The Best Parts of Deadwood: The Movie
Can you believe it actually happened? After over a decade of wishing and waiting, after years of having given up all hope, they finally did it. The c-cksuckers finally gave us a Deadwood movie; titled, appropriately enough, Deadwood: The Movie. And, for some reason, I just now got around to watching it.
Did I love everything about it? No, not exactly. For one thing, it was far too short (just under two hours) for all the stories and characters presented to get the much due attention they all deserved. But after years of having to acclimate myself to the idea that all we were getting was just the three Deadwood seasons that originally aired, I have trouble being too picky at this point. Beggars can't be choosers after all, and, frankly, I'm just happy to have anything new at all.
The brevity of Deadwood's return aside, the actual quality of the product had shockingly not diminished one bit. Which, I suppose, in a way, makes it hurt just that much more that we never got the seasons covering the time in between this point and when the show ended (it would've been so good!). The story, the characters, the setting, dialogue, and tone all felt just as fresh and on-point as ever. Heck, if I didn't know any better, I'd say that the show had kept going while we weren't looking, and we're only now getting permitted to peep back in for one last visit to our old home with our old friends. Everyone was older and much had happened in the time we hadn't seen them, but the quality, setting, and characters were just as real and perfect as ever.
Suffice it to say, there was a lot I found to love about Deadwood: The Movie. But below I've narrowed it down to just a few of my favorite bits.
BEWARE... there be spoilers ahead.
Garret Dillahunt returns in his third and final form
Look. I know it's silly, but when I heard that unmistakable voice calling out, and then saw who it was, I couldn't help but become absurdly giddy at the fact that these sly sons'a beeches tossed this guy in again.
For those not aware of Garret Dillahunt, he's the actor who played Wild Bill's assassin, the coward Jack McCall, in Deadwood's first season. And he's also the one who played Hearst's depraved geologist, Francis Wolcott, in season two. And now he's back, yet again, as a random, big-bearded townsman, angrily yelling that Hearst should die in the street just like his father did (as Timothy Olyphant hilariously pointed out, only David Milch would give an extra with a 3-second part a backstory).
Why did they have the same actor play two separate main roles in two consecutive seasons? Beats the heck outta me. But he was great in both, so I'm not complaining (although I must admit, when I first watched the series, I did spend a considerable amount of time trying confusedly to make sense of how Jack McCall somehow got rich and intelligent out of nowhere). Maybe the point was to show that these two reprehensible characters were basically the same person, just born with differently priced spoons in their mouths. Or maybe they just liked the actor. I really don't know.
Either way, seeing this actor pop back up out of nowhere in this final Deadwood chapter was a great touch that, from this fan's perspective, at least, was very much appreciated.
The gunfight at Hearst's veranda
What's a western without at least one good gunfight? AmIright? In Deadwood, though, these gunfights are rarely consisting of squinty eyes, 10 paces, or countdowns to a draw. They're usually dirty, messy, quick, and bloody. And we had a great one of these fights—however brief it may have been—in the Deadwood movie, between Seth Bollock, George Hearst, and their respective cohorts and associates. All taking place on and around that now-completed veranda Hearst started building on all those years ago.
But it wasn't just the fight itself that made things so great. There was also the entire sequence leading up to it, in which Bullock makes it back to the jail just in time to save his witness (against Hearst's murder of Utter) from a lynching. I'm counting this among the fight as a whole, as this is where it all begins and where the body count first starts adding up (as Bullock puts a bullet between the eyes of one of the baddies who's decided to take a child as a hostage).
Afterward, Bullock (in his classic fuming-mad fashion) drags the one surviving bad guy to the front of Hearst's residence, yelling a demand for him to come out so that the now scared and battered baddie can point out who ordered the hit (Spoiler: it was Hearst). Hearst walks out, along with his gun-toting cronies, while Bullock and friends gather 'round outside for a good old fashion Mexican standoff. Things quickly go awry when several people are killed and injured.
It's a very tense and exciting scene where several of our beloved characters are in perilous danger and our thirst for revenge is about as bad as Bullock's.
