MOVIE: Deadwood, Season Three (2006)

When I first heard that HBO’s terrific Western series Deadwood had been canceled after season three, I was pretty unhappy about it. I’d just finished watching season two and loving it, and I couldn’t fathom why, why, WHY people would not be flocking to that show like crazy. It was brilliant! It was fast-paced and sexy! It was the best show I’d seen since The Sopranos, and what’s more, it was SMART.

Unfortunately, I think it was that latter adjective that ultimately kind of did it in, and that went double for season three. When I first started watching season three, I could barely get into the story. Not only was it sort of boring (oh, politics — don’t we get enough bickering over elections in the real world these days?), but for the first time in the show’s history, I was having a lot of trouble figuring out what in the hell they were talking about half the time.

Deadwood has always relied on a heavy vocabulary, which made it often feel sort of Shakespearean to me — it was one of the reasons I so adored it. But season three was just obfuscating to the extreme at times. I’m well-read, intelligent, and a lover of language, and even I was struggling to decipher many of the conversations the characters were having.

The season picked up about four episodes in, but to be honest, had I been a more casual watcher instead of a devoted fan, I would’ve thrown in the towel myself before making it that far. Instead of ranting about its undeserved cancellation, I found myself thinking, “Hmm, damn, yeah. . . I can kinda see why people bailed.” Too much focus on the political subplots, not nearly enough focus on the characters themselves, and it was the characters and their relationships with each other that had been keeping me thoroughly sucked in before.

Anyway, if you were a fan of the show, of course you’ll have to see season three (and I’m still hoping Milch is really going to make the two two-hour movies he was thinking about doing to wrap up the storylines). But if you weren’t all that enthusiastic about it for the first two seasons, this season will probably do you in for good. I’m still planning a write-up on Ian McShane, though, because not since Tony Soprano have I found someone so thoroughly obnoxious and awful quite so ridiculously sexy. Mrrrrrowl!

Genre: HBO series, Western
Stars: Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant, Molly Parker, John Hawkes, Dayton Callie, Robin Weigert


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