Deadwood; a Wild and Dirty Place

Krista Tschetter

Krista Tschetter

Deadwood, HBO’s latest shock-and-awe drama (Sundays, 8:00 p.m.), is indeed about our little tourism mecca west of the river.

But the small-screen Deadwood mining camp is a mecca for little besides blazing immorality, greed, lawlessness and really dirty people, in 1876.

At least this is creator David Milch’s version.

And considering it was an illegal settlement carved into land poached from the American Indians, created solely for quick, easy economic gain and lacking formal law for several years, Milch’s version probably isn’t too far off.

In last Sunday’s second episode, which started to develop storylines and add dimension to the bevy of colorful characters introduced in the previous week’s premiere, the historical inaccuracies that do exist become easier to forgive.

There are the good guys: the young entrepreneur Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant), Wild Bill Hickock (Keith Carradine) who does most of his gold mining at the poker table, and Doc Cochran (Brad Dourif). Some of the highlights of episode two include the good doctor Cochran, despite a cowering countenance, standing up to a smirking, powerful and thoroughly evil Al Swearengen (Ian McShane), the owner of the Gem Theater brothel, to protect a child who’s entire family was mutilated in a suspicious looting. Bullock and Hickock begin to form a respectful friendship of sorts, possibly setting up Bullock’s inheritance of the settlement’s respect for Hickock, who only has until episode four before he’s going to be murdered.

Unfortunately, there are a few historical discrepancies that aren’t as easy to forgive. Especially tragic is the characterization of Calamity Jane (Robin Weigert), which has her reduced to a giddy school girl in Hickock’s presence, and a sobbing idiot in Swearengen’s. The real-life Calamity Jane was far too weathered and tough-as-nails to have been so affected by these men, especially when she was used to being a lone female among ruffians. There’s also something off about the Black Hills terrain. But this series, as brutal and addicting as the rest of HBO’s Sunday line-up, is worth a watch. Or several.