“Amateur Night,” AKA “Gay Fiesta,” in some ways hearkens back to the simple pleasures of Tom Nuttall’s (Leon Rippy) bicycle in “Childish Things.” Here again a common attraction brings all of the camp together for a moment’s peace amid the carnage — although this time power players stay at home. Langrishe’s (Bryan Cox) theater troupe mourns their lost peer and makes a splash in Deadwood by inviting its denizens to show off their skills onstage in a bittersweet moment of calm before the storm.
On the technical side of things, this is the first (and last) episode of Deadwood directed by Adam Davidson. “Amateur Night” punctuated by odd camera choices — handhelds and close-ups appear sporadically, as does a more salient match on action between dueling forces Al (Ian McShane) and Hearst (Gerald McRaney). For me, the shot of Mose Manuel (Pruitt Taylor Vince) backlit and of Johnny (Sean Bridgers) and Dan Dority (W. Earl Brown) smoking are standouts for their sheer aesthetic quality, reveling in sunlit fumes.
Davidson is paired with a script from Nick Towne and Zack Whedon, both prolific TV writers in their own right. “Amateur Night” features some wonderfully subtle moments for Joanie (Kim Dickens) and Jane (Robin Weigert), including one sweet moment where Jane reveals rare vulnerability and affection. Despite this, the episode never quite finds its own rhythm above the high standard the show has set for itself.
This week also closes off several storylines. “Amateur Night” sends the Earps (Gale Harold and Austin Nichols) off without their having much to do with Deadwood’s trajectory, reflecting their historically brief connection with the town. Similarly, we learn that off-screen, Odell (Omar Gooding) has died. Esther and I speculate as to what we’re supposed to assume about Hearst’s connection to the death, but that’s almost unimportant relative to the anger and sadness it induces in Aunt Lou (Cleo King). Her scene with Richardson (Ralph Richeson) is a gut punch. It remains to be seen what she’ll do with this pent up emotion.
(During our discussion, I also mentioned a recent New York Times article about the Pinkertons which you can read here.)
Now if you’ll excuse me — ah! My ham.
Next week, we’ll find ourselves exposed to “A Constant Throb” in Season 3 Episode 10.