Monday, February 18, 2008

Deadwood recap - “Tell Him Something Pretty” (S3E12)

The dropping: It's the end, my friends. Hearst gets everything he ever wanted but Bullock loses his job, Alma loses her gold, Cy loses his mind, Jen and Leon lose their lives and I lose my faith in HBO for having pulled the plug on this show with so many stories left to tell.

Satan’s younger brother, George Hearst, is lying on the floor of his bedroom when someone pounds on his door. It’s Charlie Utter, telling him that a casket (containing the remains of Aunt Lou’s son, no doubt) with Hearst’s name on it has arrived at the freight office. They threaten and bluster at each other for a bit before Hearst slams the door in Charlie’s face. Over at the theater, Jack Langrishe is upset because of the delay of the opening of his theater due to the goings-on in camp and seems to be contemplating “takin’ steps of his fuckin’ own” to ensure that the theater does open on time. I think he’s considerin’ gettin’ involved.

Johnny and Adams are fetching some meat from Wu’s cold storage, Adams explaining why they left IOUs for Wu even though Wu can’t really read them: “When he ain’t lyin’, Al’s the most honorable man you’ll ever meet,” says Adams. He sees a derelict-looking Hawkeye in the thoroughfare and sends Johnny back to the Gem so he can clean up his friend before presenting him to Al. Hawkeye has managed to bring some men back, even against Al’s predictions of failure.

Alma brushes Sophia’s hair, explaining to her ward (and to us) her present options: if she wants to keep her gold claim, she’ll have to leave camp so that the thugs that she hires to defend the claim from Hearst’s thugs can do so without being distracted by having to protect her too. Instead, so she can remain in camp, she is going to sell her claim to Hearst and she is just sick at the thought of allowing that evil man to get what he wants. I don’t know, I think I’d leave, although I guess she likes the freedom and power that she has gotten for herself out here in the uncivilized territories – back East, she’d be subject to society’s rules and mores and have to live a much more restricted life. Downstairs, Bullock and Sol are waiting to take Alma to meet with Hearst; Calamity Jane is there to baby-sit during the interval.

The closing at Hearst’s rooms is pretty tense. Hearst is his usual smug self but Alma has her full-snooty on for armor and for once I don’t begrudge her. As they sign the paperwork, she snarls at him, “I recognize the pretense to civility in a man so brutally vicious as vapid and grotesque.” Hearst gets all prickly at having his character thus impugned – what a hypocrite! he recognizes his own misanthropy but can’t tolerate anyone else calling him on it – and it looks as though things might turn ugly for a bit. But they all manage to part ways physically intact, Bullock keeping as tight a rein on his temper as he is able. As Alma and the hardware boys leave, Hearst does allude to the fact that he doesn’t mind if Sol wins the mayoral election but that since the sheriff’s race is countywide, he’s just waiting to see the results come in.

Joanie stops by the Ellsworth house to see if Jane needs anything from “the center” [of camp]. Jane flirts awkwardly with her but Joanie doesn’t respond as well as Jane would like. I don’t like this scene, and I don’t like the one that comes later on, when a drunk and jealous Jane is sulking in their room because Joanie wouldn’t flirt back. This jealousy just doesn’t ring true for me and I feel like it cheapens the characters. I don’t disbelieve that these two damaged women might find solace in each other, but I don’t like the pouting. A little later, Joanie stops by the Bella Union to reach out to Cy, telling him that she has finally found some happiness in her life and she is grateful to him for having kept her alive long enough to have found it – she would have died years ago without his protection. (And by “protection” I mean abuse and forcing her into prostitution, so yeah, he’s a real fuckin’ saint.) Cy is his usual charming self, of course.

E.B. stops by Hearst’s room and the big man gives him a message to deliver to Al. E.B. takes it to the Gem with some trepidation. Al reads the note that says that Hearst expects that the whore who shot him will be killed in punishment for her deed. Al is pissed off but says Hearst will have his answer in an hour. He calls Johnny in and, pouring them both drinks, tells him that Jen (Johnny’s favorite whore, a pretty and sweet blonde) is going to have to be killed. They need a body in the coffin and Al figures Hearst probably only paid attention to “Trixie’s tits and snatch, so Jen’ll adequately pass.” Johnny is so upset – “She’s a nice girl! She’s learnin’ to read!” – but says he’ll do it because Jen is afraid of Al. He takes Al’s big knife and leaves, blurting “Fuckin’ Trixie!” as he goes. “Don’t get me fuckin’ started,” commiserates Al.

