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Deadwood - Gunslinging Glory for Grownups - Balance of God and Gold - Best Western Series Ever

Updated on September 14, 2014

I hated this with a raging passion and yet it is by far my most loved and favored western of all the westerns I own. Considering I own a few shelves worth, that's really saying something. How convoluted is that?

Welcome to Deadwood.

Never in my life have I watched something of any genre that made me so angry so fast. I mean seriously loosing it, screaming at the TV type ticked off.

This article will detail exactly why Deadwood is by far the best western series ever made. Originally released by HBO in 2006, the series had no shortage of accolades from Hollywood. I don't normally agree with the critics. Many a flick they mooned over sent me straight to swift sleep. Not this one.

Closeup shot of the front cover of the second season of Deadwood


Have you ever heard of a food critic?

I'm a western critic. We love westerns around here. In fact, I'm somewhat of a wild west connoisseur you might say.

I grew up watching them back in the days of John Wayne, spaghetti westerns and gun slinging glory.

It wasn't necessarily my choice at the time, but all the grown ups watched them religiously, so therefore I ended up doing the same. It beat having to go to bed!

As I grew, I came to love them just as my father did. To him, John Wayne was the greatest actor that ever lived. From True Grit to The Shootist, Pale Rider to Young Guns, many a western has a place in my heart. But this one...

Deadwood, took me somewhere no western ever had.

It's really hard to nail down just one thing about Deadwood that makes it stand out so. A combination of things all come together in a wild kind of harmony. The setting, historical accuracy, attention to detail and character development intertwine to create one heck of a hot hoot-in-nanny.

The action really begins where all good westerns do, in the saloon and at the end of a rope.

Season one cover close up


The gals are all so different.

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How I first landed in Deadwood.

My dearest Mr. Vix had asked for all the Deadwood seasons one year for his birthday. I had never heard of it, but was resigned to getting him what he wanted. He popped it in the DVD player as I was starting dinner one night. The plan was to get dinner on and then join him on the couch having missed nothing since I was watching from the kitchen. Aren't open concept designs great?

Well, it didn't go down that way. I got so mad not 20 minutes into the first episode, I said to heck with this! I was angry, disgusted and all around ticked off, so much so I left the house. We all have our buttons and Deadwood had tapped danced on one of mine early on.

In the Gem Saloon, a real historical place, began my introduction to the main character of the show, Al Swearingen. The first time I saw Al, he beat a woman for defending herself, lied, manipulated, bullied and generally was an all around abusive jerk, or so I thought at first glance.

I couldn't stand it or him. I wanted to jump into the show and kick his behind myself. I seem to remember muttering something when I was pulling out of the drive about him needing to be horse whipped in a public square.

Third time is the charm.

My husband, upon my return, couldn't stop raving about how great the show was. He kept insisting I would love it knowing what it was about the show that had angered me so.

The second time I tried to watch it, I had the same reaction. Some months later, he finally got me to promise to watch the first disk all the way through before making up my mind.

It ticked me off again! Seriously, the behavior of some of the characters gave a whole new meaning to the word unacceptable. That's one of the things that makes it so good I see now in retrospect. There's no candy coating, no PC and no spin applied to what really happened.

The scene in the series where Wild Bill gets gunned down from behind.

Deadwood is as real as it gets.

From the scheming and manipulation of claim jumpers and cut throats to the corrupt politics of the day, from the harsh conditions to the worse attitudes in regards to equality, Deadwood never shirks from telling it as it really was.

Based upon actual known facts taken from primary sources of the day, Deadwood tells the story of a small town in America that became famous for two main reasons. First, gold was discovered there. Just as noteworthy, it was the place where legendary western figure Wild Bill Hickok was gunned down.

True to history, this series gave a unique insight into a period of America's past that has become infamous.

Jane and Trixie



Deadwood: Best Of Seth Bullock compiled by lungbutter.

Close up shot season one DVD box


Our dear sheriff asserts himself. We need more like him now.

A star studded cast.

Starring Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant, Kieth Carradine, Molly Parker and too many other big names to list, everyone on this cast is at the top of their game.

Let's meet a few of them...

Al Swearingin - Eloquently played by Ian McShane, Al really did own the Gem Saloon located in Deadwood, South Dakota. While no one could call him a pillar of the community, Al is a delightfully convoluted mixture of good and bad.

He has to be by far a strategist on par with the likes of Odysseus, brilliant to the bone but with a mean streak as wide as Texas. At the same time, he will kill to protect those he cares for, though he will never let said care show.

Seth Bulloch - Ten kinds of fine, this western hero played by Timothy Olyphant is just that, a classic hero archetype. Possessed of a temper and a strict sense of right and wrong, Seth is by far the most upright member of our cast.

