When the Powers That Be cancelled HBO’s Deadwood, a great wailing was heard.
The last episode of the brilliant, gritty Western aired on August 27th, 2006, and the show’s creator, David Milch, wrapped things up as best he could. With his initially planned five seasons abruptly cut down to only three, the cast, creators, and fans mourned. We mourned, and we waited.
Almost thirteen years later, our patience will be rewarded. David Milch and HBO will bring us a feature-length film, to continue the story abandoned so long ago. HBO dropped a full trailer yesterday, and if we were bowled over by the teaser trailer a few months back, this one knocks us right out of our cowboy boots.
The film is set in 1889, ten years later than the events of Season 3. The lawless Black Hills territory has grown. South Dakota is about to officially become a state, and the residents of the camp gather to celebrate. Al Swearengen (Ian McShane), saloon proprietor and unofficial godfather to the camp, is still trying to run things his way. When George Hearst (Gerald McRaney)—gold baron, Al’s great nemesis, and now a senator—returns, Al will have to use all his wiles if he is going to survive the future and the resulting power play.
Al doesn’t have to go it alone. W. Earl Brown and Sean Bridgers return as Al’s seconds, Dan and Johnny. On the official side of the law, Sheriff Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) is still smouldering his way around town, laying down his own form of justice wherever he sees fit. Bullock and his wife (Anna Gunn) will cross paths with his former lover, Alma Ellsworth (Molly Parker). Speaking of former lovers, Al’s old favourite, Trixie (Paula Malcolmson) is still homesteading with Mayor Sol Star (John Hawkes). Hearst’s return to the camp doesn’t bode well for her either. She shot Hearst in the shoulder at the end of Season 3. She managed to escape his restitution with help from Al and an unfortunate body double. Now it seems the deception has been discovered, and Hearst is a man to hold a grudge.
When last seen, our favourite couple in the camp was Joanie Stubbs (Kim Dickens) and “Calamity” Jane Cannery (Robin Weigert). Are they still together, two broken souls trying to repair themselves and each other? We hope so.
Brad Dourif returns as Amos “Doc” Cochran, Dayton Callie as Charlie Utter, and Keone Young as Mister Wu. Indeed, the only members of the original cast we won’t see will be Titus Welliver (presumably ensconced in his hit series, Bosch), and Powers Boothe, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2017. Whether or not this will be a conclusion of the story or a continuation is unknown, but David Milch, the show’s creator, recently revealed that he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This movie may be a swan song for both the show, and the brilliant mind behind it.
Deadwood is one of those nuanced shows that gets better with every re-watch, and you always notice something new. So hurry up! You’ve got just enough time to watch the series again (or for the first time), to prepare for the premiere of the movie on May 31st, 2019. Time to break out the canned peaches, go back to the Black Hills, and see if they welcome us the way they did before.