Now that we have actor W. Earl Brown publicly praising a new script, it looks like we’re officially set for a long-awaited return to Deadwood, creator David Milch’s multifaceted western series about misfits learning to co-exist in a lawless town. With shooting on a Deadwood movie expected in October for a spring 2019 airing, here’s a look back at five of the greatest moments in HBO’s Deadwood.
“I am a sinner who does not expect forgiveness. But I am not a government official.”
Garret Dillahunt was so good as the ludicrously dimwitted and awful Jack McCall in season one that he returned as George Hearst’s droll and mysterious prospector, Francis Wolcott, in season two. One of the darkest clouds in Deadwood, Wolcott isn’t one of the show’s most beloved characters, but he also has a tendency to sum up many of the grander themes in the series. In one such scene with amoral commissioner Hugo Jarry (Stephen Tobolowsky) and ruthless brothel owner Cy (Powers Boothe), even the self-hating Wolcott realizes he might not be the biggest POS in camp. Dillahunt’s delivery also ensures the line is just as darkly funny as intended, and we see the dream that is Deadwood begin to crumble by way of bureaucracy.
Trixie shoots Hearst.
All the slow-burning angst and hand-wringing boils over in an instant after a beloved character is assassinated, leading fiery prostitute, Trixie, to take matters into her own hands. Complete with sweaty-palmed E.B. Farnum (William Sanderson) at his funniest and a wild, spontaneous scheme by Trixie to take the fight directly to Hearst, the aftermath of a tragedy yields one of the very best moments in Deadwood.
“Going wrong ain’t the end of f*cking things, Johnny.”
Earl Brown’s Dan Dority has plenty of moments to shine in Deadwood, though the peak has to be his brutal, high-noon street fight with Captain Turner (Allan Graf). A long way from the muscle-bulging athletes in combat sports today, Dority and Turner are the exact type of girthy doughboys who were the real muscle back in the pioneer days. Somewhere in between an awkward bout of sumo wrestling and bare-knuckle boxing, the weaponless fight is exhausting and dramatic, with blips of the show’s vintage dark comedy.
Bullock puts Hearst in the clink.
Despite what you might assume, the most badass thing that happens in Deadwood doesn’t involve a shootout. Instead, it happens when Bullock’s (Timothy Olyphant) fury boils over and he marches the camp’s de facto owner through the streets by the ear to jail. Although definitely not what the scheming Swearengen had in mind, Bullock’s move against uber-rich prospector George Hearst might have been a touch shortsighted, but it also ends up being as hilarious as it is riveting and one of the best moments of season three.
Al singing on talent night.
Why does Ian McShane’s show-stopping Al Swearengen always sound like he’s on a stage? Part of it is certainly the style of the show, but we also get a pragmatic reason when his old friend, Jack Langrishe (Brian Cox), comes to town and exposes a life before Al was a treacherous cutthroat. Though Al is still way too harsh to actually attend the wonderfully bizarre talent night that Langrishe puts together, we get a taste for Al’s former life as he fills his empty brothel/saloon with a surprisingly touching song, answering some of the mysteries of his being in the process.
The unwanted celebrity of Wild Bill.
Season one of Deadwood opens with a terrific little story within the story that illuminates the fate of Wild Bill Hickok (Keith Carradine) with fresh insight. While the colorful characters, regular doses of dark humor and eccentric dialog are some of the main building blocks of the show, it also fleshes out melancholy characters hoping a new start will bring some peace. Though Wild Bill would love to walk around town like anyone else, Deadwood’s resident celebrity also carries an enormous target with him wherever he goes. At one point (below), the mild-mannered Wild Bill finally snaps at Jack McCall for running his mouth. At another, when he tries to help Bullock and Star build their new hardwood store, he inevitably attracts the town drunkards who can’t help but shoot their mouths off at the famous gunslinger. Instead of a quiet life with a few friends who don’t care about his legend, Wild Bill is ironically coaxed back to the poker table – where he should be able to look his opponents in the eye.
Bonus: Ellsworth stares down Wolcott:
In many ways the heart and soul of Deadwood, Ellsworth (Jim Beaver) is the prototypical frontiersman the showrunners put forward – a man energized by the freedom of creating his own fate, but also one committed to the fairness and basic decency at the center of the show. Creator David Milch and character actor Jim Beaver also add the perfect wrinkle in season three, as the kind-hearted and oft-bashful Ellsworth prickles with indignation when George Hearst’s insidious prospector Francis Wolcott starts prying around Alma’s gold mine. Backing up Ellsworth’s dead-eye for the color (gold), we find out, is an iron spine in the face of injustice and corruption, brought to life by Beaver in a way that completes his already terrific character. Easy to overlook, Ellsworth’s stern but barely audible warning to Wolcott forecasts the beginning of a tyranny – and the deaf ears of fate.