Watching him struggle to overcome his own temper is an exercise in hilarity. While he does beat down more than one deserving fiend, he's a really nice guy to women, children and the innocent.

Dan Dority - Dan, played by W. Earl Brown, works for Al at the Gem Saloon. Think of him as the muscle. Large and lumbering, scary and loyal as a pit bull, Dan like Al is both equally lovable and despicable depending on the episode in question.

Dan's character gets a Vix pick award for the best choreographed fight scene I have ever witnessed. It's towards the end of the series and well worth the watch. It's gruesome, but by far the best, most realistic looking brawl I have ever seen on any movie or TV show.

Alma Garret - Alma is historically interesting because she's an anomaly. Brought to life by Molly Parker, her character was dragged to Deadwood by her husband. She ends up being owner of the richest gold claim in the area during a time in history when women didn't even own themselves. Watching her struggle to maneuver through the sea of male chauvinism is a lesson in clever comportment.

The Preacher - Preacher Smith came to life thanks to actor, Ray McKinnon. He's one of the most interesting characters of the first season, in my mind. Very few people in the show are loved by just about everyone, but he is. He's pure in his love of God, his desire to help his fellow man and his steadfast determination to do good. One of the most tragic story lines of season one centers on him. Give it a gander to see how a man of God tries to bring holiness to a land corrupted by greed and gold.

Alma Gets Shot At Fore and Aft - But, check out the dress! All the costumes rule.

HBO spared no expense making this three season running hit.

The town and buildings scream old west. The language while being full of profanity is wonderfully done in a more proper and eloquent manner than practiced in modern times lending credence to the credibility of the characters.

I have to give a shout out to the costume people. Alma's dresses are divine and represent the time to perfection. In contrast, the dresses of the saloon girls in the poorer saloons are not much more than burlap sacks with slits. While they aren't gorgeous, they do really scream authentic when seen in a grungy, dirty saloon.

The men's outfits are equally well designed screaming gunslinger, shop keep, claim jumper or just out of work cowboy as the character demands.

Welcome to Deadwood

Many a western displays traditional family values, not this one.

Deadwood is an adult series. This is full of violence. Most of it is not gratuitous, but murder and blood are sadly part and parcel for the time and place portrayed.

Further, most of the story takes place in one of three saloons. There's a ton of sex and nudity. While being an all out gas for history buffs, western fans, and those who appreciate exceptionally well written dialog and period pieces, it's not for the whole family. That being said, adults enjoy!

Al and Wu. Communication must have been somewhat like this. Hilarious!

Check out the trailer for the baddest best western series around.

In the show, one of the most hilarious aspects was the communication between the characters All and Wu.

Wu is one of my personal favorites. True to the time, many Chinese immigrants were all over America helping build this great nation.

The conversations between Al and Wu are a hysterical representation of what the communication barrier must have been like.

Also, check out the video for what's labeled the welcome to Deadwood scene. It's basically a show down type of scene typical of the action. Scope on it.

Deadwood Teaser Trailer

Fans felt ripped off when the movies promised at the end of the series were never made. Ironically, the cast did so well they all got so much work they never have been able to reassemble for the movies.

© 2014 Rhonda Lytle

What's your favorite western?

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    • Rhonda Lytle profile imageAUTHOR

      Rhonda Lytle 

      4 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      @Arachnea: I loved Cowboys and Aliens! It was fun. Harrison was as crusty as they come. I hope you enjoy Deadwood. It's gritty but if you liked Cowboys and Aliens, I'm thinking you'll love it.

    • Arachnea profile image

      Tanya Jones 

      4 years ago from Texas USA

      Cowboys and Aliens. I've wondered about Deadwood for a while. I just hadn't been able to bring myself to watch it. You're review is good and I'm thinking I'll give it a try.

    • Rhonda Lytle profile imageAUTHOR

      Rhonda Lytle 

      4 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      @anonymous: I didn't see it when it was airing weekly but i too could rip someone's head off at HBO for cancelling it. What were they thinking? From what i have read, the show had a monster huge following when they cut it off. One would think with a hit on their hands they would have the good sense to keep it going. Such is the life of a TV programmer. :(. Thanks for the read and most interesting comment.

    • Rhonda Lytle profile imageAUTHOR

      Rhonda Lytle 

      4 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      @georgepmoola2: Thank you :).

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Deadwood actually. Nothing else is even close. I was infuriated when HBO cancelled Deadwood so the Showrunner could go off and produce a show about surfing which turned out to be a disaster. I'd love to see a Deadwood movie and hope they can pull one off. Outstanding review!

    • georgepmoola2 profile image


      4 years ago

      Good review.


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