Deadwood Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

It is impossible to talk about this film without a backstory, because, in fact, it is the full-length finale of the famous series of the same name.

The series “Deadwood” was released in 2004-2006. The action began in 1876, the series told about the village of Deadwood in South Dakota: the village was created by prospectors during the gold rush. In addition to prospectors, all sorts of adventurers and criminals flock to the village, which will gradually turn into a town.

The main man in the city is the owner of the saloon, he is also a brothel called “Jam Saloon” – Al Swearengen (Ian McShane). Al, in addition, controls local business, is engaged in land speculation.

Ex-police Marshal Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) arrives in Deadwood with his partner Saul Starr (John Hawkes) to open a trading shop. Seth is fearless and pathologically honest. Over time, he begins to fulfill the duties of a sheriff in the city in order to somehow cope with the utter lawlessness and constant murders that occur in the town.

By 1877, Deadwood is significantly transformed: a bank appears in it, the basis of whose wealth is the capital of Elma Ulsworth (Molly Parker), the widow of Brom Garrett, who died under mysterious circumstances, and Al Swearengen had a hand in these mysterious circumstances. Various neighborhoods are also springing up in Deadwood, including “Chinatown”.

The settlement begins to apply for the official status of the city, for which it is necessary to hold elections for the administration. However, a rich California businessman and gold miner George Hurst (Gerald McRaney) appears in the city, who enters into a tough confrontation with the locals.


The series, as is often the case with HBO, was staged very realistically, the life of people of those times was recreated with great care, and the series also quite frankly showed scenes of violence and sex, and the speech of the characters also corresponded to their time – profanity was used entirely and nearby.

Very colorful characters, conflicts of interest, competition, corruption, intrigues, secrets and investigations – this series captured me pretty quickly and did not let go: I watched it with great pleasure.

Unfortunately, the second and third seasons aroused significantly less audience interest, although, in my opinion, they were in no way inferior to the first season, and as a result, HBO did not initially renew the contracts of the actors for the fourth season, although it was not canceled at first, but then and completely stopped production, which led the fans of the series into utter despondency, because the main intrigue of the third season – the confrontation between the inhabitants of Deadwood and John Hurst – actually ended in mid-sentence.

For a while, HBO planned to release a TV movie or two that would draw a line under this story, but then it all died out.

Nevertheless, in 2018, the management nevertheless decided to create a full-length film, which, as in the case of “Mission Serenity” after the closing of the series “Firefly”, was supposed to tell about the life of the main characters of the series after the events of the last season.

In the new film “Deadwood” the action takes place in 1889 – twelve years after the events of the third season.

Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) is still the sheriff of the city and leads a respectable family life with his wife Martha (Anna Gunn): they are raising three children: a boy and two girls.

Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) is not the same anymore: continuous drinking, which he indulged in for several decades, has practically destroyed his liver, and Al also refuses to listen to the advice of Doc Cochran (Brad Dourif), who assures that if Al does not stop drinking and will not take up the mind, it will not last long.

George Hurst still has his own interests in these parts: he buys up land and conducts telephone communications around the district. Hurst is still very tough on business and will stop at nothing to get what he wants. In addition, he now has the status of a United States senator and immunity corresponding to the status.

Hearst wants to buy the land of Bullock’s old friend Charlie Uttler (Dayton Callie). Charlie at first was going to sell the land, but Seth persuades him not to do this: Hurst is well known in the district and he deserved universal hatred.

But after Charlie refuses Hurst, he is killed. At the same time, Hurst intends to buy Uttler’s land at auction – he has plenty of money.

Bullock finds out who killed Charlie and who is behind it, after which his confrontation with Hurst begins. And Hurst, in turn, intends to kill the former prostitute Trixie (Paula Malcomson), who is about to finally marry Saul Star (John Hawkes). Twelve years ago, Trixie shot Hearst, but Swearengen covered her then. Now Hurst knows who shot him then, and Trixie’s life is in terrible danger.


