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Review by Andrew Bloom

Deadwood: Season 1

1x02 Deep Water

We're only two episodes in, so take these grand proclamations with a grain of salt, but so far, Deadwood feels like an odd, wild west analogue to a different show, specifically, the first season of Daredevil. You have the bland, justice-minded good guy hero, his more yielding and business savvy partner, and he's pitted against the head of the town's local criminal enterprises, who is far more charismatic and compelling than he is. Throw in a gnarled ecosystem of outlaws and decent folks trying to get by in this broken land, and the two are oddly alike.

In that vein, part of what made this episode better than the pilot is that it focused more on Swearingen than Bullock. Having what amounts to a mafia show only set in the old west in a nice choice, and seeing how Swearingen is cruel but also calculating in tying up the loose ends from the assault on the "square heads" was undeniably captivating television. His machinations to take out both Hickok and the surviving little girl were harsh, but seem true to his character, and the way he can smell bullshit from a mile away and cut through with cold steel makes him the sort of character you don't want to watch but can't look away from.

Of course, each of these plans runs into complications. Hickok takes out Tom Mason, the brother of the man he and Bullock shot dead in the prior episode(and he's freaking Ron Swanson!), leaving him as a wildcard that Swearingen doesn't trust and can't control. And Swearingen's hatchetman can't quite do the deed when told to kill the little girl so that no one ties Swearingen to the robbery and murder of the "square head" family that caused all the ruckus in the prior episode. Instead, he passes her off to Calamity Jane and Hickok's second, conspiring with the doctor to tell Swearingen that they absconded with her.

That's more loose ends and more moments of intrigue (like Hickok and Garret's wife each having the same laudenum hand tremors). Unfortunately, we get scenes of Bullock negotiating with Swearingen, and while Al still brings the kind of sarcastic, mildly Pacino-esque authority and wit to the bargaining table, Bullock is still a pretty milquetoast Cowboy trope, which brings down the batting average.

Still, more Swearingen and the mob-like planning and plans gone awry within Deadwood make this one a step up from the prior episode, even if it had trouble keeping my attention when Swearingen wasn't on the screen.

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