TV Rewind: Deadwood
Episode 1 – “Deadwood”
By Eric Hughes
April 10, 2012
I think what makes the most sense here is to explain why I’m reviewing the show Deadwood before launching into some thoughtful impressions about its pilot.
June of last year, I was browsing Netflix Instant and happened to notice that Twin Peaks, both seasons, was available to stream. The series, the thought of it and what it could be and be about, had long intrigued me. I knew it by name, I knew it to be a product of David Lynch, but beyond that I’d managed to avoid key plot points and, really, spoilers of any kind in the 20-some years it had been off the air.
Itching to begin watching a new show anyway, I approached David - Mumpower, not Lynch - with the idea to upload weekly recaps written by a beginner in probably the truest sense. I had never, up ‘til then, written so intentionally and formally about a television show.
He liked it, especially the angle of watching older television via online streaming. (David: “We as consumers control our own channels. You're programming ERIC TV right now and you're inviting the reader to join you on the trip. It’s fantastic.”)
For those who do and don’t know David, let me kindly say that the guy doesn’t monkey around. His blessing meant he really wanted me to run with it, and so I ran.
A few weeks later, I emailed him my thoughts about the pilot, and then 29 more columns - what would become TV Rewind - followed. Well, 30 more. I epilogued TV Rewind with a review of Twin Peaks’ theatrical prequel, Fire Walk With Me.
The column proved to be exhilarating, yes, but also quite frustrating. I realized soon enough that I wasn’t very good at reviewing a television show in, I guess, the traditional sense. I was uncomfortable about making bold predictions about plot directions and possible revelations, and didn’t want to summarize episodes piecemeal, but with adorning flair tossed in.
About midway through Twin Peaks, I stopped reviewing the show in what seemed the proper way, and made the thing more personal, echoing an emerging thing I’d noticed in my writing for BOP and other projects. I began writing about big picture stuff. I began writing about the things that I found interesting rather than the things that I thought were implied we find interesting. Make sense?
When I ran out of Twin Peaks episodes to review - in January - I thought the column done. But then I was again itching to watch a new series, and David - seconded by Kim - proposed Deadwood.
To me, what was interesting about his choice was that, again, I’d be watching a show I knew by name, but knew little to nothing about. And so I decided that, yes, at a manageable 36 episodes, I would be reviewing Deadwood.
That brings me - and in a sense, us - to here: the beginning of a second session of TV Rewind.
That four men died - and, come to think, a family of four, too - in just the pilot has me thinking the show will be as physically brutal as it is profane. The first of its eight kills happens in the opening minutes - a failed hanging, and then death by mighty neck break bamboozling - and I was like: “OK. So this is how Deadwood’s gonna be.”
Timothy Olyphant’s character, Marshal Seth Bullock, is a curious one, and I don’t know he would have killed that guy, accused of stealing a horse, had the rash decision to hang him publicly not been brought to his feet by the heat of peeved townies. In fact, the apprehended man attempts to strike a deal with Seth - you and me head together to the lawless Deadwood; I secure you monies on the way through easy thievery, and you, in return, leave me be - and I swear Seth would’ve mulled it more had his concentration not been broken by his partner slamming his way inside.