David Milch’s gritty western was abruptly cancelled 13 years ago — but HBO has finally given it the ending it deserves.
Set during the Black Hills gold rush of the 1870s, Deadwood depicted the brutality of life in a mining camp on the frontier. Based on true events and historical figures, the series brought an arthouse aesthetic to a grimy outpost with no shortage of hardships—or profanity.
The Emmy Award-winning series ended suddenly after its third season despite a growing fan base and critical acclaim. It cut character arcs and plot trajectories mid-way, leaving fans series hanging. Deadwood is commonly cited as a TV series cancelled too soon. Now, Deadwood: The Movie endeavours to make up for the series’ premature finish.
What is the plot?
A decade has passed between events in the 2006 finale and the start of Deadwood: The Movie. The once-rugged camp is well on its way to becoming a ‘proper’ town with trains and streets. The people of Deadwood are coming together to celebrate as South Dakota becomes the 20th state of the Union.
“Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought,” the official synopsis reads.
Early reviews confirm that Milch has not lost his touch; the movie seems to find beauty in depravity, murder, and betrayal, just as the show always has. Monologues also read as R-rated poetry and remain worthy of praise.
Exploring the Passage of Time
“It’s about the passage of time… it has mellowed some people and hardened others,” Executive Producer Carolyn Strauss told EW. “And it’s about the town’s maturing and becoming part of the Union and what that event sets in motion, in a very personal way for the people that it brings in town and what ensues.”
Deadwood: The Movie pits time and progress as a common enemy. As it explores the toll time takes on characters, creator David Milch faces his own struggles with time. Milch has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It is “a particularly cruel affliction for one of the finest minds in TV,” as The Guardian puts it.
Milch’s noteworthy credits include Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue. He is also revered for his rebellious side, having been expelled from Yale Law School for allegedly shooting out a police siren with a shotgun and suffering a heart attack while arguing with actor David Caruso on the set of NYPD Blue.
Who is in the cast?
Deadwood: The Movie reunites much of the series’ main cast. Ian McShane (American Gods) is back as Al Swearengen. His character known to say things like, “You can’t slit the throat of everyone…”
Timothy Olyphant (Justified) returns as Sheriff and hardware store owner Seth Bullock.
California senator George Ambrose Hearst (played by Gerald McRaney) is also back in town. While the following may differ from the character description in casting breakdowns, Swearengen describes Hearst as a “murdering, thieving c***sucker.
Other returning characters include Alma Ellsworth (played by Molly Parker), Charlie Utter (Dayton Callie), ‘Calamity’ Jane Canary (Robin Weigert), Martha Bullock (Anna Gunn), and Trixie (Paula Malcomson).
When does it air?
Deadwood: The Movie premieres on HBO on Friday, 31st May in the UK. It will also air on Sky Atlantic on Saturday, 1st June at 9 pm.
Is there a trailer?
Yes — and it hints that Deadwood: The Movie will be as beautifully profane, bloody, and brilliant as its predecessor.