Let’s get all the rules out of the way. This is my first time viewing through Deadwood, the acclaimed show, so while I will be putting spoilers for any episodes I am discussing in these posts I will come down with a fire that would rival hell to any and all comments that purposefully respond to these with spoilers for episodes yet to be discussed. So please be kind in the comments here. We’re all being nice cinephiles and people.
I’ve taken a little breather here, just like the show has with entertainment, as it’s been three weeks since my last post in this series of retro TV reviews for the now defunct show, Deadwood. This time around I’ll be discussing the episodes titled: “Here Was a Man” and “The Trial of Jack McCall“.
With this tidy little segment of the season we have to say goodbye to Wild Bill Hickock, he lasted only four episodes but leaves a lasting impression on us all. We remember him for the way he says “cunt” and can’t seem to stop spending time with those hardware boys, as if he wants to just be in gunfights, drink whiskey and (mostly) lose at poker (unless he’s saying “cunt”).
After a very gracious moment at the tables with his arch nemesis Hickock throws Jack a bone and gives him a small gratuity to go feed himself and such. Jack however unable to comprehend this moment of pity takes that same money to buy a gun and a bullet and put it in Hickock’s back which becomes the end of his story. This brings about another great idea that’s always discussed in westerns, the man who kills the legend becoming a legend himself (in some ways). When stories are told, it won’t be of the fact that Hickock didn’t have a fighting chance and it’s all about the fact that at that given day he happened to sit with his back to the door of the saloon, but rather just that he was ‘got’ by this nobody card player. Like in films such as The Gunslinger you can imagine Hickock wanting people to tell it that way just so that it can torture Jack for the rest of his existence.
In the story of the widow to the rich prospector, before Hickock was murdered he was acquired to be her proxy in the discussion of verifying the plot for it’s value and managing its sale and/or use. Further to that, with little intention of being involved in anything other than a king high flush, he delegated this task to Seth Bullock (*queue music of the Dukes of Hazard as I say “The Hardware Boys” again*).
The show devolves into its own farce (knowingly though) as it moves into legal action against Jack McCall for killing Wild Bill. As Al Swearengen says at the time, “what’s next?”. The existence of legal ramifications for anyone’s actions in a delegalized zone such as Deadwood is a contradiction. If that’s the case then why not ask for an appeal system to the US courts for impartiality, and at the same time let’s just hire Seth as the official sheriff of Deadwood (wouldn’t that piss Al off?). However, it does this knowingly and with a few cards up its sleeve.
As we oddly watch on seeing lawyers, judge and jury being amassed for this ordeal we’re also watching the plot of Jane being weaned off of the drugs that she was so dependent on before via a most unlikely friend. Trixie, Al’s top whore, is made to go over to Jane’s to help her care for the child (survivor of the massacre from the season premiere) and also to help Al get back the plot of land that her husband bought by doping her up further. Instead of following Al’s orders she begins the process of getting her off the drugs so that she can be a better person to the child and possibly accomplish what her husband could not, surviving Deadwood.
The episodes remain engaging and continue to build a world that feels lived in, mainly because it’s a genre that we’re all too familiar with. The characters are yet to make themselves stand out apart from the normal drama of the week.
The episode ends with Jack being found innocent and his murder just, as he uses the old “brother from Abeline” defence. It reminds us that the town, regardless of corruption, is not lawful. Even though we’re asked to enact a ruling, even the lawyer (and judge agrees) argues that they have no laws and therefore cannot judge by any normal courtroom law, but rather by custom. So when Jack says (lyingly) that Bill killed his brother in Abeline and he’s just enacting revenge, the court is required to release him. Law is something that’s always been derived by social custom and here is no different, we’re just rolling back the laws a bit which is a great touch.
After Jack leaves in a hurry, knowing (after being told by Al) that some people may want to kill him now, Seth (the one who was probably going to kill him) heads off after him.