Deadwood (2019)
June 1, 2019 3:38 AM - Subscribe

The residents of Deadwood gather to commemorate Dakota's statehood in 1889, ten years on from the end of the series. The railroad and the telephone lines have civilized the town; at least on the surface, old wounds still ache.

Spoilers all the way for the full series and movie would be my liking.
posted by Iteki (38 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I really felt for Bullock during the climax. What a great scene. Sic semper tyrannis! Oh wait, I'm a good guy, better do something.
posted by heatvision at 4:24 AM on June 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

Thoughts while watching:
- Can some musically inclined person tell me if they tweaked the title music slightly to give it a jauntier, more expectant feel?
- A life of privilege leaves less of a mark of time on Ms Ellingsworth than many of our other friends.
- When Bullock is speaking to Utter I was struck by how much more expressive and open his body language was and his voice lighter. I wonder if he will tighten up during the ep as tensions rise...
- Samuel asking for a lawyer... in Deadwood! Times sure have changed.
- I literally screamed at the climax of the bidding scene, BYE BITCH!
- So many NO!'s from "Trixie no!" to "Harry NO!".
- I got a bit weepy at the wedding, I ain't' gonna lie.
- Did I see Mr W. as a bystander (hope you die in the street like my daddy did) for his third role in Deadwood?
- very gentle end, nice with the closure.

On preview, yeah it was really a call to old Bullock with his temper at the reins, and then seeing Mrs Bullock and his children, a reminder of who he is now. Poor auld Bullock!
posted by Iteki at 4:50 AM on June 1, 2019 [4 favorites]

What a tease, those two hours just flew by, with most of it seemingly spent touching bases with characters. The plot moved a tad too quickly for me, I'd rather spent another hour or so exploring things. But I'm not sure there was enough plot there to do that.

David Mitch's writing felt a little forced, more writing than conversation. Probably due to the shorter time frame and us knowing the characters now. The writing was still quite good though, not a complaint, just a small note..

As much as I loved Charlie Utter's beautifully written "fuck you" to Hearst, It's hard to imagine how he seemingly didn't prepare for the forgone result.

Otherwise, everyone felt themselves, doing things they'd normally do, while cussing up a storm and really just trying to deal with life. Ad they looked properly old! That was the astonishing part, we rarely see characters age so mu h and have it work so perfectly.

Of course, Hearst's return sparked them working together, of course, it also sparked Trixie's outburst. The plot was straight forward and simple enough, but again, it works. There are probalby plot holes here and there, other bits people could quibble with, but overall it was so great to see the characters again and overall everything worked, I just don't care.

Though it's interesting that rampant racism and sexism of the times was much more subdued. probably due to our times. The characters casually uttering "N... General" wouldn't work so well these days and that's alright.

I will smugly note that Al's turn from feared asshole to the gruff and beloved leader was accomplished in three seasons and works. Another recent show took 8 seasons to drive a leading character in the opposite direction and failed miserably,

Summing up, great start to season 4, looking forward to episode 2!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:55 AM on June 1, 2019 [5 favorites]

It’s finally here. Peaches for every fucking soul who takes a mind to watch.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:47 AM on June 1, 2019 [11 favorites]

It was soooo good!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:51 AM on June 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Pretty fantastic. It was also really great to hear "Hog of the Forsaken" in the credits again. I think it was there in the first episode of the series.
posted by snofoam at 6:23 PM on June 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

I loved it. Hearst's comeuppance made me think of nothing so much as the old Saturday Night Live sketch with the "lost" ending of It's a Wonderful Life, wherein the townspeople celebrate George Bailey and then cheerfully march over to Mr. Potter's house and beat him to death. I feel like perhaps Hearst getting the shit kicked out of him for five minutes might have been too optimistic for the show of 2006, but 2019's audience needs to see a fella like that get his ass kicked good.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:47 PM on June 1, 2019 [4 favorites]

I loved the whole thing, but...

That shot of the sun through the light blue insulators was... perfect.
posted by Marky at 11:33 PM on June 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

I quite liked it, though not as much as any of the seasons. Three things that annoyed me greatly were the makeup and hair, which I thought too much; the sound mix, which was muddy, whereas in the original show it was extraordinary;and the flashbacks,which were clearly there to placate some HBO peeps. In my opinion, there's no way in hell Milch would write in flashbacks.

