Monday, April 28, 2008

Deadwood - Season 2 (2005)

(Image from Wikipedia)

Deadwood - Season 2 (2005)

I'm quite surprised to find myself pleased with my review of the first series of 'Deadwood', and there isn't really much to add to my assessment of the show with regard to this second series, which maintains the same high standards throughout its twelve episodes. In summation, the primary storylines revolve around the possible annexation of Deadwood to the territories of Dakota and the attempted acquisition of much of the gold claims by wealthy businessman George Hearst. But of course the smaller stories and the characters collectively play such a large part in the show, and these include: Swearingen's debilitating illness; Sheriff Bullock's fragily alliance with Swearingen and his affair with Mrs. Garrett, followed by the arrival of his wife and stepson; Hearst's geologist Francis Wolcott's scheming and sexual dalliances; Joanie Stubb's attempts to start her own brothel; Cy Tolliver's alliance with Wolcott in their scheme to buy out people's claims; Mrs. Garrett's troubles with the Pinkerton's and her clashes with Bullock's wife; and Mr. Wu's problems with the 'San Francisco Cocksucker', amongst many others.

What I love about this show is how it's so rich, so full of detail and atmosphere, and populated with such diverse, interesting characters each of whom has their own unique voice and idiosyncrasies, each of whom plays some small but integral part in the big picture. It's all character driven, and there are a myriad little stories that criss cross and interweave, and yet it all ties together so perfectly in the end - it really is a supreme piece of storytelling. True, the pacing is deliberate and there is a dearth of action, but that's not what this show is about. I think it's all kinds of great, even though I have to confess to finding some of the more complex speeches a little hard to follow!

Once again Ian McShane rules the roost with his commanding portrayal of Al Swearingen, whose presence seems so intrinsic to the town that when he approaches the brink of death it's almost like the town itself collectively holds its breath. McShane is terrific, and spews out verbose commentary and foul language like there's no tomorrow, and it's a joy to behold. Timothy Oliphaunt has somewhat less of a presence but is still great, and the added dimensions of his awkward relationship with both his mistress and his wife and son adding to his burdens as town sheriff and Swearingen cohort. Powers Boothe, William Sanderson, Robin Weigert, and Brad Dourif are the other standouts from the regular cast, but one guy stands out above most of the other regulars - Garet Dillahunt, who plays the creepy, disturbed, very intelligent, and very persuasive Francis Walcott. Dillahunt also appeared in the first season as Wild Bill Hickok's killer, and he was excellent in that role, but his character here is as far removed as possible from that one - in fact, it took me a while to realize that it was the same guy! Truly an excellent performance; this guy ought to be one to look out for - he has popped up in 'The 4400' and 'The Sarah Connor Chronicles' as well, and has minor roles in 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford' and 'No Country for Old Men'.

'Deadwood' continues to impress in its second season, and I'm dying to see the third and final batch of 12 episodes. It's disappointing to realize that the series was canceled without some form of finality; reading up on the history of the real Deadwood just can't compare to watching David Milch's foul mouthed dramatization! An exceptional TV series that adds further weight to the argument that HBO are without peer when it comes to gritty, edgy dramatic fare.

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