Paul Katz
June 12, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

”Deadwood”: Swearengen and Hearst square off

A hearty welcome to you, my fellow Deadites. You’ve waited so patiently all year for another season of David Milch’s twisty-turny take on how the West was won. I’ll be your wagon train leader for this 12-episode ride, and while I can try to keep the cussing to a minimum, this is still a TV Watch on @#%!-ing Deadwood, so I make no promises. Now, let’s giddyup into the premiere.

With only a dozen episodes to play with, Milch clearly doesn’t want to waste any time. I thought it would take the entire arc of this season to bring Swearengen and Hearst to battle. Nope. By the close of the first hour, it looked like war was about to erupt in the camp, with the evil Cornishmen on the front line. Evil Cornish? Not quite as ominous as Nazis, now are they? It’s also hard to swallow Sweary (my little nickname for the pimp without a heart of gold) ever uttering that he’s ”meek as a babe.” That got a giggle in my house. And special kudos for the impressively staged scene in which Hearst and Sweary faced off — especially the shot of Hearst towering over the meekly seated Sweary. With all the beautiful speeches, it was a good reminder that television is still a visual medium.

Now raise your hand if you didn’t feel at least some small sense of glee as Bullock beat the tar out of Farnum, who he suspected of squealing about Bullock’s affair with the widow Garret. Did it matter that it’s likely Farnum hadn’t been the one to blab? Not to me. The weasel has had it coming for at least two seasons. Maybe he should have treated his hired help a little better. But my only concern is the smackdown might help ol’ E.B. gain the sympathy vote in the mayoral election against Sol. Then again, sympathy doesn’t seem to take you very far in Deadwood.

As for the widow, it appears that her mandatory bed rest (in order not to lose the baby) will take her out of the action for the rest of the season. Perhaps the despair in her eyes when Doc C. instructed her not to move from the bedroom wasn’t really acting. I can’t imagine that actress Molly Parker is thrilled to be stuck playing the death scene from Camille for the next 11 hours — although they placed Sweary in a bed for multiple episodes last year and it gave Ian McShane the opportunity to shine, as well as practice his mime technique.

Another strong female character spent some time in bed, but with a tiny pistol pointed at her forehead. In the six weeks since season 2 ended, it appears that Cy hasn’t recovered from the knife to the belly he received from his preacher pal, and Joanie is spending her time keeping the whores in line and tending to his wounds. Why that’s sending her to the edge of suicide is still up for debate. Is she depressed that Cy is ill? That her dreams of running her own brothel ended literally in blood and tears? That Calamity Jane keeps peeing on the floor in her place of business? And doesn’t paying more than one dollar for that dank hotel room just seem like a rip-off?

But the season is off to very strong start, with double-crossing, death, and dark days ahead.

What do you think? Will Swearengen make good on his threat to cancel the town elections? Will Hearst use force or diplomacy to fix his problems? And can somebody go find Wu and bring him home? All the corpses are bound to pile up without him!

You May Like