Deadwood: The Trial of Jack McCall   Rewatch 
January 9, 2017 9:21 AM - Season 1, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Swearengen transforms The Gem into a courtroom as Deadwood makes its own laws to try Jack McCall. With Jane off on a bender, Trixie is enlisted by Swearengen to help Alma with the Metz child and to keep her pliable to his purposes for getting back the Garret claim. Hickok's body is buried and Seth Bullock is determined to get revenge for his friend's murder.
posted by torisaur (7 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I think Reverend Smith's eulogy over Hickok's grave is one of the most important pieces of writing in the entire show. Milch's genius is that it functions as both a thesis statement for the purpose of the show, a general statement on how one should live, and a deeply sad and ironic foreshadowing of the sickness that the Reverend himself will succumb to shortly.

Below is the eulogy in full, which references St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians. I find it very moving. I think the most resonant passage for the show is the one I have bolded, although the passages that address the unknowability of God's will are also very eloquent and tap into the concerns addressed in the wisdom literature of the Bible.

"Mr. Hickok will lie beside two brothers.
One he likely killed, the other he killed for certain
and he's been killed now in turn.
So much blood. And on the battlefields
of the brothers' war, I saw more blood
than this. And asked then as for the purpose,
and did not know. And don't know
the purpose now. But know now to testify
that not knowing, I believe.
Saint Paul tells us by one's spirit
are we all baptized in one body.
Whether we be Jew or Gentile, bond or free.
And have all been made to drink into one spirit.
For the body is not one member, but many.
He tells us, The eye cannot say unto the hand,
'I have no need of thee.'
Nor again, the head to the feet,
'I have no need of thee.' They much more
those members of the body which seem to be
more feeble. And those
members of the body which we think
of as less honorable, all are necessary.
He says that there should be no schism in the body,
but that the members should have the same care, one to another.
and whether one member suffer,
all the members suffer with it.

I believe In God's purpose,
not knowing it. I ask him,
moving in me, to allow me
To see his will. I ask him,
Moving in others, to allow them to see it."
posted by Falconetti at 1:55 PM on January 9, 2017 [13 favorites]


This exchange between Sol and Seth that comes later is as brilliant a piece of tragi-comic dialogue as you'll likely come across:

Seth Bullock: That man is a lunatic. High water he never made much sense, but now? He just utters pure gibberish.
Sol Star: Did he look pale to you?
Seth Bullock: What?
Sol Star: Did he seem pale?
Seth Bullock: How the fuck do I know if he was pale?
Sol Star: He looked pale to me.
Seth Bullock: What if he was? Let's say he was. Will you shut up about it? What is my part, and your part? [mocking] "What part of my part is your part? Is my foot your knee? What about your ear?" What the fuck is that?
Sol Star: Yeah, I don't know.
Seth Bullock: What don't you know? If he was pale or not?
Sol Star: What you're supposed to do.
Seth Bullock: I'm not supposed to do anything! Let's agree to that. Not one fucking thing that I don't decide I'm gonna. All right, Sol?
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:04 PM on January 10, 2017 [2 favorites]


Loved that the show explored smallpox - but I can't imagine how STIs weren't even more rampant.

Weigert as Jane has all kinds of heartbreaking scenes.
posted by porpoise at 10:24 PM on January 12, 2017


They did have Doc examining Swearingen's girls in maybe the first episode, so they're at least attempting to show some knowledge of the situation, but I don't know what kinds of remedies, if any, they had back then. I'm not sure antibiotics were even a known thing at the time.

I was just thinking how incredibly long the show seems - they covered so much territory in season one and so much changes, but nothing seems to get short shrift, but that's probably a better comment for the end of the season.
posted by LionIndex at 5:25 AM on January 13, 2017


In complete agreement with Falconetti about the centrality of that speech and the way it works on multiple levels; I'd add too that it does all those things while also working on the relationship between the Reverend and Bullock, as comes out both in the way the Reverend looks at Bullock when he asks God to allow others to see His purposes, and in the speech turbid dahlia quotes, which is lead in to the moment where Bullock decides to go after McCall: "If I kill the droop-eyed son of a bitch and my PART's getting hanged for it, good luck with the fucking store." Bullock's irritable because he knows he's been preached at, in a sense—the very disservice the Reverend was trying to avoid a couple episodes ago—but he's being worked in, anyway. He doesn't know his part, yet he acts. Believes?

For me, then, two questions come out of this eulogy and Bullock's response.

