Spoilers ahead …
Derek Powazek has a good article on the new HBO series Deadwood where he compares it to our late lamented Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I get his point, and there are Whedon-esque touches to Deadwood, but the key precursor to the new show remains NYPD Blue, one of producer David Milch’s earlier series.
Buffy was explicitly female-centric, while NYPD Blue and now Deadwood are guy shows to the core. On NYPD Blue, regular women characters are either the lovers of the male characters, “tough” cops whose behavior is favorably comparable to how “guys” act, or both (although when both, the love wins out over the tough … see Ross, Charlotte). On Deadwood, the women are almost all whores … one of the only two exceptions is Calamity Jane (see NYPD Blue under “tough women who act like men”). There is one woman, Alma Garret, who has potential; otherwise, this is a guy show through and through.
But a really really good guy show. Keith Carradine’s rendition of Wild Bill Hickok has been a joy to behold. He doesn’t say much, he doesn’t do much, but when he says it or does it, he means it. As Powazek notes, the conversations Wild Bill has with his new friend “Montana” are noteworthy mainly for how much doesn’t need to be said. Hickok is the traditional western hero, and Carradine pulls it off with all the cumulative power of the iconography behind him.
So, of course, they’ve already killed him off.
Milch is mostly just following history here … Wild Bill was killed in Deadwood by Jack McCall, and Wild Bill was killed in Deadwood by Jack McCall. So it’s not like we didn’t see it coming. But it was terrible sad nonetheless.
And now we’ve got a show, only four episodes in, where the closest thing we had to a connection with past traditions has been shot in the back. Leaving just the anarchic mud of the town of Deadwood … leaving a completely unromantic vision of unbridled capitalism. There are “heroes” as well as villains in Deadwood, to be sure. But mostly this is one muddy show, and another excellent addition to the HBO roster. As someone who found both Carnivale and K Street lacking, I am glad to see HBO is back on track.Powered by Sidelines