It’s easy to think that television changed forever with the arrival of streaming services such as Netflix and Prime Video, and to a certain extent that’s true, but its revolution began far earlier than that.
After years developing itself as the premium pay-per-view channel for sports, the Home Box Office channel, AKA HBO, branched out into the world of entertainment, including TV drama in 1997. The first of which to be produced was the prison drama series Oz.
It later went on to produce some of the most creative shows ever seen on TV, with its earlier dalliances including The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire , Carnivąle, and a certain western called Deadwood.
Although a huge critical success, the show failed to attract the kind of audiences needed to keep its head above commercial waters. So when the third season ended in 2006, its tombstone was erected, and it was deemed no more.
Although there was often talk of a comeback of sorts, nothing ever materialised, as Deadwood became more of a distant memory. And then, like an extra for The Walking Dead, it was miraculously resurrected this year for one last hoo-hah, with this feature-length finale.
The town of Deadwood is getting into the party atmosphere, with celebrations in full swing for the statehood of South Dakota. Not everyone is quite in the mood to party however, as the Gem Theatre’s proprietor Al Swearengen (Ian McShane), is in ill health.
One of the visitors to the town during this special time is Senator George Hearst (Gerald McRaney), however he does have ulterior motives, as he is keen to snap up some local land to continue his business exploits.
When his negotiations fail, it leads to the murder of a town favourite. With U.S Marshal Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) still upholding the law in town, he takes it upon himself to discover who the killer is and deliver swift justice. But as anyone who has visited this particular town before knows, nothing ever goes plain sailing in Deadwood.
Considering that the series ended thirteen years ago, not even the most fervent of fans would have predicted this incredible comeback. Yet it’s fair to say that creator David Milch has certainly done himself and the show justice.
Possibly one of the snags that may have stopped the masses from loving the original series, might have been Milch’s intricate use of language. Although it’s not initially easy on the ear, the dialogue, which could almost be described as sweary Shakespeare, is pure poetry. It is a character unto itself, with a specific rhythm and delivery. It’s return is almost as welcome as Swearengen’s, Bullock’s and the many other familiar faces of Deadwood.
It’s a testament to not only the show but Milch’s script that the majority of the cast have returned for this foul-mouthed finale. McShane’s Swearengen is, without doubt, one of the most iconic characters ever to grace TV –and yes, perhaps more so than his other persona Lovejoy. And despite his ailing health, he is still very much in top form, fuck you very much.
Its perfect blend of nostalgia and catching up with what all the big characters are up to now, make it a faultless swansong to this much loved and missed show.
This one-off feature highlights just how elegant, absorbing and wholly original TV drama can be, and why Deadwood in particular, was one shit-hot destination. And if you don’t agree, well, what the fuck do you know, you filthy cocksucker.