6.5/10. Look, I'm not a squeamish man, and I believe in the idea of not shying away from the brutality that existed in historical periods. And yet, I didn't really want to sit around and watch Cy Tolliver beat the crap out of Flora, force Joanie to murder her despite the fact that, as Flora herself points out, Flora clearly reminds her of someone she loved, and then turn around and play the sweetheart to Joanie when she's shaken by the aftermath. That's likely the part. Al Swearingen ordered the death of a child, and yet he's so deliciously and entertainingly slimy in every scene he's in that you can't help but like him, just a little. Cy doesn't quite have that charisma, but if you were on the fence, this seals him as something approaching a monster. Worse than those scenes with violence is his doing the abusive lover routine on Joanie on that balcony afterwards. Something about the comingling of severe violence and doom-tinged tenderness seems particularly awful. Joanie's response that he must either let her go or kill her is a chilling end to it.
But perhaps battered woman's syndrome, or the abuses visited on the distaff members of Deadwood is the theme this week. After all, Trixie is offered two ways out--an offer from Doc to euthanize her if that's what she wants, or an escape to New York with little Sophia. Instead, after trying to kill herself, and after being offered enough gold to make a new life, she goes back to Al. Why does she do it? The episode plays a bit coy, or at least leaves it to subtext. Maybe she's loyal, maybe she doesn't believe she could really escape, maybe a piece of her loves Al, and maybe she's just been so abused so as to believe the only place that makes sense for her his by Swearingen's side. Al seems to have some genuine affection for her (and maybe Cy does for Joanie too), but isn't that part of the abuse, part of what makes it feel so pernicious and horrible, how real sweetness is mixed with such harshness, such cruelty, and such debasement?
Alma is the least interesting part of this triumverate (perhaps Flora makes it a quarter, as she and Sophia are the other women who drive this week's episode), but even she is burdened with the same choice that Joanie and Trixie are -- whether to say or whether to go, one way or another.
Still, a lot of this was a little too slow for me, and the violence a little too graphic. Given my enjoyment of shows like Mad Men and Game of Thrones, that's not usually a complaint from me, so I'm not sure why these things put me off here, but what can I say?