Blogs > Liberty and Power > Deadwood

Jun 21, 2004 10:17 pm


I just got around to watching the season finale of Deadwood and the season premiere of Six Feet Under, thanks to Comcast's very cool"On Demand" feature. My cable went out a week ago Sunday when both aired for the first time.

Both were excellent, though the Deadwood episode was in a league of its own. Probably the best hour of television I've seen in a very long time. The scene with Swearengen and the Reverend, followed up by Swearengen and the Magistrate, followed by Swearengen and the doctor were brilliantly laid atop one another. We saw a kind of primitive humanitarian, then a ruthless Machiavellian, then a frontier philosopher. All in the course of an evening. Yet it felt entirely plausible.

If Ian McShane doesn't win an Emmy for his portrayal of (appropriately named) Al Swarengen, the Emmys in my mind will take on all the relevance of the Grammies -- which would be"none." No one else comes close this year in television. I doubt Peter Krause will, much as I like Six Feet Under. James Gandolfini didn't. Sure as hell not Martin Sheen.

The show ought to take away quite a few other categories, too, though I suspect a variety of factors will prevent that from happening, including the late time slot, that it's a new show, that it comes on after The Sopranos, that many voters will likely be turned off by the violence and coarse language, and that McShane's performance is so spectacular, it tends to overshadow everyone else.

The show bustles with themes of rugged individualism, and explores the troubles and travails of a small community emerging from Hobbesian anarchy into a loose-knit system of law and property. I love the scene from a couple of weeks ago where the town's newly-appointed fire inspector Charlie Utter -- who was appointed only to give the town some credence in the eyes of Congress -- gets into a squabble with saloon-owner Nutall over the proximity of his stove pipe to the wall.

The dialogue is wonderful. In addition to the colorful profanity (how many different variations on" cocksucker" are there, anyway?), I love the NYPD Blue approach to character interaction, conversations sprayed with rough but real-world transitions -- lots of"anyways," and"like I was sayins."

When the Doc Cochran is examining one of Swarengen's prostitutes he inquires about her menstruation cycle with,"So where are ya' in yer' moons?"

I think the season's best line came from Swarengen himself, though, when talking to Doc Cochran:

"Announcin' your plans is a good way to hear God laugh."

So good show, HBO. Again.

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