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What an unfortunate season! The episodes were filled with wonderful writing, terrific production values, and first-rate actors, but Milch neglected to equip his series with more than three or four episodes' worth of plot. Most of the episodes consisted of filler, in which very fine actors were given ample scope for excellent performances, but which amounted to little more than a long, long stall till the final episode.
As I mentioned in my earlier screed, the series was building to a bloody confrontation between the evil George Hearst (and his army of well-armed lackeys) and the (taken as a whole) somewhat less evil forces of Al Swearengen, Seth Bullock, &Co. And as I also remarked, there was no way that Milch could deliver on the promised confrontation, for the simple reason that just about everyone in the cast is a historical character, and history shows us that none of them died in a spectacular shoot-out in the streets of Deadwood in the 1870s.
So I experienced considerable suspense wondering how Milch and his cohorts were going to provide a satisfactory ending for the season, given that the confrontation he promised was going to fizzle.
The fizzle was about all there was.
In short: Hearst wins. Not that this isn't a valid, if depressing, finale. Hearst did purchase the Homestake Mine and live happily ever after. But in Milch's fictional Deadwood this ending was achieved only by having several of the regular cast betray their well-established characters.
Bear in mind that Hearst was clumping around Deadwood for the entire season, frequently watching the goings-on in the street from his balcony opposite Swearengen's Gem Saloon. Bear in mind that he is portrayed as a dispicable character, a cowardly sociopath who commits his murders by proxy. (Even his own hirelings loathe him.) Bear in mind that even if law-abiding characters like Bullock and Charlie Utter might have shied away from assassinating a bad guy, folks like Swearengen and his cohorts would not. In fact assassination is more or less in a day's work for them.
One shot and all the evil that Hearst was perpetrating would end, at least until the next tycoon came to town. Yet no one fired a shot. Swearengen kept restraining his troops till the end, for no damn reason that I could see--- and this after Hearst hacked off Swearengen's finger, just for the pleasure of it. And Alma seemed for the entire season to forget that she was extremely wealthy and could hire her very own army--- at least until the last episode, when she had to explain that if she hired her own army she'd have to leave Deadwood to do so, and she wanted to stay in town, where she and her daughter were helpless against the wickedness that Hearst was perpetrating.
(Technically speaking, this is the informal fallacy of the false dilemma, a dilemma created by the show's writers for artificial reasons totally connected with the way they wanted the season to end, and disregarding all sense and reality.)
In fact, in order to produce the series ending, the characters not only had to betray their own characters, but their own intelligence. Practically everyone in the series took a stupid pill before stepping before the camera.
After this mess of a season, HBO was probably right to cancel the series. The great season of Deadwood was the first, and the second coasted along on the strength of the first. The third was a shambles.
Sad. I had such hopes for something clever.
What should I be watching to make myself feel better?