Saturday, 15 June 2013

Late to the Party: Deadwood Seasons 1-3

After hearing so much praise for Deadwood, I decided to try it. In some respects, I make a good test audience for the series: I do not like westerns or period drama in general. However Deadwood lives up to the hype: it is far closer to Shakespeare than John Wayne. The plotting is uncomplicated – it feels rather like an old-west version of Dallas at times – but that direct structure provides room to for the strongest traits to shine. The writers invest time developing interesting characters and human conflict, some of which operates on a micro-scale. Most surprising is the amount of comedy on offer. The series is frequently laugh-out-loud funny. The entire cast is strong, but Ian McShane is truly majestic as the Machiavellian brothel owner. Robin Weigert is also quite staggering in her role as loose-mouthed drunk Calamity Jane. Deadwood demonstrates that drama works best when driven by its characters, rather than by contrived circumstances. What is more, Deadwood does not represent the wild west of conventionalised myth: indeed, the signifier of such a myth (‘Wild Bill’) is summarily dispatched very early into the first series. What remains is lawlessness, racial hatred, misogyny, violence, inadequate medical facilities, mud, and politics. Unglamorous it may be, but that is what makes it my kind of history.

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