There were some sweet touches, but one that I haven't seen come up anywhere was Trixie finally getting a surname. Lovely detail that is very much of the Milch world. Exactly that kind of thing that made the series so perfect in the first place.

And yes, that was Mr W (under a terrible beard) condemning Hearst.
posted by dobbs at 4:16 AM on June 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

Though it's interesting that rampant racism and sexism of the times was much more subdued. The characters casually uttering "N... General" wouldn't work so well these days and that's alright.

Can't say I agree. He is referred to as that at least once. The C word is also there to refer to the Chinese.

Regarding the misogyny, one of the best lines was Trixie's to the new arrival in answer to her admitting she was born for whoring: (paraphrasing) "How hard do you think him that turned you out worked convincing you of that?"

Another great Trixie throwback was her saying "I'll be good," after realizing her fuckup with Hearst. She says the same thing in (I think) the first episode of the series, when Al has his boot on her throat for killing another john.
posted by dobbs at 4:30 AM on June 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

That's a lovely little article. I am sorry to hear about his health, he delivered 3 amazing seasons of Deadwood and a perfectly nice wrap to the tale now too, even if, as dobbs says above, any one ep of the original one was more solidly excellent.
posted by Iteki at 11:13 AM on June 2, 2019

I was really hoping to see what happened to the Langrishe troupe. : (

Yeah, this was sweet and nice of Milch & co to give us, but it pales in comparison with the original series and that's undeniably disappointing. It's ok, though. Two weeks ago I figured I'd rewatch the last three episodes of Season 3 to prime my mental pump and....

...well, you know how that went. I'd forgotten how marvelously, deeply baroque it got towards the end - E.B. Farnum's soliloguy about eating Hearst's shit truly earns the "it's so Shakesperian!" stuff - and while I recall being impatient with the dying actor subplot when it was happening live because I knew in my bones the series was rushing too soon to its conclusion, I have to say a much older me appreciated the glancing look at a deeply resonant history for those two characters. Similarly, the interplay between Langrishe and Swearingen is so much fun - hints at a shared history and a potentially deep friendship cut short. Such delicious viewing.

So of course, I dove back into episode 1 of Season 1 and will keep going through Season 2. The generally thoughtless way race was handled throughout the series remains its most infuriating characteristic - including native, African-American and Chinese characters only to keep them mostly flattened in the background remains a shitty thing to have done. And, though not as bad as in Game of Thrones, the ongoing verbal and physical violence against women is only partly redeemed by some beautifully realized arcs for some of the female characters.

Ah well, it's still one of my favorite shows of all time. And just below it is Milch's next production, John From Cincinatti. I forget her name, but still haven't forgiven the New Yorker critic who panned it after it had aired for only a couple of weeks. Such a strange, beautiful, challenging show, and all of the critics hated it. Taught me something, that did.
posted by mediareport at 4:29 PM on June 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Can some musically inclined person tell me if they tweaked the title music slightly to give it a jauntier, more expectant feel?

Sounded the same to me. Fun fact: the theme was written by David Schwartz, who also wrote the theme for Arrested Development, The Good Place, and Northern Exposure. Dude has range.

Three things that annoyed me greatly were the makeup and hair

One of the little touches I loved about the show was that everyone looked dirty and greasy most of the time, as one would expect for the time period/place. That seemed to be lacking here.

Maybe I'm imagining it, but it seemed like the dialogue was more florid and antiquated compared to the show (with the exception of Farnum, of course, whose speech was always ornately affected), to the extent that I sometimes had trouble following it. I wonder if Milch felt like he could dial up that element more, given that the movie was basically made for Deadwood fans, whereas the show had to try to appeal to a wider audience.

I wasn't a diehard superfan of the show, but I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed this for the same reasons. It was fun and bit affecting to see all the characters back together again. I thought they sent Al off right, though in terms of plot, I had a wait, that's it? moment when the credits ran. I wouldn't have minded seeing more. There wasn't really enough there to make this a self-contained movie, but as an extra-long episode and tribute, it worked well enough.
posted by dephlogisticated at 4:58 PM on June 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Here's a thoughtful piece about how Deadwood treated its women characters, as a "rare show about men that did women justice."

