One man who seemingly ought to die is set free, and another who seemingly ought to live is left to die. Both of them end in those fates because of business interests that are beyond their ken.

Jack McCall is set free, and told to get the hell out of town, because it's in Al's, and everyone else prospecting in Deadwood for that matter's, interest that the U.S. government doesn't start thinking they're some sort of rebel society out there trying to organize themselves such that it can come in, annex the lot of them, and disregard their claims. He doesn't want the ruckus or the risk, so the acid-tongued wit of Swearingen prevails upon the presiding judge and those assembled to let McCall out of dodge.

Meanwhile, Andy is left to die out in the middle of nowhere, because getting him the help he needs would require acknowledging that there's a diseased man in the Bella Union saloon, and that would frighten off any business in that burgeoning speakeasy.

I think I appreciate this show more as an examination of Hobbes' state of nature. What do we do when there are no laws to constrain us, when the only interests that prevail are not the common interest, but that fragile balance of power involved in what we can get away with and what we can't that prompts men to make backroom deals and sweep the less fortunate under the rug when it suits them. That courtroom, hastily assembled, and just as quickly returned to a brothel (Al sees to that) is an ad hoc body, made as a simulacra of the real thing, a pretension to justice in a land that lacks it.

That is, except for Bullock, who is nigh-insufferable in his "I'm retired from being a good man, damnit! Stop pressing me to do right, reverend" routine! I've seen Olypant praised for his intensity as Bullock, and there's a clear angry fire burning within the character as he tries to suppress his justice-minded instincts, mind his own business with the hardware store, and not go after the killer set free. At the same time, it's kind of a shallow characterization. We get that he's tried to get out, and they're pulling him back in, but it's not really clear why (though I suspect we'll learn why sooner or later), and in the interim, his snippiness is fairly one-note rather than layered.

There is, however, special attention paid to the female members of the cast here. Alma and Trixie have a moment of recognition and acceptance between the two of them as Trixie takes on looking after the young girl who survived the massacre. There's common ground between a high-born lady and Al's favorite whore, and there's an interesting commentary in how the scales are leveled for the two of them a bit in this lawless town. We all see Joanie grow short with Cy over his treatment of Andy. It's hard to know if there's more to it than a growing schism between the proprietor and his lieutenants (something that's mirrored with E.B.'s solitary squawking about having to clean up Al's mess), but it seems like it's leading to more.

Lastly, of course, is Calamity Jane, who is one of the more unique creations in this show. Her unfinished demeanor, but real tears shed for Bill Hickok and kindness shown to Andy suggests that the woman treated much like a leper in that town may be the one with the most humanity. It's she who mourns, apart from the larger push and pull of justice, and it's she who shows that dying man mercy. There is, perhaps, and intended lesson there, about the ones excluded from the larger forces of this free-for-all being the ones who actually retain their decency. The same goes for the doctor, who continues to make an impression as a neutral party in all these affairs, one who's not trying to upset the applecart or do much more than ply his trade, but who's willing to stand up to the likes of Al and Cy and work his influence on the town for the greater good in his own way.

The only thing that still throws me off in the midst of all this thematic heft is the general and writing style of the show. It's not that it's bad, but it's very stagey, full of monologues that feel as though they could be transported to the theater and lose little, and lyrical phrases that, while suited to the period setting, also feel like a certain type of mannered dialogue meant for self-conscious presentation rather than naturalism. Again, there's nothing wrong with that in particular, but the style takes some getting used to, and it makes it tougher for individual moments to feel as affecting for me.

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