Deadwood (episode)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Deadwood episode
Episode no.Season 1
Episode 1
Directed byWalter Hill
Written byDavid Milch
Cinematography byLloyd Ahern II
Editing byFreeman A. Davies
Original air dateMarch 21, 2004 (2004-03-21)
Running time62 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
← Previous
Next →
"Deep Water"
List of Deadwood episodes

"Deadwood" is the first episode of the first season of the HBO original series of the same name. The episode was written by David Milch and directed by Walter Hill. It first aired on March 21, 2004.


Seth Bullock, a Montana Territory marshal, watches over inmate Clell Watson, a man sentenced to death for stealing a horse. Lamenting his misfortune, Watson mentions that he, like Bullock, was headed to Deadwood, a camp on Indian land in the Dakota Territory. While Watson seeks to make his fortune prospecting in the gold-rich region, Bullock aspires to open a hardware store there with his business partner, Sol Star.

Watson attempts to make a deal with Bullock to secure his release, claiming to know of easy opportunities for thievery along the way to Deadwood, but his pleas are cut short by Star, who arrives informing Bullock that the owner of the stolen horse has gathered together a drunken mob and is descending upon them. Rather than turn Watson over to the angry mob, Bullock takes him out to face them and publicly hangs him on the front porch of the sheriff's office, but not before writing down his last words and giving them, along with his marshal's badge, to a member of the mob who volunteers to convey them to Watson's sister. Star and Bullock then leave for Deadwood on a wagon full of hardware goods.

Upon arrival in Deadwood, Star and Bullock rent a vacant lot from Dan Dority, who tells them that payment is due every morning to Al Swearengen, the proprietor of the Gem Saloon, a local brothel.

At the Gem, Swearengen converses with Whitney Ellsworth, a local prospector, when a gunshot rings out. Rushing upstairs, he discovers that Trixie, one of the prostitutes, has shot a customer in the head after he became abusive with her. The customer manages to survive for twenty minutes, but dies shortly after the arrival of Doc Cochran. Swearengen ruthlessly beats Trixie in his office, furious at the possible effect of a customer's death on his business and reputation. Meanwhile, Cochran and Johnny Burns deliver the corpse to Mr. Wu, an associate of Swearengen's and leader of the Deadwood Chinese community, who feeds it to his pigs.

Wild Bill Hickok, a famous gunslinger, arrives in Deadwood, along with his companions Charlie Utter and Calamity Jane. During a delay on the road, Jane encounters a Norwegian family returning home to Minnesota. One of the Norwegian children, Sofia Metz, smiles at Jane as they pass.

As Jane tends to the stock, Hickok and Utter check into E. B. Farnum's Grand Central Hotel and then visit Tom Nuttall's No. 10 Saloon. Nuttall and A. W. Merrick, editor of the local newspaper The Deadwood Pioneer, are noticeably impressed to meet the famous Hickok, but Jack McCall, a man at one of the poker tables, whispers to his fellow players that he is not impressed. As Hickok sits to play poker at McCall's table, Utter and Nuttall negotiate a fee for Hickok's regular appearance in the saloon.

Farnum reports Hickok's arrival to Swearengen, who is annoyed by the complication of having a famous former lawman in the camp. Dority reports that Brom Garret, a wealthy aspiring prospector from New York City, has arrived at the Gem. Swearengen dispatches Farnum to collect Tim Driscoll, the owner of a nearby gold claim eyed by Garret. Swearengen then greets Garret and, upon the arrival of a drunk Driscoll, the team of Farnum, Driscoll, and Swearengen run a con game on Garret to purchase Driscoll's claim for $14,000. Driscoll goes beyond the scripted con, and works Garret up, eventually getting him to pay $20,000, instead of $14,000, for the claim. As Driscoll is heavily indebted to the Gem, Swearengen pockets the money and later has Dority stab Driscoll to death in Farnum's hotel, possibly because of Driscoll's jeopardizing Swearengen's hopes of future further fleecing of the tenderfoot Garret.

