6.5/10. This one's kind of a tale of two halves, or at least some kind of divide in the episode.

At the start, I thought this was going to be an Al-focus episode, and I rejoiced. The opening scene, where he's basically talking past Trixie--nominally speaking to her but mostly reassuring himself that despite his fear of what annexation and the arrival of a magistrate will mean for him and Deadwood, he has to go forward with boldness and clear eyes--and yet still expresses some genuine concern for her in his twisted, tossed off way, is one of the best in the show.

There's also a great deal of fun to be had in his rounding up the various luminaries of the camp to have a meeting. There's a sarcastic, very funny edge to Al in nearly every scene, whether he's remarking at how dumb Johnny is or lamenting how he's gotten fleeced by the magistrate and the "bribe sheet," or his response to Merrick about the difference between "ad hoc" "temporary" "gratis" and "free." The ensuing scene where everyone gathers together to create a nominal governing body (but not too governing! lest Congress get the wrong idea) to please the yanks and show them that there's some order out there in the wilderness is great too. Farnum's joy at becoming mayor, and the ridiculousness of the kangaroo congress they form is very entertaining and an interesting commentary on the the intersection of power, image, and hollowness that comes from government.

Charlie's part of the episode is also a highlight. From his run-in with Farnum where he introduces his new duds, to his moment with Joanie where he asks her opinion and she hints that he ought to be at that meeting, to Jane dressing him down about how silly he looks, his story connects with Al's in that they're both about projecting an image, whether or not what's behind it matches. Charlie isn't used to projecting respectability, and it takes a little propping up for him to get there. Al couldn't care less about good governance, but he understands (even if he laments it) the importance of projecting an image of stability to Washington.

But the one person who cuts through all that bullshit is Jane. She doesn't project an image beyond an unvarnished version of who she is, and she sees through it all, whether it be Charlie's attempts to be dignified or the reverend's attempt to keep a stiff upper lip. The reverend leans into another idea present in the episode, how those images can be a delusion, something we comfort ourselves with. The story we tell about ourselves affects how we feel about our lives. For Reverend Smith, he doesn't want to be treated for his condition because he sees it as God's will that he suffer this way. His scene with the doctor, where Doc Cochran tells him if that's true, God's a son of a bitch is a nice one that balances the comfort of faith with the skepticism of a man who's seen of suffering.

Unfortunately, the episode also spends a good amount of time with Cy and with the Bullock-Alma pairing. With respect to the former, Cy is the peak of a larger issue I have with this show, which is that there's often a real lack of economy to it. I'm all for letting scenes breathe, but there's little on this show that could be accomplished in five minutes that it doesn't stretch out to ten. When Al Swearingen is at the center, it works because he's such a captivating and entertaining character that you just want to spend more time with him. But when it's Cy, the scene just drags and drags and you feel like the show's made the point it's trying to make with him ten times over by the time the scene's through. The idea that his speech about Bella Union being a place that makes it feel like a new start, but over the long haul, the percentages say it won't be is meant as an obvious metaphor for Deadwood itself, where this lawless land is meant to be a break for everyone, but inevitably they will all get pulled back into the same B.S. they were running away from. It just spends a long time underscoring how Cy is a dick while making that point.

And we have to have more strained tension between Alma and Bullock. Oh my they're so star crossed! Oh my Bullock's pulling back because he's married even though it's implied to be a loveless marriage! And what a coincidence! That ties nicely into the idea that he has a desire to do something less-than-savory, whether it's give up pursuing justice or bed a young widow, but can't because he's just too compelled to do right on the straight and narrow! If you can't tell, I'm not a fan of this story, but at least the reciprocal pairing of Sol and Trixie has promise, and the intrigue of Al's interjection into makes it all the more interesting.

Overall, there's a lot of good stuff, but it's a very lopsided episode, with several good scenes featuring good character, but a lot more that drag out or are too on the nose.

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