Mr. Wu bringing medicine to Swearengen
Granted, it wasn't the most action-packed scene in the movie, but I couldn't help but well up a bit when I saw Mr. Wu trying to give an obviously sick Al Swearengen some medicine. It was a relatively short and simple scene, but It was both nostalgic and heartwarming. Then again, I've always just been a big sucker when it comes to seeing grumpy old tough-guys reluctantly bonding with people; especially when those people are each other.
And it's a particularly special case when it comes to longtime allies, Wu and Swearengen. Not only was it a case of two emotionally guarded men developing a friendship together, but they were also two men of different ethnicities and nationalities developing a friendship in a place and time when that sort of thing just didn't typically happen. Their brief moments together on the show were always like condensed versions of that 1980's sci-fi movie, Enemy Mine (which if you haven't seen it, then see it), where two normally rivaling characters, who don't understand each others language or customs, are forced to work together and, over time, grow to love each other in their own never-gonna-admit-it ways. But they know it. And we know it too. And never do their feelings shine through more clearly than they did in this scene. *crosses fingers*
"Hog of the Forsaken" playing over the end credits for the last time
Never underestimate the power of a well-chosen song to wrap things up at the end of a good show or movie. I mean, who doesn't think about The Sopranos when they hear "Don't Stop Believin'"? Or Breaking Bad when they pop on "Baby Blue"? Heck, to this day I can't hear The Pixies "Where is My Mind" without Fight Club coming to mind.
Who knows how these movies and TV shows figure out the magical ingredients for a perfect end-song. But, by golly, when it works, it works. And the 1976 "outsider folk" song, "Hog of the Forsaken" (by Michael Hurley) worked for Deadwood. And not for the first time, either. In fact, this is actually the third time Deadwood chose to play this song during their end credits. The first two times being at the end of the shows first and tenth episodes. And now at the end of it all.
Now, I don't know how much this song stuck with everyone else who watched the series, but it always did for me, starting far before this movie came along. And I've listened to it many times over the years, ever since; always thinking back to Deadwood, every time I did. Truth be told, I actually always assumed my nostalgia for this particular ditty was just an oddball thing personal to me (as I do have a pretentious little habit of seeking out random TV songs that others often don't pay attention to). Judging by the film's choice to use this as the final song in Deadwood history, however, it turns out that maybe I wasn't alone in my affinity for it. Then again, maybe the creators were just trying to bookend things by ending it all in the same way they ended the beginning.
I don't know. But I hope, for the rest of the audience's sake, that they recognized it when it came on. Because it would be a damn shame if they didn't have the same goofy smile on their face as I did when it did.
Calamity Jane finally saves the day!
Just like her real-life counterpart, Calamity Jane was always one of the most interesting and lovable characters in Deadwood. Always stomping around, foulmouthed, with her chest puffed out, she was like Deadwood's very own answer to Scrappy Doo. But we soon find that, while she may talk big, her bark's far worse than her bite.
And while that may sound like a compliment, to Jane it's really not. She prides herself on how tough she is, how she won't take guff from anyone, and how if anyone were to hurt her or hers, she'll do whatever it to protect or avenge. But while her intentions are good, her nerve isn't. On multiple occasions, we watch as she cries, runs away, or otherwise goes yellow whenever things get too hairy and real danger is present. The first instance of this occurred when Jane was enlisted by the Doc to protect a little girl from Swearengen. As usual, Jane postured and advertised herself as up to the task but, when the time came, and she had to look Swearengen in the eye, she folded like origami. Reverting to the scared and vulnerable little girl that she's always been, deep inside. And this is how she continued to behave all throughout the series.
While we, as viewers, know it's okay for Jane to be scared, for her, it's shameful and fills her with guilt every time her cowardice causes her to fail to help those she cares about. Whether it be that little girl, Wild Bill, Joanie, or anyone else, she'd carry around these perceived failures at heroism, like mental scars that she could only drink to forget.