Star and Bullock set up shop in a tent on their lot. At nightfall they hire Reverend Smith, the local pastor, to watch their goods as they explore the camp. Upon leaving their tent, Star and Bullock run into Ned Mason, a disoriented man who claims to have witnessed the massacre of a white family by Sioux along the road to Spearfish. Though Mason wishes to visit the Gem, Bullock takes him to Nuttall's saloon, where he forces him to recount the story. Despite Bullock's urging to return to the scene to check for survivors, Mason is reluctant, worried for his own safety. Hickok, who had remained at the saloon at poker, offers to ride with them as protection. As the search party leaves the saloon, Bullock confides to Hickok his suspicions about Mason's story.

News of the departing party reaches Swearengen, who is furious at the potential disruption to his business and resorts to offering free liquor and prostitutes at half price in an effort to keep his customers from joining the search that night, counseling them to wait until they were clearheaded and better organized the following day. Upon arrival at the scene, the search party finds a ransacked wagon and the mutilated corpses of the Norwegian family earlier encountered by Jane. After chasing off some wolves, Bullock searches the area and finds Sofia Metz, wounded but alive, lying under a bush nearby.

After dropping Sofia off with Doc Cochran, Bullock and Hickok confront Mason on the camp thoroughfare, stating that there was too much ransacking at the scene to be consistent with an Indian attack and that it was more likely a staged robbery. Mason tries to defend himself, arguing that he never would have returned to camp had he been involved, but Hickok says that he, like Mason, had often felt the need for sex and gambling after a kill. Cornered, Mason attempts to attack but is outdrawn and shot dead by Hickok and Bullock. From his window on the second floor of the Gem, Swearengen watches the events unfold until Trixie enters and, despite the brutal beating earlier, climbs into bed with him.


Development and casting[edit]

Creator David Milch pitched to HBO a series set in Ancient Rome, exploring the introduction of law and order to a civilization. When HBO executives Chris Albrecht and Carolyn Strauss suggested that he change his setting due to the network already having Rome in development, Milch transposed the themes to 1800s Deadwood.[1] In a later interview, Milch reflected, "It had seemed to me that the symbol of the cross as the organizing principle of behavior could be transliterated to the symbol of the badge, as a similar organizing principle."[2] Milch wrote the role of Al Swearengen with Ed O'Neill in mind, having worked with him on the CBS series Big Apple, but executives were reluctant to build a series around an actor still associated with his lead role in Married... with Children. Powers Boothe was then cast in the role but was forced to withdraw due to illness, leading to the casting of Ian McShane. After Boothe recovered, he began playing Cy Tolliver on the series, a character introduced in the third episode of the first season.[3]


The credited starring cast consists of Timothy Olyphant (Seth Bullock), Ian McShane (Al Swearengen), Molly Parker (Alma Garret), Jim Beaver (Whitney Ellsworth), Brad Dourif (Doc Cochran), John Hawkes (Sol Star), Paula Malcomson (Trixie), Leon Rippy (Tom Nuttall), William Sanderson (E. B. Farnum), Robin Weigert (Calamity Jane), W. Earl Brown (Dan Dority), Dayton Callie (Charlie Utter), and Keith Carradine (Wild Bill Hickok).

Guest stars[edit]


Director Walter Hill won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for "Deadwood", while writer David Milch received a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series nomination.[4] Hill also won the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Drama Series.


  1. ^ Levine, Stuart (June 16, 2004). "Deadwood". Variety. Retrieved September 20, 2017.
  2. ^ Sepinwall, Alan. The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers, and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever. Self published, 2012, p. 107.
  3. ^ Sepinwall, Alan. The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers, and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever. Self published, 2012, p. 107-108.
  4. ^ "Deadwood". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved September 20, 2017.

External links[edit]