Back from the grave, Deadwood returns to save us all. Yes, the HBO hallmark series that was once a major contributor to the “Golden Age” of television from the previous decade has been resurrected and given the closure that is so rightly deserved. As you may remember, the series was abruptly cancelled after a mere three seasons, at a time when it hadn’t lost any luster and felt like it was still growing into something all the more special. David Milch, the show’s creator, show-runner, and writer, would never be able to replicate that success again with failed attempts at reclaiming television greatness in John from Cincinnati (2007) and Luck (2011-2012). The majority of the cast would also struggle to reach the heights of their performances in Deadwood, with the exception of Timothy Olyphant, who went on to star in the wildly successful FX series Justified (2010-2015). Now, thirteen years after its cancellation, HBO, Milch, and the team present a feature length film that brings the world of Deadwood back to our TV screens. Friends, the long wait and heartbreak were worth it. This is the ending we deserved.
We come back into this prospering town in 1889, some ten-plus years after the original series ended. The movie does a tremendous job of feeling like a direct continuation of the series as we left it, despite all the time that has past (both in real life and in the show). It sets up direct links to plot threads that were being explored at the close of the series, such as George Hearst’s influence over the town, Calamity Jane’s relationship with Joanie Stubbs, and Alma Ellsworth’s complicated romantic history. These are only a few of the ideas from the past that are brought back to roost, yet somehow the movie manages to give equal time and care to every storyline and character that returns. The exceptionally dense dialogue is also continued here, with every conversation between beloved characters carrying the weight of years passed by. Everything feels passionately genuine. The actors pour their heart and soul into every line, making longtime viewers weep with their resonant delivery and compassionate dedication.
Seeing these long lost characters interact with each other again after all these years via rich and snappy dialogue is everything we could have hoped for. The premise for the film, which brings now California Senator George Hearst back to town to celebrate the impending statehood of South Dakota, feels fundamentally appropriate and organic in bringing the conflict that concluded the show’s third season back to the forefront. All our favorite characters from Deadwood must reckon with their feelings over Hearst once more and the crippling departure he had from their camp ten years prior. Frankly, it’s pretty unbelievable that things seem to fall into place and rhythmically move forward the way they do, and for that, we must again bring praise to writer David Milch. Recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, this may likely be his final work. If this is indeed the case, he should be proud to know that he went out on the best note possible, gifting longtime fans with that which they had previously imagined only in their dreams.
Deadwood will continue to be regarded as one of the most highly respected television dramas ever, with an ensemble cast rarely matched and a writing style unique in its conception and memorable in its delivery. This film likely won’t have any effect on how the show itself will be remembered, but instead can be viewed as an incredibly rewarding dessert to the wholesome entrée, something that both brings further satisfaction and imposes feelings of resolution. For years, we were left wondering what more Deadwood could have had left to give. Now, finally, thirteen years later, in an act of magic from David Milch the magician and his vast cast of mountain misfits, we have our answer. Deadwood: The Film is a perfect combination of past success, honoring it as such, and coming back together to produce something wholly new and equally as essential. We couldn’t have hoped for anything more.
Deadwood: The Movie is now streaming on HBO GO and HBO NOW