I love Deadwood. For much of the last fifteen years, I’d have insisted that Deadwood was the Second Greatest (dramatic, fictional) TV series of All Time. I regard it as sort of the Last Word in westerns. I have acted as an evangelist for the show, telling everyone I know about it and actually convincing some of those people to watch it (some of whom liked it almost as much as I did). To me, was far too under-known for how good it was and I tried to do my part to change that.
Because of the way the show ended, I was always interested in the idea of the follow up TV movies, though I was also skeptical given the nature of the show and the nature of the fan-demanded TV sequels. But I was very hopeful once the movie was finally announced, perhaps because, as I get older, I am more and more receptive to fan service and nostalgia.
It just so happens that I re-watched Deadwood for the 3rd or 4th time this year, because Jenn had never seen it and I was adamant she watch it. I don’t know that I like it quite as much as I did earlier, but the real issue with watching it so recently is the flashbacks – somebody involved in the making of this movie was very concerned that some people watching wouldn’t remember the show or were watching for the first time. There are a lot of flashbacks in the movie, to the point where I was getting very annoyed before they sort of petered out.
As many of us suspected/feared, this film is also basically devoted to fan service. Just about every major character is back, with a few notable exceptions due to deaths or previous commitments, and some of them really don’t make sense. (Aunt Lou is the midwife?!?!) But where the fan service really gets out of hand is how Hearst is treated late in the film. I am basically the only person who liked the ending of the show and it seems like even the writers didn’t like it, as they give everyone what they’ve wanted for the last thirteen years. It feels cheap to me. It also feels a bit like a betrayal of what I took to be the message of the third season.
A lot of the time the movie feels like a whole season stuffed into less than two hours: things happen in such a way that it feels like time has passed but we’re not informed of that fact and there’s way more violence in this short movie than there was in your average episode. Way, way more. That feels more like a classic Western but less like Deadwood.
And then there’s the stuff that flat out doesn’t fit with the actual show: Joanie telling Jane about Bill for example. It’s like they haven’t watched their own show.
But there is still a lot of pleasure watching these actors being back together. And there’s lots of pleasure listening to the particularly knotty dialogue. And even though a lot of it doesn’t quite work, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy being back in Deadwood. And I can’t say I didn’t appreciate the mixture of finality for many of the characters with the open-ended conflict befalling others, as is befitting of the show.