If You Want to Know Why Deadwood Is a Classic, Look to Its Women:

What makes these female characters “strong,” to use an empty marketing term, is their completeness. Deadwood shows them respect not by placing them on pedestals, but by giving them wills separate from those of the men who use them for sex or obsess over their purity.

The show’s aesthetics echo its themes. As the man whose gaze shapes our understanding of each woman, Milch mostly avoids hypocrisy by minimizing scenes that use their bodies purely for titillation or as sites of violence. Unlike Game of Thrones, 13 Reasons Why or the increasingly incoherent feminist polemic that is The Handmaid’s Tale, Deadwood shows almost none of the rape, abuse and exploitation that its characters experience. Layered dialogue and subtle acting prove more effective at communicating women’s (and in some cases men’s) trauma than lurid visuals.

In the context of a show that revels in elaborate cursing, where bodily emissions are frequent topics of conversation, this restraint isn’t self-censorship. It’s more like a form of humanism—of respecting characters enough to resist exploiting them. Milch’s own discretion reinforces Deadwood’s cautionary message about men who abuse their godlike power. And it allows viewers to distinguish between who the show’s women are and what a brutal Wild West patriarchy sees in them. Heroism never comes across as an inherently male trait.

posted by mediareport at 6:37 PM on June 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

re: jauntier music

I just listened s01e01 and s00 and I can't tell a difference.

The visuals of the thematic opener, though, was definitely jauntier, with the steam locomotive roaring past and panning through a town that's starting to have some stone buildings.
posted by porpoise at 6:57 PM on June 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

The conclusion with Al chocked me up a little.

Trixie and Sol's wedding felt good, as was Jane and Joanie.

Agreed that it's a little too short, perhaps better as a two-parter? I've forgotten so much about the original seasons.

The makeup is fantastic, fast-aging depending on how tough each of the character's lives were. Expected Jane to be rougher, but maybe she cleaned up? I guess it'd be to expensive/ annoying to makeup everyone's teeth, though. Maybe the well water there is naturally fluoridated. The tap water where I am now doesn't need supplements as it already has enough from being in reservoirs.

EB using the telephone reminded me; that was an intentional design, is it not? To have the bells/ ringer look like eyes and the receiver resemble a mouth (well, duckface at least), that is.
posted by porpoise at 7:07 PM on June 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Jason Isbell cameo!
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:19 PM on June 2, 2019

I thought it was great, bit hoped for a bit more tension and humanity in the stand-off. Something akin to the first scene in S1E1. And I really missed my man Garrett Dillahunt, and a hoople-head or two.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:29 PM on June 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Brocktoon, Dillahunt was there! He was the bearded guy who threw the bottle at Hearst that started the lynching.
posted by nushustu at 11:12 PM on June 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Deadwood retains a special place in my heart and this movie confirms that I will always love this show. Back when it was on the air, my father and I had a Sunday night ritual. He would call two minutes after the episode finished and we'd talk over what happened. By the third season, almost every call started with "When will that cocksucker Hearst get his?" And I would answer, "I don't know Daddy, he lived a long life after Deadwood." Then we'd dive into the intricacies of what had happened and sorting out the language.

My dad didn't live to see this, but I feel like he would have loved it. Al was the man he darkly wanted to be, solely for his ability to be a truly bad person without shame. Over the series, Dad often said, "If I'd been allowed to be a monster, I hope I'd be like Al." Al represented all his id impulses without his overactive superego reminding him to be a good man.

But honestly, he was more like Bullock but likable. His temper was a monstrosity sometimes, but I remember so many times as a child watching him do the right thing even though it was the last thing he wanted to do while being so overwhelmed with rage at injustice. And Trixie, her growth as a character delighted him. He frequently said that he'd taught so many young women like her and he wished they would have had someone like her to look up to. He loved her so much, he named his favorite pup after her.

I'll admit, I cried like a baby at the end. But it wasn't out of loss, it was the ending my Dad would have loved and I'm glad it happened. Hopefully, if there is an afterlife, he can get HBO and see Hearst get his. At least this once.
posted by teleri025 at 8:13 AM on June 3, 2019 [16 favorites]

but 2019's audience needs to see a fella like that get his ass kicked good.

