Wednesday, June 11, 2014

TUNE IN JUNE: Deadwood Season 2 (2005)

Note: Here on Shlock to the System, June is TUNE IN JUNE, which is really just an excuse for me to catch up on some TV series I've been meaning to watch for a while. But I will also be watching a number of TV movies, particularly ones from the hey-day of the TV movie, the 70s and 80s.

Deadwood Season 2 (2005)
Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Brad Dourif, William Sanderson, Powers Boothe, Jim Beaver
Format: DVD
I thoroughly enjoyed season 1 of Deadwood. I do love a good western and I quickly found myself enthralled with the fictional tales of life in what was a real life mining camp in the days of Wild Bill Hickock (who featured in the first season).

Season 2 picks up where the first season left off. Life in Deadwood is a constant gamble. I haven't yet seen Seth McFarlane's comedy A Million Ways to Die in the West, but the concept could easily apply to life (and death) in Deadwood. If you're not cut down by a bullet fired in anger, then there are a thousand illnesses waiting to knock you over, or maybe an out-of-control carriage might crush your skull. Life isn't something you can take for granted.

At the heart of the show remains Timothy Olyphant's Bullock, who in Season 2 becomes sheriff of the mining camp. There's a lot of politicking going on, mainly by the dastardly saloon owner Al Swearengen (Ian McShane), and his business opponent Cy Tolliver (Powers Boothe), but amongst the numerous subplots are a love triangle, racial tensions, the struggles of a whore trying to better herself, a wedding and a funeral that the whole camp attends (so you know it's something big - for the most part dead bodies get fed to the pigs on this show). The over-arching sub-plot involves the government wanting to take over the running of the town, and a mining big-wig buying up claims all over.

The acting remains excellent across the board. Olyphant continues to play the quiet, brooding type to a tee, William Sanderson slithers about as the conniving mayor, Brad Dourif is excellent-as-ever as the town doctor, and Robin Weigert is a revelation as Calamity Jane, who provides most of the comedic value. But the all-star acting prize goes to Ian McShane, whose Swearengen is on the surface a backstabbing, scheming game player, but who begins to show a more sympathetic side during this season, albeit while killing and plotting away gleefully.

One development that had me scratching my head was the return of Garret Dillahunt (most recently seen on TV's excellent RAISING HOPE). When he showed up I was confused, as he'd played a different role in the first season. I was expecting it to be revealed that he was back in disguise, but not so. His role this time out is definitely one of the highlights of the season - mining company representative Francis Wolcott, who has a penchant for slashing the throats of pretty girls.

In fact, the episode where Wolcott's fetish is unleashed in all its bloody glory (Ep 6 "Something Very Expensive") is the highlight of the season. While everyone in Deadwood seemingly has a dark side, Wolcott's bloodlust makes him the series' true villain. The weakest episode is Ep 4 "Requiem for a Gleet", which mostly deals with Al Swearengen's battle with near-deadly gallstones. It's slow and mostly uninteresting.

Part of the appeal of this show, apart from the magnificent acting and writing, is that you never quite know who might end up dead next. Much like life in the mafia (The Sopranos) or a zombie apocalypse (The Walking Dead), staying alive in Deadwood is easier said than done.

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