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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Deadwood Season 2: A Lie Agreed Upon (Parts I and II)

Since Sepinwall is only going through Season One this summer, and that is way too slow a DVD pace for most of us, I'm going to switch to episodic reviews of Deadwood Season 2.

A Lie Agreed Upon takes place several months after the end of Season One. This is established in several ways. Cy mentions President Hayes, putting us into 1877, and Seth has had time to build a house for the wife and son he inherited from his dead brother.

The season gets off to an explosive start, as Al Swearengen, angry at some bad news from the governor delivered by Silas Adams (Titus Welliver), taunts Seth from his balcony over the sheriff's affair with the widow Garret. Cy Tolliver struggles to contain his rage as Joanie's plans to open her own high-end whorehouse (a plan which had seemed abandoned) come to fruition. Powers Boothe is brilliant at displaying Cy's fearsome nature, mixed with his obvious tenderness towards Joanie. We also get a peek into Seth's administering of justice, as he goes easy on a bartender at Tom Nutall's saloon who shot the wrong man because he was wearing the same coat as the drunkard who pissed on him. Deadwood may have a law and order type, but actual law and order still seems far off.

The overall theme of Deadwood is still the way a society is formed. As the fight between Al and Seth spills over the balcony and into the street, this theme is rammed home in the way the various residents of the camp respond. Sol Star and Charlie Utter prepare to help the sheriff while Johnny and Dan Dority arm themselves to defend Al. Merrick the newspaperman is there to get the story. The stagecoach carrying Mrs. Bullock and her son, as well as the well-endowed new whores for Joanie, arrives just in time for Al to be moved not to stab Seth with the knife he had hidden on his person.

The principal question of these first two episodes is of course, what is the lie to be agreed upon? It is pretty clear early on that it will have something to do with Seth and Alma Garrett. There is an awkward scene where Mrs. Garret tries to warmly welcome the new arrivals while Sol and Charlie lie wounded in the hardware store, and it seems as though everyone will just be agreeing to pretend that Seth and his wife are a happy family.

In Part II the action is dialed down but the situation only becomes more tense as the time for Seth to get his gun and badge back from the Gem saloon draws near. Sol and Charlie separately try to counsel Seth to no avail, while a newly returned and even drunker Calamity Jane eggs him on to violence. All three back him up as he stands in front of the Gem, with Trixie hanging back with a shotgun.

It seems this is going to be a troublesome year for Swearengen. The camp seems to be full of people suddenly brave enough to resist his control. And not only that, but even before the fight with Seth, his body seems to be betraying him. He is having difficulty urinating and is in no small amount of distress over it. It's going to be fascinating seeing how he reacts to these two fronts of opposition.

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