I attended the SVA Theater's showing on Friday. At the Q&A afterward, they discussed how that scene of a rich politician getting curb stomped by an angry mob might have had a bit of "wish fulfillment" in it.
posted by whuppy at 8:26 AM on June 3, 2019 [5 favorites]

Another highlight of the Q&A was Ian McShane's native (proper, possibly posh?) English accent.
posted by whuppy at 8:28 AM on June 3, 2019

Hollywood does not allow its actresses to age. Contrast Molly Parker, Paula Malcomson and Kim Dickens to Dayton Callie, John Hawkes and W. Earle Brown. The women look a little older but the men got old.
posted by whuppy at 8:34 AM on June 3, 2019

Sepinwall's comprehensive review covers the waterfront. He's one of the original evangelizing Deadwood superfans, so it's bracing to hear him to discuss its many flaws and still conclude that it was some of the finest television ever made.
posted by whuppy at 8:47 AM on June 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Hollywood does not allow its actresses to age. The women look a little older but the men got old.
I'm not sure what this means? The oldest woman you mentioned is 53, while the oldest man is 73. So...?
I checked, and Molly Parker would have been 31 in S1E1, and Ian McShane would have been 61 at that time. Now 15 years later, did they not look 46 and 76?
posted by bartleby at 10:16 AM on June 3, 2019 [5 favorites]

I’m sorry, but someone has to say it:

“Waltzing Matilda” is all but Australia’s national anthem. It was written in 1895, in Australia, based on true events that occurred there in 1894, featuring the most Australian opening lines, “Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong, under the shade of a coolibah tree.”

What in the hell is it doing in Dakota territory in 1889? Did Doc Brown make a trip east?

I’m all for letting one slide in the name of poetic license, but I have my limits.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:19 PM on June 3, 2019 [5 favorites]

What in the hell is it doing in Dakota territory in 1889? Did Doc Brown make a trip east?

I was a little baffled by the song's use irrespective of that as it just didn't seem to fit.

But... I had a similar problem watching the excellent When They See Us (best show I've seen this year), when they used a song in April, 1989, which didn't come out until June of that year. Weird how these things can throw you.
posted by dobbs at 3:13 PM on June 3, 2019

I was thinking it was nitpicking, but on the flip side, “Hard Times Come Again No More” was practically written for this.
posted by snofoam at 4:10 PM on June 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

For me it was mostly good to be back in Deadwood, with these characters. It was far from perfect. The flashbacks felt really out of places; I don't know why they introduced a new character for this, besides to give Trixie the opportunity to deliver a heck of a line; and I missed the slow, slow burn that Deadwood was able to give its storytelling that was simply not an option for this movie. But I'm just glad that we got one more trip back there.
posted by synecdoche at 4:25 PM on June 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

In one of the seasons Al mentioned spending a couple of years in Australia ("Waste of two years that was!") but I'll be honest, I fell asleep halfway through this thing. Deadwood is my favourite TV show and possibly favourite piece of art, full stop, and this whole thing stank of fan service and writerly pretense.

I've not doubt I'll try it again, and may even learn to like it, but the flame died out pretty quickly when I started watching this the other night.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:05 PM on June 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Well I kind of hated it, and I say that as a huge fan of the show.

Ten years and people look older but that is the only change. Literally no one new has set up shop, at least no one new that we need to know about. The only character to have changed other than physically is Joanie Stubbs, who now has a dope addiction. Even the damn Gem Saloon sign, printed on canvas, is the same, except not faded as you would expect after ten more years. (Dan and Johnny are still at the bar of the Gem? Really?)

Deadwood in three seasons covering like one year showed so much change for its characters, most notably Al. And here we are a decade later and this literally could have taken place a month after the show ended except for a handful of details. And that was fan-service. We didn't need to see Con Stapleton or Tom Nutall or whomever. In fact, the movie could have been stronger without them. (or even Alma Garrett considering how very little she actually had to do in this story.)

Imagine if, instead of touching base with every last person on the show, they had limited their story to two major plotlines. In one, Al is aging and maybe dying and refuses to deal with that, just like he refuses to accept progress in the form of the telephone. And again, Hearst is at the heart of all of this change. Maybe Al's mind is as sharp as it used to be, but Don's older and tired, so Al doesn't have the pull he used to have. Maybe half of the town elders are new and installed by Hearst.

And on the other side, imagine if Jane had walked into Tom Nutall's bar and it was completely changed, Tom had sold it, it was run by strangers, and nobody realized that Wild Bill had been shot there. And she goes to Joanie, who's a dope fiend now and is worse off than Jane was when she was dead drunk and Joanie had to take care of her.