First, why is Bullock in Deadwood? What is the allure of the frontier—of a lawless place—for his Holiness, this upright pain-in-the-balls the ex-marshal? He speaks later of borrowing his brother's life instead of living his own, which is a clue I guess, if we take him to be running from being any part of anything. But he seems more opaque to me than ever this rewatch. In terms of genre, of course, he makes perfect sense—no one belongs in the Western more than a man balancing uprightness and violence—but as a character, to me, less so. In this sense the Reverend has read him right, as lost and seeking his place.

Second, I'm curious about what others think about the role of God/religion in the show. This particular episode is God-suffused—in addition to the Reverend's eulogy, there's "How Firm a Foundation" and then there's the music in the closing credits, "God and Man." The last is played with the middle cut out, deliberately leaving out the part where man makes himself unhappy by creating his own God. So we have instead:
God and man played hide-and-go-seek.
God told man, "Now man, don't you peek."
Man counted to ten, and then looked around,
But God was nowhere, nowhere to be found.

[3 verses cut, then:]

God is in you and God is in me.
To love all of God is to love humanity.
God is in you and God is in me.
To love all of God is to love humanity.
My general sense of the show—which I take to be borne out most by how the Reverend comes to die (at Al's pragmatic, merciful hands, with Doc praying for it) but present in this episode in various small things like this edit of the lyrics, Jane's care for Andy in the woods ("Now there's a bird I ain't never seen before!"), Sol's patience with Bullock and with the Reverend, Trixie's care for Alma and the little one—is that this too stands as a thesis, that here too God is nowhere to be found, and that it's community, this created, foundationless body, that's available in His stead. (Which still lets me keep a secular humanist cosmology where Cy Tolliver is a devil with no part in the body. Lord, he is the worst; let me not have to think of him as necessary.)

This seems almost too obvious to me to need stating, but it's also what I think, so it's easy for me to read it where it may not be so firmly present.

(I suppose I should also have reasons for why only a later verse of "How Firm a Foundation" is chosen, too, besides it being the best one:
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flames shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.)
posted by felix grundy at 5:57 PM on January 14, 2017 [4 favorites]


This episode is full of speeches, EB's floor-scrubbing soliloquy, Al's viper story, Jane with Andy, and the Reverend. I feel like a lot of things get cemented in this episode.
posted by rhizome at 6:28 PM on January 19, 2017


- Al: "I wasn't offerin' it personally."

- I was particularly struck by the scene with Rev being so enthusiastic about talking out fitting passages for the eulogy, trying to get validating feedback from Seth, and his eyes lighting up after Seth tells him his ideas are good - when you can tell that Seth is politely not really listening to what the Rev is saying, even though he's "listening" and responding without a hint of irritation. Basic courtesy mustered up without full engagement - sometimes that's all one can manage. Thought it made an interesting prologue to what comes later in the episode, and Seth not quite getting the eulogy's message, but still riding out to mete... something, at least, acting his part, or a part, in the aftermath of the harm to the community.

> I'm curious about what others think about the role of God/religion in the show.

I'm just a few episodes into my rewatch (about half of season 1), but based on what I recall about how the rest of the season plays out, I reckon our thoughts are similar. The Rev's eventual death signifies to me a sort of incompatibility of ideals not adapting to reality, of scripture needing to adjust or be adjustable as it gets tested by life's unpredictable fact patterns and twists. The verison of religion in the show as something that doesn't necessarily apply in the "present" of Deadwood as it has in the past - organized religion as something that needs to reshape itself to fit the new circumstances it finds itself in, instead of attempting to make the new circumstances fit its mold. So, you gotta find your higher calling in keeping the body of your community whole, of repairing damage done to it, of preserving its health instead of letting wounds fester and further decay.

- Ain't have it in me to figure out how to phrase further thoughts beyond simpler reaccs for now, but I did like the costuming for one of the earlier scenes in the episode, when Merrick's sitting at the tent to collect names for prospective jurors and officers of the court, and the lawyer line was full of dark-suited men with top hats or other fancier chapeaus.

- Well, one last ponder: Thought it was telling how the opening scene, with the guy selling (ugh) souvenir tufts from the decapitated head in the previous episode, shows how opportunists capitalized on every possible thing they could in the name of making more coin. And of course the tufts are being hyped up as souvenir's of Hickock's death. Just a cool little macabre keepsake to stick in your next letter home for grisly bragging rights, nbd. At least the next episode shows us living Native Americans instead of sticking just to the occasional mention of their body parts or reference to being used as scapegoats for white violence.

- Poor Rev. I forgot about how violent that seizure was, and how casually people just kept walking past him in his tent...

- The costuming for defense counsel was superb. Even down to the leather clutch padfolio.
posted by rather be jorting at 10:46 PM on August 26, 2019


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