounter.

“Hey, Reverend … you coulda just said, ‘Amen.’”

– From Plague (Season 1, Episode 6): Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) reacts to Rev. Smith (Ray McKinnon) after the minister suffers a seizure and falls onto the floor during a meeting with Deadwood’s leading businessmen to discuss a smallpox outbreak that has infiltrated the mining camp.

 

“I should have fuckin’ learned to use a gun, but I’m too fuckin’ entrenched in my ways. And you ain’t exactly the one to be levelin’ criticisms on the score of being slow to adapt. You fuckin’ people are the original slow fuckin’ learners.”

– From Tell Him Something Pretty (Season 3, Episode 12): Al Swearengen (McShane) talks to a wooden box containing the decapitated head of an Indian, bemoaning the fact that he always keeps using a knife to kill his victims.

 

“How do you think you might enjoy private life?”

– From Tell Him Something Pretty (Season 3, Episode 12): Al Swearengen (McShane) hints to Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) that the outcome of the latest election for the office of sheriff isn’t going to be in Bullock’s favor.

 

“I’ve stopped reading your paper, Merrick. I’ll have my people here start another one – to lie the other way.”

– From Tell Him Something Pretty (Season 3, Episode 12): George Hearst (Gerald McRaney) delivers one final insult to newspaper editor A.W. Merrick (Jeffrey Jones) as Hearst gets ready to leave Deadwood.