Deadwood Season 1 Episode 4 Recap: “Here’s a Man”


Dead wood

Here is a man

Season 1

Episode 4

Editor’s Note

5 stars

Photo: HBO

Welcome to 12 days of Dead wood, in which Matt Zoller Seitz, author of the next An Agreed Lie: The Deadwood Chronicles, revisits the first season of the historic HBO drama, one episode at a time. Today: “Here Was a Man,” written by Elizabeth Sarnoff and directed by Alan Taylor, originally aired April 11, 2004.

The community of Deadwood began to grow off-camera long before the show’s premiere and began to crown itself at the end of episode three. It was born in the last five minutes of “Here Was a Man” when Jack McCall shoots Wild Bill Hickok in the back of the head and then runs through the streets, a once arrogant shit afraid of the thought of punishment that awaits a man. man who murdered an icon.

As written by Elizabeth Sarnoff and directed by Alan Taylor, the sequence has an almost supernatural weirdness, cutting between various characters in different parts of the camp being drawn to the chaos in the street either because they saw, heard, or ( it seems) felt a tremor in their soul that signified that something terrible had happened. The camera often follows groups of people sideways or stays still while people fill the frame. The effect is that of iron filings pulled towards a magnet. Bill’s murder isn’t just a public tragedy, it’s a trauma inflicted on Deadwood. The final close-up of Seth Bullock’s tearful face expresses the horror of the loss of the city. Bill was something bigger than himself, and now he’s dead, killed by a man unable to shine his boots.

What did he represent? To be honest, not much – not anymore. He was drifting downstream on a series of past accomplishments and wasn’t very interested in bragging about these except to put the fear of God in little ones like Jack. The last days of Bill’s life were spent playing cards, getting drunk, eating bad food, sleeping (sometimes on the floor), killing two men stupid enough to approach him, to turn down a job offer to get Brom Garret’s money back from Al. Swearengen, and made two new acquaintances: Seth and his business partner Sol. But the loss is still untold as so many people – Seth, Sol, Jane, Charlie and Alma in particular – have invested pieces of themselves in Bill’s likeness.

The crucified Christ is an image that is ever present in Deadwood’s mental field. He makes his presence known through scripture (via Reverend Smith), jokes (remember Trixie helping Al dress to visit Union Bella), and a widespread sentiment, fueled from the first episode, which we watch. a story about the end of one era and the beginning of another, whose emerging self-image will be at least in part formed by the execution of a public figure who had more followers than friends .

Jack shoots. Bill collapses on the table. Jack runs away, falls into the mud, is grabbed and dragged. The crowd grows and gets angry, and as Bill’s killer heads for what everyone is hoping to be a calculation, they are so carried away by the enormity of what just happened that when a rider gallops haphazardly around the camp swinging a Severed Brave’s Head (presumably to instill fear and unite whites in solidarity), it makes about as much of an impression as Soapy Smith peddling his wares. The moment is so huge that Al, who has spent the last four episodes bitterly complaining about Wild Bill’s presence in the camp and plotting to incapacitate or kill him, doesn’t even get a close-up that reveals himself. he understands what’s going on. We just see him staring out his bedroom window after sleeping with Trixie, at people running around to see something.

Death with a capital D had already arrived at the camp by the plague. Scenes before and after Bill’s death personalize the Reaper’s presence for several major characters. Just before the shooting, we see Alma – stunned by grief over her husband’s murder – confess that she moved to Deadwood to escape her grotesquely jealous villainous father and that when her father learned of his intention, he expressed his anger. at Alma’s idea with Brom and Alma remarked, “Perhaps he will die. “

The music that starts when Jack shoots Bill is “Iguazu”, by Argentinian composer Gustavo Santaolalla. This coin has been used at least twice before Dead wood (in the movie The initiate and the action drama Fox 24) and would be used many times thereafter (especially in the overall overall drama Babel), often to explain how a single event or feelings connect disparate individuals. As Jack flees the crowd, the camera scans the camp to take stock. There is a brief shot of plague-infected Gem-gang associate Andy Cramed (Zach Grenier), a con artist, shivering in bed, his eyes glassy. Seth and Sol, who last night had worked with Bill on the nearly finished store, stop their efforts when they see people running along the thoroughfare in one direction, presumably to see something important happening. produce at the other end. We return to Alma’s room to find her and Jane standing side by side at the window, watching the climax of the camp. Then Jane steps back out of the frame and the camera follows her as she exits, forced to witness something horrible. “They shot Wild Bill,” Tom Nuttall told him. Jane swallows a bottle of whiskey when she sees Bill’s body on the floor.