So now you have two parallel stories about how things change, and we have to accept that, but also of the importance of holding on to the memories of those that aren't there any more. Maybe both of these stories are about remembering the deeds that brought us to what we are now. Maybe Langrishe's theater troupe even put on some show chronicling the deadwood of old. Some kind of weird operetta or something. Maybe that's too on the nose, I dunno, I'm spitballing here.

Point is this: In 1877 a critic named John Ruskin wrote a throwaway line about art. He said that nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts: the book of their deeds, the book of their words, and in the book of their art. He said that all were worth reading but that the last was the only one worth trusting. Maybe what could have happened here is showing a chapter from all three books being written, instead of what felt like one more episode to end season three with all of the characters in old-person makeup.
posted by nushustu at 9:03 AM on June 4, 2019 [11 favorites]

Ten years and people look older but that is the only change.

I saw that a major point about people and the town, along with the implication that Hearst would win in the end, as he has done before. People generally don't change, unless the have a huge reason to do so. In the meantime, they're just making bargain, as Trixie was doing in the face to face with Hearst at the marriage party. Of course, she's going to try to make peace then, but it's doubtful that she would "behave" in the long wrong, 'cause she's Trixie.

In the end, those characters were a family and community, even as the world changed and forced them in directions they didn't want to go. Hearst's return was just sharp reminder of that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:43 AM on June 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I’m finally getting around to watching the movie, and as eagerly as I’ve waited for it since the series ended, I almost wish I hadn’t seen it. It bears too much in common with returning home too infrequently, only to find the people I’ve grown up knowing had faded while I was away, had turned to frailty where I’d remembered strength. The movie has me thinking of my uncle, a big, imposing figure, with a body almost exactly like what I’ve grown into, a round, proud belly and an ass that’s made decent jeans all but impossible, and how the last time I saw him, he was living down in Florida, on dialysis, his shirts and jeans sagging over his tiny, shrunken body, falling asleep mid conversation. Or my dad, a tall man, lanky for all those years, always smoking, until lung cancer took half a lung, and cigarettes gave way to sweets, and I came home to find a weakened, wheezing man covered in bulk that had never been there before.

After all these years, I got what I wanted, but now I don’t want it anymore.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:18 AM on June 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

The best thing about the show, for me, was always the dialogue: baroque, ornate, profane - crazy as fuck, stupid. Whatever the characters were saying, what always got me most was the way they were saying it. What they were saying and how it moved things forward was also a consideration, of course, but principally it was the hilariously elaborate way they went about the thing.

And this is what this episode delivered, and watching it I realized how much the characters had taken root in my head. Like Hearst! Hearst is such an exceptional nightmare: truly, the greatest depiction of power and its use I've ever seen on TV. (And the actor himself who, in every other character he plays comes off as a milquetoast even when he's being tough (I never saw him on House of Cards or This is Us, but do remember Simon and Simon and his various stints as a character actor.)) And all the rest (Farnum, though, I can't separate from JF Sebastian, nor Doc from Billy Bibbit) - I can't see McShane in anything without thinking of Swearengen and I only watched Justified to see him finish out Bullock. I imagine the actors must all have seen their roles as defining for their careers and as artists.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the show is its deep depiction of how hard and unforgiving life was in 'the territories' and how the people managed to make honorable lives for themselves within the constraints of that brutality (all the depictions of childhood, as told by the characters (Swearengen!) are harrowing to a greater or lesser degree).

And at the same time there is a funny feeling about picking up characters again and remembering the associated emotions they evoked. There is something - in the run of the show, as you got into the rhythm of the narrative, their qualities settled into the viewer, profoundly in this case, and made the show what it was (or at least this was for me a big part of it). Then to have all those emotions recalled, a dozen years later (which doesn't feel like that long in that the emotional resonance of the show/characters is still reverberating) - it's like going back to eat something you had once, under specific circumstances, that blew you away and then the next time, it's merely fantastic...

