Following a more by-the-numbers episode last week, Deadwood is back with a vengeance in “Complications” under the excellent direction of Gregg Fienberg. Al (Ian McShane) has risen from the near-dead and summoned Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) back into the fray. But as their yin and yang begin to take shape again and set the camp to rights, Al shows some vulnerability to Doc Cochrane (Brad Dourif). Both Josh and I found the moment deeply affecting, a moment that challenges Al’s brazen masculinity in a similar way to the characters of Michael Mann’s films.
The biggest news of the episode, however, is Alma’s (Molly Parker) pregnancy. Here she finds herself in a predicament: her child, surely Bullock’s, will pose both medical and social difficulties. On the other hand, abortion in the 1800s was a perilous science that might well lead to death. Alma earns some sympathy from Trixie (Paula Malcomson) whose callous exterior gives way to some cross-class solidarity.
Finally, we’re reunited with the livery owner Hostetler (Richard Gant) and newcomer Samuel Fields (Franklyn Ajaye) who negotiate the realities of racial hatred in Deadwood as a means of survival. This episode more than most others bring the harshness of the mostly white-controlled frontier into a new light; an angry mob furious at the prospect of losing their claims immediately turns to an expectant Fields for a scapegoat. What follows is hard to watch and is only halted by Bullock’s furious intervention.
Next week, we’ll dive into Season 2 Episode 6, “Something Very Expensive.”