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One of the most wonderful cases of “The Internet is rediscovering an older show that’s amazing and we’re all celebrating it” that has happened recently is the great migration to The Sopranos. The classic of the early years, and the flagship of “It’s not TV. That’s the mantra of HBO, has become a renewed source of analysis, meming, and sheer joy over the past year or so, and for good reason. It’s a very good series, compelling both as a popular culture crime drama and as a commentary on the death of the American dream and the miserable decay of the male myth.
In short, it’s great. So do Dead wood the next!
Dead wood appeared a few years later The Sopranos, debuted in 2004 and only lasted three short seasons before being abruptly called off. Created by television writing legend David Milch, it’s a series that uses the titular town of 1870s South Dakota to tell a story about how a community organizes itself through law, money , violence and simple hope and goodwill. This last part is often insufficient, but despite Dead woodfilth and the renowned use of cursed words, he is also deeply human and sometimes spiritual in his themes.
There’s a lot to be, well, taken from Dead wood, a story set in the midst of the legendary Gold Rush in the Black Hills of the Dakota Territories. The city serves as a sort of watering hole on land that was once occupied by the Sioux, a Native American tribe whose presence still looms as a reminder that much of American history is made up of atrocities. Maybe “watering” isn’t the right word, as one of the main characters, the mighty Al Swearengen (portrayed with charismatic mastery by Ian McShane), runs a popular saloon and brothel. There, the alcohol flows profusely, a drunken escape for the budding prospectors who have crowded into the city.
Dead woodThe original slogan was “One hell of a place to make a fortune,” and the town’s occupants live up to the immediate disarray it promises. The series revolves around former Sheriff Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant), a ball of rage, pride and resentment that cannot escape the sense of responsibility imposed on him by the city and his own nature. It is complemented by a slew of excellent foils: in addition to Swearengen, there is Alma Garret (Molly Parker), the wife of a New York dandy, whose acclimatization to the city becomes one of the arcs the strongest of the series. Legendary gun fighter and showman “Wild Bill” Hickok (Keith Carradine) arrives to show that his reputation belies the fact that he has apparently sacrificed himself to his worst desires. And there’s Cy Tolliver, owner of a rival saloon and played with bubbling venom by the late Powers Boothe.
But the show’s cast is large and excellent from top to bottom. It includes the likeable Charlie Utter (Dayton Callie); alcoholic heart from the series “Calamity” Jane (Robin Weigert); the outspoken prostitute Trixie (Paula Malcomson); the moving Sol Star (John Hawkes); the kind hearted Ellsworth (Jim Beaver); Doc Cochran (Brad Dourif) haunted by civil war; pathetic hotel owner EB Farnum (William Sanderson); and many more. Few series have a set as strong as Dead wood, and with each episode taking place roughly over the course of a day, the inner workings of the city are laid bare as we look at the routines, habits, and (often chaotic) diversions of these characters. Dead wood deserves the quasi-passage line “the site itself is a character” only in part because of its incredible scenography. The figures serve as blood in his veins, head, limbs and hands – a metaphor which is made clear by the sermons of the minister (Ray McKinnon) which almost becomes Dead woodthe Greek choir.
Through it all, the show’s 1870s setting also remains relevant. The government’s cold machinations represent both progress and setback, depending on the character’s intentions. Greed constantly motivates decisions, threatening to destroy the common bonds of humanity. In season three, sociopathic gold profiteer George Hearst (Gerald McRaney) arrives in town, eager to engulf an area he only sees with big, cartoonish dollar sign eyes. As such, the community built in the first two seasons is put to the test, in the same way that modern businesses can often threaten lives on the journey to impress shareholders.
And yet, there is no clear attempt at moral lesson. Just as Al Swearengen once said, “No one comes out alive”; no character comes out unscathed, and the way many of them deal with their innate baseness is endlessly fascinating. Swearengen and Bullock, each grappling with an internal struggle with their own capacity for cruelty, never become pure heroes or villains. Instead, they survive to be as noble as the world allows them to be, with circumstances and self-loathing as one.
Those who come to the show looking for cowboy shootouts and John Wayne antics won’t be totally unhappy. However, murder on the show, for the most part, is never treated as anything other than a dire necessity or a grisly reaction. At the end of the first episode, a man is shot dead in the muddy street, having been practically executed for his crimes. But there is no glory or grounding in the sense of righteousness. Instead, blood flows from its eyes and it rots in the morning sun as people watch in curiosity and horror as the city’s belly opens to reveal a fate from which no one is totally immune.
For years, Dead wood was considered one of the greatest shows to never end, and that didn’t really change in 2019 when Deadwood: the movie came out of. Instead, to use a gaming phrase, the film paid off the show’s debts, paying us homage to the characters we loved while making sure their minds were now free from the specter of a cap too soon. It’s a flawed and magnificent finish, but perhaps the best we could hope for given the merciless passage of time.
Dead wood is more than just a relic of the start of the ‘golden age’ of premium television, and better than any reputation for ‘that cowboy show where everyone drops F-bombs everyone. time “. Instead, it is a portrait of humanity, sometimes grim and sometimes relishing the joys of community: a man dies brutally while an orphan is protected by a motley group of strangers; a town pariah comforts the poor souls afflicted with smallpox; two figures dance on a floor freshly washed with blood. welcome to Dead wood.
Daniel Dockery is editor-in-chief for Crunchyroll. You can follow it on Twitter.
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