I’m convinced the only reason that David Milch’s extraordinary deconstruction of the Western, Deadwood, isn’t regularly on the shortlist of Greatest Television Shows Of All-Time is that it never got a chance to end properly.
After three seasons, David Milch and/or HBO cut it short, promising those of us who loved its multi-dimensional characters, intertwining plotlines and poetically profane use of language that there would be a pair of two-hour movies to wrap things up.
This was one of those situations where I really wanted to believe that it was going to happen, but knew in my heart of hearts that it was total and utter bullshit.
Especially when that bullshit became manifest in the form of John From Cincinnati, which started out either incredibly slow, and swiftly became unwatchable, or started out unwatchable and swiftly became incredibly slow.1
Look, I don’t need “Samwise seeing Frodo off at the Grey Havens” endings for everything — I was perfectly happy with last scene of The Sopranos — but in the case of Deadwood, they were still adding plotlines and characters in the last couple of episodes (what was up with those traveling actors?).
It seemed like we were just beginning to find out who Al Swearengen, Seth Bullock, et al. really were, and while I doubted that they could give us enough in four hours, it was still better than none.
Well, in any event, fellow Deadwood fans, it looks like we have our conclusion. Not so much with another season, or the movies, but rather as an extra on the upcoming Deadwood: The Complete Series box set.
The 19-disc, 36 hour “Deadwood: The Complete Series” boxed set, with a suggested retail price of $179.97, will be released by HBO Home Entertainment Dec. 9.
Among its two hours of bonus materials is something called “The Meaning of Endings” described as “creator David Milch’s discussion on what would have happened had the ‘Deadwood’ series continued” in an HBO Home Entertainment press release Tuesday.
So, we’ve gone from the two hour movies to “a discussion.” By David Milch, whom, if you’ve ever watched the extras on the individual season box sets, is stone batshit crazy at worst and only able to have discussions with aliens on a higher intellectual plane that the rest of us at best.
And notice that it’s called “The Meaning of Endings,” which means that it will be a philosophical discussion on the nature of how things end, but don’t ever really end because the universe finds a way to carry on and really, whatever endings we believe that these characters should have are the endings that they do have, really. Unless, of course, they don’t.
Oh, and I only get to see this if I pay $180 for the full series set — despite the fact that I’ve already paid at least $100 for HBO during the initial runs and at least $180 total for the individual season box sets after that.
So, Deadwood fans, the only conclusion I can see is: “screw you!”
In the end, it makes me more sad than anything: there is a part of me that knows that Deadwood could have ended up as perhaps the greatest thing ever created for TV, better than The Sopranos, better than The Wire, better than anything you could possibly name, but in the end, they just packed up their six-guns and slunk out of town.
1There are people whose taste I greatly respect who loved John From Cincinnati, and I will admit that my distaste for it at least partly stemmed from the fact that Milch was wasting his time doing it instead of Deadwood. Kinda like when Neil Young works with Crosby, Stills and Nash. So it’s entirely possible that if I sat down to watch it again, I would discover that it was a lost, existential classic. If I could ever stop throwing things at my TV, that is.