I thought the ending was just so.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:55 AM on June 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

Finally got around to watching this, and I gotta agree with those who found it to be too much fan service, not enough substance. And for 10 years having passed, the characters acted as if it was the next episode of season 3. Jane's supposedly been gone for a while, but everyone is like, "Hey Jane, what's up," as if they had just seen her the day before. Most of the other female characters were barely part of the story -- Mrs. Ellsworth, Mrs. Bullock, Sophia, all essentially background characters. The new girl who arrives to work at the Gem -- what was the point of her story at all? Geri Jewell's make-up looked a bit ridiculous.

Some other questions:
How did Doc survive?
Why wasn't Harry Manning running the Fire Department like he always dreamed? (I also felt like his heel turn to Hearst's crew was unmotivated)
So, Hearst is just in jail at the end? Are we supposed to assume that he will finally get his comeuppance and get convicted of murder? (which of course didn't happen in reality)
No mention of the fire that nearly destroyed the town in 1879? (something that was hinted at throughout the original series)

All in all, it had its charms, but it was a bit of a letdown.
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:25 PM on March 25, 2022

Watching the film (and recently having re-watched the entire 3 seasons for the Nth time) led me back into some research about the real Deadwood. Some fun factoids:

Al Swearengen's first saloon was called The Cricket. He didn't build the Gem until 1877. It made an average of $5-10k a night (which is nearly $250k today!). Al lived until 1904, and was a much, much worse person in real life than portrayed on TV. He and Bullock had several run-ins while Bullock was sheriff, but Al used his money to keep himself connected and insulated.

Charlie Utter was known for his meticulous appearance and hygiene, bathing every day (a habit so odd it attracted comment).

Calamity Jane was at one time a dancer for Al at the Gem and even procured women for him.

Tom Miller ran the Bella Union, and town meetings were held there, not at the Gem. When he went bankrupt, it became a grocery store.

There was a prostitute at the Gem named Trixie who shot a man in the head who then survived for a half-hour.

The most successful brothel owners in town were women: Madam Dora DuFran (who started in prostitution at 13, became a madam at 15, and was friends with Calamity Jane, who also worked for her), and Madam Mollie Johnson (who was married to an African American comedian who performed at the Bella Union). Madam DuFran's most popular brothel was called "Diddlin' Dora's"

There was also a famous woman gambler (and madam) Eleanor "Madame Mustache" Dumont who spent some time in Deadwood in the 1870s.

Seth Bullock met and became close friends with Teddy Roosevelt in 1884. Bullock and Sol Star helped found the town of Belle Fourche, South Dakota (incidentally, the home of Diddlin' Dora's).

E.B. Farnum was actually a pretty good mayor and did quite a bit for the town in its early years.

Relations between white people and the Chinese population of Deadwood were probably not nearly as bad as portrayed on the show.

Samuel Fields was very outspoken both in meetings of "Colored Citizens" in Deadwood and political gatherings in general. Like his character on the show, he was frequently in the wrong place at the wrong time and got in legal trouble more than once for things he wasn't involved with. On the other hand, he ran for Justice in 1879 (and lost), and later spent time as the town's coroner. Because of his impressive oratorical skills, one of his many nicknames was "the Shakespearian D*****".

Many more neat little details like that abound.
posted by Saxon Kane at 4:10 PM on March 25, 2022

Just watched all three seasons and then the movie. I can't help but think about Milch's approaching Alzheimer's and its impact on the movie's script.

One of my favorite art books is Willem De Kooning: The Late Paintings, the 1980s. De Kooning's work in his prime moved art history a notch, but his later work moved our understanding of the creative mind by leaps and bounds. If you ever get a chance to see the book, or better the work to come out of that period in his life, it's likely to change how you think about creation. As the disease progresses you see De Kooning's work focus on color and gesture and the expression, but what is lost is the anger and passion and rebellion. He's still producing beautiful and challenging work, and he's perfecting the vernacular of his marks, but it's so much simpler and straight to the point.

That's what I saw with this movie. A creator struggling against the loss of his faculties, but he's such a practiced artist that you must look and admire the work. What he was trying to do earlier is still there, but he only knows how to make those marks with his dialog and the images he creates. That's what he's perfected. He knows we weren't really showing up to follow a historic record or some contrived narrative, we were there for the words, and the lives, and the beautiful images on the screen and in our minds. No, this wasn't a great ending to the Deadwood narrative, but as a capstone to Milch's career, I think he made Wild Bill proud.
posted by Stanczyk at 4:58 PM on January 19, 2023

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