At Sol’s house, fuckin’ Trixie is a wreck. First she says she’s going to give away blowjobs for everyone who votes for Sol for mayor, then she shouts that she doesn’t care what happens to her, she just can’t hide inside any longer. Sol gets angry with her and accuses her of not being afraid to die, only being scared of living there with him. He throws her out of the house but then relents, letting her back in and taking her into his arms, both of them crying.

Johnny stops by the Gem whores’ ready-room, saying he wants to talk; Jen turns around and bends over, raising her skirts. Johnny shouts no, it’s actual conversation he’s after! He puts his arms around her, trying work up the nerve to murder her, but he can’t do it. I’m glad – Johnny is too sweet for this. He goes back out and stands up to Al, saying it ain’t fair and he won’t tell Al into the room to kill her himself. He’s willing to die in her stead but is “preferrin’ [Al] handle things different.” Al lets him be for the moment, taking Dan aside and telling him to let Johnny cool down and then knock him out. Al’s got to go look for another fuckin’ knife.

Out in the thoroughfare, the Pinkertons are giving free booze to everyone who votes against Bullock; they also try to pick a fight with the N.G. as he’s in line to vote but Charlie sticks up for him and keeps the voting moving along.

Sol goes to see Al, saying that Trixie fears that Swearengen will kill one of the other whores in her place. Al says he’s already done it (liar). He then tell Sol to (a) relay to Hearst he can come see his would-be assassin’s body at the Gem, (b) fetch Bullock over to the Gem before Hearst shows up, and (c) tell Trixie to stop being such a drama queen and get over it already. Adams and Hawkeye report to Al that Hawkeye has brought “almost eighteen” men for him. Al wants to know what that means; Adams explains that there are seventeen normal-sized men and “a short one that’s hell with a knife.” “Turn me loose,” snarks Dan as Al rolls his eyes.

Al goes to his office to collect himself, have some of the good whiskey and give one last rant to the boxed Indian’s head. He explains to the head (and to us) that he is not about to kill Trixie because she took care of him when he was sick and also took more than her share of beatings. He wishes that he’d learned to use a gun but, since he never did, up close and personal is what it’s got to be. He comes out of his office and sees Jen just finishing up with a paying customer. Gently (for Al), he asks her to come here and closes the door so we don’t have see the deed being done.

Charlie checks in with Bullock, letting him know how the voting is going, when Sol bursts in, saying everything is wrong. That’ll keep the sheriff calm. At the hotel, Jack Langrishe is conversing with Hearst. It starts pleasantly enough, Jack opining that while he sees Swearengen and Bullock (the latter “less possessing his character than being possessed by it” – heh) as little men whose stories will be entirely contained here in camp, Hearst is a bigger personage who will move on to greater glory. He even invokes Hearst’s magical words, saying “… the earth entertaining some large purpose to be told you [Hearst] elsewhere and at another time.” Hearst gets very intense and slightly agitated, hearing someone else pick up on what he has always believed – that the earth speaks to him. Jack gets a bit nervous at the other man’s increased intensity but probes further until Hearst reveals that he is definitely leaving camp for Montana, although not until he gets the election results and sees the dead body of the whore who tried to kill him.

After cutting Jen’s throat, Al comes downstairs and instructs Dan to box her in his office, leaving the blood there on the floor for Hearst to see. “Later, if we’re all still alive, I’ll clean up my own fuckin’ mess,” he says when Dan asks if Jewel should scrub the floor afterwards. Trixie is up there, crying and dressing Jen’s body in the dress she wore when she shot Hearst. Bullock arrives at the Gem and Al asks him how he thinks he might enjoy private life, as the results are in from Sturgis: “970 votes for Harry Manning, 68 for Mr. Bullock,” according to Blazenoff. Al’s plan is this: they all stand united in the saloon when Hearst arrives but Al will go up alone with Hearst when he views the body. If it gets ugly up there, Al will try to knife Hearst and, if that doesn’t work, the rest is up to them.