So when Jane recognized the threat heading toward Bullock and finally rises to the challenge, blowing that c-cksucker away, boy, was it gratifying. Not just because she saved Bullock or because she finally got to be a badass, but because we knew how much better it made her feel about herself to know that she was the hero this time. That she finally succeeded in being the protector she always wanted to be. That she was useful, for once.
Seeing that tortured character finally get that relief was a weight off all our shoulders.
Deadwood's revenge on Hearst
Throughout its three seasons, we saw many villainous people doing many villainous things in Deadwood. But none was so bad and unforgivable as the character George Hearst. Throughout his time on the series, he'd had Ellsworth killed, cut off Swearengen's finger, spit in E.B.'s face and forbade him from wiping it off for hours, he had his maids son killed, he was racist and anti-Semitic (granted, most were during this time), he was constantly at Alma's throat, has Merrick the newspaper man beaten, treats Cy like a dog, and… well, you get the picture. He's a bad guy. Just think of him as the Joffrey of Deadwood.
Anyway. One of the biggest narrative disappointments that resulted in Deadwood's abrupt cancelation was that we never actually saw any kind of real justice delivered to Hearst. In fact, judging by the end of the series (and the true-life accounts of the less-evil Hearst's life), he actually kind of won in the end. It was as if Game of Thrones was canceled after the first season, with the aforementioned brat king forever thought to be on the iron throne (nevermind the books, alright… it messes up my analogy). If Deadwood: The Movie needed to do anything, it was to mend this wrong and give us our longed-for moment of revenge.
And what do you know, the movie pulls through. We finally get to see some payback, as Hearst is dragged by the ear through the streets by Bullock (after once again attempting to destroy a beloved characters life) and suddenly receives an impromptu beat down by a mob of drunk and angry townsfolk who've finally had enough of the tycoons evil BS (almost as if they were the shows own viewers, who've wanted this for so long). It was a gritty and beautifully cathartic moment for both us and, for a second, at least, even Bullock himself, who momentarily steps back and passively watches on, as the Deadwood citizens nearly tear our villain to shreds.
Finally, of course, Bullock snaps back to his humane nature and breaks up the animalistic scene. Because, after all, that's the right thing to do. But, for a moment, at least, he allowed us all to revel in our bloodlust.
Al Swearengen's deathbed scene
I should probably preface this one with saying that, no, I'm not even slightly cool with the idea that Swearengen dies here. And since we didn't actually see it happen, I'm just going to go on the assumption that it didn't (hey, the real Swearengen lived about 15 more years, so I'll go by that). Am I just being a stubborn old mule who's just doesn't want a character he loves to die? Yeah, probably. But in the words of Dan, "right or wrong, you side with your feelin's". Putting all that childishness aside, though, the scene itself was, admittedly, still pretty great.
In a sense, despite his plethora of faults (and sometimes thanks to them), Swearengen was like the patriarch of this town and all the people in it. He was the man behind the scenes who kept the gears in motion, who everyone came running to when they were in trouble or in need, and who always put the town and people he loved first, even if he had to sell his soul and lose a finger to do so. He was the law and order before there was law and order, he formed the first government, and he kept the ship afloat, even in the most perilous of storms. It was his town more than anyone's and the citizens were his children. But now the town's grown up and moving on. Becoming something big and new that doesn't need him to look out for it anymore. He and his ilk laid the foundation that made it possible, but now their work is done. A sad fact, for sure, but a fact, nevertheless. Heck, his is even the last place in town to refuse electric lighting. Like Wild Bill before him, he outlasted is place in the world.
Al's death (or his temporary illness, I contend) is just another reflection of the death of the old ways and the wild west as a whole. Deadwood's becoming modernized and civilized, with law and order now being handled by suit and tie politicians rather than angry mobs and cut throat brothel owners. Like all death, we knew it was coming. But that doesn't make it any less sad when it gets here. But that's life. Ever evolving. And the mood and symbolism of that is what made me love this scene.
What was your favorite part of Deadwood: The Movie?
© 2019 The Gutter Monkey