Do monsters get their hearts broken? It's probably too far to call Al Swearengen a monster, but he's certainly a man unafraid to take a life when it suits him or beat the women who work for him. And yet, despite the fact that he has been vicious, absolutely vicious with Trixie, you feel for him a little bit here. When he hears word from Bullock (who continues to be my least favorite character on the show for self-centered quips like that) that Star and Trixie are enjoying her work for free, he is unexepctedly heartbroken. The scene where he looks out on the reverend, and you see how his eyes are red with tears while he swigs off a bottl,e show that this is not a mna made of stone; he is one with feeling and a soul, however blackened, to match it.

That's why the final scene of the episode, laden though it may be with unnecessary sexual congress, is the best in the episode. It's not a big leap to understand how Al is projecting when he sees Reverend Smith ailing in the street and declares that if something is soon to be dead, you may as well just treat it like it's dead, not spend your time wallowing over it, just moving on. It's not the first time he's spoken to one of his whores and commented nominally on someone or something else when he's really talking about himself and his own circumstances.

We learn a little more about those circumstances in that scene. Al explains that he was an orphan, one left by a mother who, whether in truth or recreated by his bitter memories, was a woman of ill-repute herself. He grew up in this filth and figured out a way to pull himself up out of it, but more than that, he clearly has abandonment issues. However cruel he is, he can still be wounded by someone turning away from him.

There's other development, few of them nearly as interesting. The only one that really holds focus is Jewel's good humor and Doc's reluctance to not taking away what mobility she has. We haven't seen much of Jewel, but she's a formidable presence here, and her "got knocked up" response to Al's inquiry as to why she went to the doctor is a hoot.

The bit with Alma's dead doesn't do much for me. There's the germ of something there in Alma lamenting how her future is decided by her ne'rdowell father while she, as a woman, is expected to just sit back and let the men talk. But this whole plot has more or less run its course for this season, and a deadbeat Alan Matthews doesn't do much to spice it up. And of course, someone rotten becomes sheriff, and Bullock can't stand it but has to go through his same old routine, with enough hinting that he's inevitably going to take on the job himself. Oh, and apart from Al's romantic troubles, he deals with the murder warrant some more, which is another "law in the land of the lawless bit" that has some depth to it, but feels stretched a little too far.

Overall, the episode is supremely boosted by Al and Trixie (the latter of whom I've probably neglected, but who conveys a great deal without the use of much dialogue and is great it), but the rest of the proceedings, short of the heart of gold sweetness of Doc and Jewel, are much less inspired.

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