A Pinkerton has delivered another message to Cy from Hearst: Hearst has selected him to oversee the Hearst interests in camp. Cy can’t say no, obviously, but is pretty tired of being a puppet for men with real power. He goes out on the balcony, the new whore and Leon with him. They observe Wu’s newly arrived Chinese being outfitted with guns, Al’s crew of 17.5 gunmen hanging around outside the hardware store, and Hearst’s small army of Pinkertons loitering in the thoroughfare. The situation looks to be getting pretty tense and Cy, unhinged lunatic that he is, stabs Leon in the upper thigh just because he can, leaving the junkie to bleed out.

Hearst arrives at the Gem and starts making cracks about Bullock’s imminent ouster as sheriff. In turn, Bullock accuses him of buying “Yankton’s whore” and padding the vote with repeaters and soldiers. Al has no patience for this political bullshit and asks if Hearst isn’t here to “verify a croaker.” Hearst confirms that he is, and brings several of his Pinkertons into Al’s office as back-up; Al says he thinks he’ll just come in alone. He opens the coffin. Hearst reaches in and EEEWW! actually feels poor Jen’s neck to be sure that her throat was truly cut. Satisfied, he and his goons leave. Bullock asks Al if the dead whore has family that should be notified and Al grouches that he doesn’t notify fuckin’ family. “I guess especially not hers,” says Bullock, but without any edge to it. Al tells him that Jen has a sister who whores at the Yellow Bird in Gunnison, if Bullock wants to write her a letter. Then he tells Dan that he’ll take that scrub brush now.

Out in the thoroughfare, Hearst climbs up on a wagon, preparing to leave camp. Up on his balcony, Cy drags out a pistol, aiming it at Hearst until Bullock stomps out for one last dig at the mining magnate. Hearst is content, however, having accomplished enough evil for now, and drives out of Deadwood with no further bloodshed. Charlie tells Bullock that he did good; Bullock shakes his head, “I did nothin’.” He says he’s going to go home and try to tell himself that he wasn’t a sucker, then pats his deputy on the shoulder and heads back to his house.

Al scrubs his floor, cleaning up the blood. Johnny pauses in the doorway and, not looking at his boss, asks if Jen suffered. Al says that he was as gentle as he was able and that they’ll not speak of this again. Johnny moves on and Al looks at the girl’s coffin. “Wants me to tell him something pretty,” Al mutters and goes back to his scrubbing. And that is the end of that.

Mr. Mouse and I are convinced that the Deadwood producers did not know that this was going to be it when these last episodes were written. If so, I'm sure there would have been much more bloodshed - maybe not Hearst since he's historical but certainly more than tertiary junkie and whore characters. If it's a series finale, you might as well kill off some important characters (just ask BtVS or Angel). And why else would there have been so much time spent on Jack Langrishe and his actors if the writers didn't think there would be a S4? I wish we knew how Al and Dan met, and what Al and Jack's history is. Now we'll never know if Doc survives or if Sol manages to make an honest woman out of Trixie. I regret not having watched this show when it was on but, in retrospect, I think my heart is broken just a little less having fallen in love with Deadwood knowing it was already dead. R.I.P., you fuckin' amazing show - it's been a pleasure and an honor.

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  1. I love your recaps and share your sorrow! I recently heard Milch saying that he fully intended for S312 to be the "ending" and he meant it as a finale. Odd, since he carried on about tying it up with the phantom "2 movies" and has talked at length about how the theater people arc would be tied up in S4, how Teddy Roosevelt would be in S4...lotta detail if he knew S3 was it. Following Milch's work is an exercise in frustration at times. And I don't believe his "I meant to do that" position now.

  2. Thank you friend mouse for your hard work!!

  3. Thank you for making an amazing show even better.

    1. Thanks for reading/commenting! I sure wish there had been more episodes of this show ...

  4. You said it best (so many times, over and over) it has been a pleasure and an honor. The show and your recaps. Well written to the end. Thank you for adding resonance to one of the finest shows to ever grace the little screen.

    1. Thank you so much for reading through and commenting. Deadwood 4ever!