Deadwood’s likely termination for financial reasons that remain fully unexplained is a situation without precedent: Never before has a series been killed when an entire season was in the can and the property was on the verge of bringing in a fresh load of money (courtesy of the newly released DVDs of the second season and the Sunday 11 premiere of the third). In online message-board posts, shell-shocked cast members have been complaining about the lack of closure, and while their statements have inspired a grassroots campaign to save the show, it’s depressingly likely that casual viewers will decide there’s no point in following a series destined to hit a brick wall on August 27. But anyone who does so will miss the opportunity to see an already terrific show scale new heights.
At the end of last season, the mining camp was struggling to remain independent from forces that wanted to absorb it, for either political reasons (the Dakota territorial government) or personal gain (rapacious tycoon George Hearst). As the story resumes, Hearst (Gerald McRaney) has prevailed, but his agenda remains unclear—he’s toying with the locals like a cat pawing a prospective meal, baffling the usually canny saloon keeper Al Swearengen (Ian McShane), who had hoped to play kingmaker in a forthcoming election. Creator David Milch has said he planned on a four-season run, and Wikipedia’s entry on the real Deadwood makes it pretty clear where things would have ended. Some journeys are more important than their destinations, though, and the injustice of a premature ending is dwarfed by the simple fact that a program this literate could win a devoted following in the era of Fear Factor and My Fair Brady.—Andrew Johnston