Deadwood: Reconnoitering the Rim   Rewatch 
December 20, 2016 6:53 AM - Season 1, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Competition arrives for Swearengen in the form of the Bella Union, a new gambling outfit from Chicago operated by savvy Cy Tolliver, Madame Joanie Stubbs and gambling guru Eddie Sawyer. Hickok puts up precious collateral in a poker game with McCall, and a threat from Brom Garret regarding his gold claim invites harsh consequences. The relationship between Bullock and Swearengen continues to worsen over the latter's suspicions of Bullock's and Hickok's intentions.
posted by torisaur (10 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Where were they when Dan and me were chopping trees in this gulch, hands all blistered, buck-toothed fucking beavers rolling around in the creek, slapping their tails on the water like we was hired entertainment.

I'd've paid a nickel to see you chop wood.

Don't think I wasn't blow-for-blow beside Dan. I can play that shit when I have to.

Been chopping a lot of wood lately and this exchange keeps coming to mind while doing it. The introspective-restrospective-soliloquy aspect of Swearengen's character is already being cultivated pretty strongly, just 3 eps in. This is a good television show.
posted by Rust Moranis at 10:57 PM on December 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is a pretty big episode, lots of relationships come clear here. Cy moving in, the rise of the establishment of the second wave of players: Jane, EB, Charlie get big boosts, and at this point the Reverend still seems like he's gonna be a long-term character. William Sanderson should have gotten an Emmy for that "Al & EB" scene. He's so perfect for that role.

"Well that's one in a row for you, Wild Bill!" McCall is starting to catch fire.

And no matter how many times I watch this, Brom has to die; he grows from merely stentorian to fully Shakespearean. I've never watched "Oz," but I bet there's a Brom in it, for the same reasons.
posted by rhizome at 11:00 PM on December 20, 2016

I learned, after my recent rewatch of the show, that the same actor plays McCall and Francis Wolcott. They snuck that right past me!
posted by thelonius at 1:57 AM on December 21, 2016

thelonius, that also got by me on first watch :)

I've watched Deadwood a few times over now and I'm alwasy struck by how very Shakespearean it is, from the elaborate flowery dialogue to the characters with fatal flaws that reveal themselves, to Al's blow job soliloquys. It's brilliant.
posted by torisaur at 9:16 AM on December 21, 2016

I like the juxtaposition of Tolliver/Stubbs with Swearengen/Trixie; the new folks are just as slimy/slimier but put up a better facade/better dressed.

Feels like it ends up being a recurring theme (San Francisco cocksucker).

Ditto, thelonius, I remember being totally confused the first time around seeing Dillahunt reappear as Wolcott - did McCall clean up or something, didn't he die, what's going on?
posted by porpoise at 9:20 AM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by rhizome at 9:24 AM on December 22, 2016

Oh Jesus, after two seasons of Fear the Walking Dead, it is going to be painful to be reminded of how good Kim Dickens can be when she has a decent script and internally consistent and logically considered motivations and characterization behind her.

Also, if I was given godlike powers of creation and was tasked with building from the ground up an actor made to play slimeballs, I'd just point to Powers Boothe's IMDB page and say that I couldn't do any better than that.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 4:02 PM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Re: The Walking Dead, I've aways felt like Eugene's speech pattern is a shout-out to Deadwood. Though to be honest, if all the characters on The Walking Dead talked like characters on Deadwood, it would be a lot more fun to watch.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:03 AM on December 26, 2016

I love what saves Farnam's life here - and what makes Al believe him - is that appeal to greed. "I just saw the opportunity for there to be one less hotel in town."

Al spent the first two episodes obsessively watching out for the inevitable competition. When it finally came, its unwitting agent was someone else trying to seal their own monopoly. I like that once Al understood Farnam was not interested in the saloon game, he went back to trying to work everything to his advantage.
posted by absalom at 10:17 PM on December 31, 2016

Rust Moranis: I love that line! It's such an example of what I see as the efficiency of prose that characterizes all of my favorite works. Not only does it establish Al's roughneck credentials and ability to get dirty when necessary, it gives the entire backstory of Deadwood and Al's place there: He built the first Saloon, and as the first squatter in illegal Indian territory, possession is ten tenths of the law.

It's an interesting and common theme in the historical gold rushes, and one I try to bring out in my classes: there were a lot of people who made money on gold rushes, just usually not the prospectors. The saloons and vice industries; followed by the dry goods and transport interests; followed by banks; and then eventual involvement of Eastern corporate interests.

I really appreciated how the series uses that progression as a tool for characterization and conflict as it develops.

Also! I don't know if I can spoil a non-existent third season and/or movie, but in historical reality, the Deadwood settlement eventually succumbed to a wildfire that almost gutted the place. It's interesting to see Milch building towards this from the very first episodes and sustaining it across the seasons: Swerengen making multiple references across the first three episodes to "burning it all down" as well as (I think it was) the Newspaper guy collecting funds and raising awareness for some sort of volunteer fire brigade or ad hoc code enforcement in later episodes.
posted by absalom at 10:35 PM on December 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

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