After a drawn-out hiatus, “Hoopleheads” is back with our second to last episode covering Season 1. This week we discuss “Jewel’s Boot is Made for Walking,” an engaging episode that hints at Al’s (Ian McShane) backstory as another side characters take center stage. The titular Jewel (Geri Jewell) gets a particularly intriguing storyline as she pushes Doc Cochran (Brad Dourif) to create a better brace for her leg.
J and I enjoyed watching Jewel continue to assert her independence in a town that is merciless even to the able-bodied. Her begrudging protection from Al is probably no small part of her success thus far, but it is clear from Xavier Grobet’s cinematography and her own actions that Jewel’s courageous force of will has allowed her to fight for her place in Deadwood. All of this is communicated first and foremost by an endlessly watchable Geri Jewell.
We’re also privy to some of Al’s innermost feelings about his childhood and how a man from Chicago managed to find his way to the frontier. As I point out in our discussion, of course, Al’s words are so slurred and incoherent it’s difficult to get a grip on what exactly happened to him as a child. Perhaps that ultimately doesn’t matter, though: McShane’s matter-of-fact delivery belies a painful emotional connection to his past, and his treatment of Jewel and a fatally ill Reverend Smith (Ray McKinnon) continue to flesh out his soft spots.
We also spend a fair amount of time on Seth (Timothy Olyphant) and Alma (Molly Parker) as Alma’s father, Otis (William Russ), exerts toxic control over his daughter’s affairs. In this context, even Seth ends up complicit in taking away Alma’s agency by dealing with her father in private. Alma sums up the situation as she and Sofia (Bree Seanna Wall) watch Seth and Otis from a window, “If we didn’t hate them too much to be curious about the world, we’d wonder what they had to say.”
Stay tuned for our discussion of the Deadwood Season 1 finale, “Sold Under Sin.”