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As he rides off into the sunset… (Series finale)

Deadwood Al Swearengen

First, the good news. HBO and “Deadwood” creator David Milch have agreed to two two-hour movies in 2007 to allow Milch to end the show properly. The network had originally agreed to do six more episodes, but Milch wanted a clean break from the “day in the life” format that each episode has represented thus far. So expect the two movies to cover more time, like a normal film.

Now, the bad news. This season is over, with much tension, but without much resolution. Sure, Hearst left camp, but I was expecting some sort of a fight, considering that Hawkeye showed up with his seventeen and a half men and Wu showed up with a group of Chinese. Swearengen seemed content to allow Hearst to leave peacefully, as long as he didn’t put up a stink about which whore was actually killed as punishment for Trixie’s attack last week. Had Hearst pressed Al about the whereabouts of the real Trixie, Al would have gone at him with his knife. That’s quite the display of loyalty for Swearengen to show one of his former girls.

Someone had to take Trixie’s place, and the unfortunate one was Gin, Johnny’s favorite. Johnny didn’t take too kindly to it either, and this storyline has the potential to play out in 2007. But my guess is that he’ll get over it and his loyalty to Al won’t be an issue any further.

Bullock’s temper flashed a couple of times in this episode, but Hearst let his outbursts pass without punishment. Maybe it was enough that Bullock was going to lose the (fixed) county-wide election, or maybe Hearst saw the writing on the wall and just wanted to get out of camp in one piece. Either way, he meant to leave Cy in charge of his holdings, but Cy doesn’t seem to want that, even though he agreed to the deal. Out of frustration, he killed Leon and then pulled out his pistol to take a shot at Hearst before the magnate left camp, ultimately scaring the shit out of Jeanine before heading back into his saloon.

The relationship between Jane and Joanie continues to develop and the two are starting to act like an old married couple. Jane continues to turn to alcohol whenever she gets frustrated, so it will be interesting to see if she’s able to kick the habit with Joanie’s help.

But the surprise star of tonight’s show was Charlie Utter. He was on fire throughout – first, with Hearst at his hotel door and later on in the day in defense of the proper order of the voting line. Don’t get me wrong – Al’s speech to the Chief’s head was terrific, but one expects that from him. Even though Charlie has had a few good rants in his day, his performance tonight trumped them all.

I still don’t know why Milch introduced the theater troupe, as they did not have a major impact on any of the important storylines of the season. Brian Cox is a fine actor, and I was waiting for him to make a move on Hearst in the hotel, but I was once again disappointed in the result. In the future, maybe the purpose of their presence will become clear or maybe they’ll just fade into the background – only time will tell.

So Hearst has left camp leaving Cy in charge, Alma has sold her stake, Bullock is no longer the sheriff and Trixie dodged a serious bullet. Deadwood is in a state of flux and Milch has the challenge of wrapping up everyone’s storylines (or at least most of them) in just four hours. HBO has cancelled a few good series lately – “Deadwood” and “Carnivale” are gone and “Rome” was on the chopping block before getting a year’s reprieve – so I’m wondering if this particular business model is working for them. They’ve put out some of the best TV in the last few years, so let’s hope that this stormy weather will blow through.

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