Well, as the finale of the series stopped at the most interesting place – it is quite suitable, as I think. All the main characters are present, the confrontation with Hurst is the basis of the plot. Showing the continuation of the stories of Trixie and Saul Star, Elma, Charlie, the most interesting character of Trouble Jane (Robin Weigert), an alcoholic woman who dresses like a man, there is also a wonderful Doc Cochran, Al’s right hand Dan Dority (Double-U Earl Brown), Saul Star, Negro Samuel Fields, Chinese Mr. Wu – everything is in place.

What didn’t you like? And, you know, I liked everything. In my opinion, everything is done exactly as it should be. We, the fans of the series, had to see the most colorful characters of the series, and we had to be told how the story with this damn Hirst would end – they showed us this, the story, in general, was finished.

Some fans of the series were terribly annoyed that the super-charismatic serial Al (I completely agree with this definition: Ian McShane’s character is one of the main characters of the series) here suffers from cirrhosis of the liver and is preparing to die. Well, McShane managed to make an amazing character even in the story of how he dies – it’s just brilliant, and it’s much better than if Al was on fire in the same way as in the series.

Sheriff Seth Bullock is a bit shabbier, but the aged character is fully consistent with the series and acts exactly the same as Bullock from the series would have acted. Well, let me remind you that for a long time I did not like Timothy Olyphant, but I really liked his role as a federal marshal in the TV series “Justice”, and I already perceived this actor in this film through a completely different prism – and I really liked him here too.

The wonderful Brad Dourif shone in the series as Doc Cochran: here he only has literally two or three episodes, which is a pity – the character is very bright and non-standard. And Dourif is always a pleasure to see: he is a very outstanding actor, started with an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Billy Bibbit, what a great Billy Bibbit) and then somehow disappeared with radar, starred in some low-budget horror films, but it’s a pity, it’s a pity – he is the strongest actor. But, thank God, it still appears somewhere.

Rogue George Hurst was excellently played by Gerald McRaney, and in this film he was even more effective than in the series. A very tough businessman who stops at nothing, but he still did not take into account that people who live according to the laws of the frontier are not inclined to bend even in front of terribly rich and influential businessmen-politicians. For which, in general, he suffered.

Some reviewers-viewers had complaints about how the line of the rich man was smashed here, wiping his feet on the locals, but I just liked it – it all looked quite lifelike.

Dayton Callie played Charlie Uttler perfectly, and he reminded of his role as Sheriff Wayne in Sons of Anarchy with this character: a gentle and good-natured man with many friends, who, however, has his own inner core, and he does not bend under anyone. That in “Sons” he had an excellent role, that here: however, here she was rather small, alas.

The filmmakers (written by series showrunner David Milch) didn’t do without flashbacks from the series – it was quite understandable, they needed to explain some storylines. For fans of the series, flashbacks were of no use – we remember everything anyway – but for viewers who did not watch the series, flashbacks still did not explain much.

What is the result? As a fan of the series, I can say that the film is very well done and I really liked it. The style of the series was kept intact, almost all the characters were introduced, the dying Al was as cool as El in his prime, the storylines from the series – Trixie and Al, Elma and Seth, other important characters – were transferred very carefully and neat, everything was on the level.

For those who have watched the series, the feature film makes a lot of sense to watch as the conclusion of the story as such. For those who haven’t watched the series, well, it’s not clear. My wife watched this movie with me, but she didn’t watch the show. She said that it looks impressive and well staged, but this is all from the series, as if you are watching the end of a story, the beginning of which you do not know. And so it is – this is exactly the end of the story.

So if you haven’t watched the Deadwood series, then you need to do one simple thing: watch the Deadwood series and then watch this film after it – this is the most correct way, because the series is quite worthy of this, and the film is worthy of it Like the series finale.


Deadwood movie meaning

Director: Daniel Minahan Cast: Dayton Callie, Timothy Olyphant, Gerald McRaney, John Hawkes, Molly Parker, Kim Dickens, Anna Gunn, Ian McShane, Paula Malcomson, Double Earl Brown, Brad Dourif

Western drama, USA, 2019, 110 min.

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