Wednesday, 2 October 2013

HBO's Deadwood - It isn't Breaking Bad.. it's better

As promised.. my Deadwood ranting. This is probably what you should move onto after BB. In the Breaking Bad episode "Rabid Dog" a boxed set of Deadwood can be seen on Hank's bookshelf.

Email sent to friends getting Deadwood boxed set


Three things you should now right off:

Watching one episode of deadwood on its own is a lot like watching a
random ten minute chunk from GOSFORD PARK (or any other Robert Altman
film). You need to watch it for over an hour just to get an ear for
the dailogue. Good news is Series 1 is entirely self contained as best
judged as one long story - as if they never expected it to be renewed
for another series (can't think why)

Don't get attached to the big celebrities. Its not about the big
celebrities - its about the people who scratch a living around them.

Don't take it as a sadistic wallow in the miseries of Victorian women.
Before long their struggles become the centre
of the story and the most compelling storyline.


In Detail --

The language, obscene as it is, is like poetry. Nearest dramatic
equivalent of Patrick O'Brian.

The characters, profane as they are, are magnificently drawn. This is
not evident from watching the first few episodes which introduce a
standard set of western cliche characters (sherrif, gunslinger, saloon
bar owner) before the rest of the series begins concentrate in the
minor characters around them - the sidekick, the deputy, the widow and
the poor desperate hookers.

Backing this up is acting which is often breathtaking, particularly
from the women who are very rarely (if ever) displayed in a titilating
light. The two somehow heroic hookers, Joanie and Trixie, Calamity
Jane and the widow Alma Garrett are really the centre of the show.

The politics are insidiously brillaint. Western society as the home of
law and order and protector of the rights of women?

Acording to Deadwood as recently as 150 years ago parts of the US
proudly regarded themselves as lawless and dreaded the imposition of
'order' from the state already riddled with the corruption of the "Big

And womans rights? It is difficult to imagine that any of the women in
Deadwood would turn down the chance to live the life as a Muslim.
(Except maybe Jane - who has to struggle with her own Victorian
feminity in her own way) Its their dignified stoicism, and that of
initially minor male characters (Charlie Utter, Elseworth, N*gger
General, all very unlikely heroes and non particularly photogenic)
that make it such an inspiration to watch.

No-one is what they seem at first. Major characters are minor, minor
characters turn out to be major. Several villains turn out as at least
vaguely neutral and more than once an aparent innocent lost in the
town turns out more evil than any of the locals.

The sudden change of tone is amazing. By series 2 FROM HELL Jack the
Ripper stories interweave with 19thC PHEONIX NIGHTS plots.

Religion. It must be difficult, virging on the impossible to say
anything good about religion these days and Deadwood could easily give
the subject a thorough kicking and do no wrong in my book. But it does
the unexpected again in typical fashion - an irritating minor
character comes to the foreground and becomes deeply sympathetic
largely because of the power of his own faith. Perhaps the real the
source of that faith is deeply subersive of the subject, I'm not sure,
you are left to judge for yourself.

It dodges cliches and isn't afriad to be poltically dodgy to reflect the era :

A couple caught in an relationship impossible in the Victorian era
don't even dwell on it let alone debate it. Its just - over. And thats
it. Tough. In direct contrast to other portrayals which would drag the
melodrama out for ever the word 'Love' isn't mentioned at all.

Anti-semitism is blatant and the attitude toward blacks is SO terrible
its played for laughs. The temptation to make Mr Wu and the

Chinese a 100% positive must have been great but their obvious lack of
integration is treated for laughs.

And Jewel. The poor cripple at the Jem Saloon, publicly and cruelly
verbally abused by its owner in public, is one of the horror shows in
the first few episodes. Only later when the absolutely horryfing
treatment of perfectly healthy, beautiful, women elsewhere does it
register with the viewer what a miracle it is that Jewel is even
working, or even alive at all in such a place....

1 comment:

  1. As you said, no-one is what they seem at first. I can't picture Jewel as a horror show, not when she argues with Dan over unauthorised cinnamon, which is one of the funniest exchanges in the three series.