The show reported Bill’s disappearance and has prepared us for it since Bill first appeared on screen. The moment has arrived. We felt it coming. Bill too. In a farewell conversation with Seth, he talks about his wife, a circus owner in Cincinnati. He asks to be called “Bill” because “Mr. Hickok makes me look for the money order in your hand” and checks that it is correct to call Seth as “Montana.” (Seth’s lack of objection confirms his assent.) “Here Was a Man” lingers on Bill towards the end of the hour as he dons a variation of his usual attire as if it were a priest’s clothes and writes what s ‘will turn out to be his last letter to his wife. Bill’s last conversation with Charlie, who is about to go to Montana to start his delivery business, is awkward and sad, with Charlie expressing his frustration at Bill’s refusal. to start digging for gold as he had promised and Bill confirming that he is a man with a death wish. “I don’t want to fight him anymore,” he said to Charlie. “You can’t me let go to hell however I want? ”Later, Bill warns Alma to“ listen to the thunder ”of Al’s impending assault, but bow to the dream ndication to understand why Al would want him, urging him to keep Seth instead.

“Here Was a Man” indicates where it is headed in its first scene, which finds Bill playing Bella Union poker in front of his regular opponent and pipsqueak hangman Jack. When Bill beats him with a bad hand, amplifying the humiliation he was already feeling, he calls Bill a “son of a bitch” and Cy Tolliver leans into the frame to say, “You’ve been warned about this conversation.” In an unexpected gesture of conciliation for a famous man whom many project their psychic agitation onto, Bill slips a chip across the table and tells Jack to go get something to eat. “Thank you for this kindness,” said Jack. “You just bought yourself something with this.” More time? Was Jack planning to kill Bill right there?

“Some boys can’t get near a cliff without jumping,” Cy mutters to Eddie.

The episode reverts to Jack playing cards at Nutall, awkwardly plagiarizing the same insults Bill inflicted on him yesterday, and then Jack in Chinatown, where he was seen complaining about the un-American character of the food and withdrawing an eye for it. make it oblique. .

Since it’s Bill’s time, Al necessarily backs off a bit, but he’s still a powerful presence, far more so than in “Reconnoiting the Rim,” where he’s intimidated by Gem’s openness and isn’t thinking clearly. Today it looks more formidable than ever. A morning scene shows Al having coffee with EB in his office overlooking the street as Dan arrives with Brom’s body strapped to his horse. The timing is so fortuitous as to seem suspicious, as if Al had asked EB to witness Dan’s arrival. Al just finished telling EB he intends to bid on Brom’s supposedly “worthless” but actually rich find, pretends to be surprised by Brom’s body arriving in town. and asks EB to “make the offer to the woman.” EB tells Doc Cochran that Al “wants the widow to leave with as little sour taste in her mouth as possible” prompting Doc to declare Brom’s death an accident. Doc seems to know what happened but doesn’t speak up because he can’t prove it, and even if he could, he doesn’t want to go out like Brom. So he dodges and weaves when Alma asks if her husband’s injuries involve murder and berates him for having no opinion on Brom when he seemed “so full of opinions” fulfilling his laudanum order. Doc remains neutral but signals his position by urging her to leave town and then giving her more laudanum. She’s going to need it.

“A woman inevitably feels like she played a part in what happens to her husband,” Alma tells Bill, begging him to speak to Al and assess his complicity in Brom’s disappearance. “I have a healthy operation here, and I didn’t build it by ruminating on the good or the bad,” Al told Bill, finally seeing the legendary shooter in the context he had always feared: a criminal investigation. Al sticks to his story: Brom was a pampered and incompetent orientalist whose claim gained momentum but lacked the stones to accept his bad breakup “like a man” and instead blamed Al and threatened him. intervention by Pinkerton. Bill suggests that he will present Al’s offer more favorably if there is money for him. Back in Alma’s bedroom, Jane tells him that she believes Sofia’s family were murdered on the orders of the same man who killed Brom (which, of course, is one of the only sins that Al is not guilty). Al’s extensive evil web is responded to by the benevolence of the people around Bill, and by Bill himself, a lost soul who finds himself, just as his life is about to end.


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