“Sold Under Sin” reveals the shattered backstories of several key character in Deadwood. From Joanie’s (Kim Dickens) abuse at the hands of her father and subsequently Cy Tolliver (Powers Boothe) to Alma Garret’s (Molly Parker) chattel-like status in Otis’s (William Russ) eyes, we begin to see how Deadwood tells the story of characters breaking free of their past. Even Al (Ian McShane) hints again at his troubled youth with his brother as Reverend Smith (Ray McKinnon) is mercifully laid to rest.
This theme of redemption, or at least liberation, in the town of Deadwood holds true across several storylines this season. City folks like Brom Garret (Timothy Omundson), Otis and the magistrate (Marshall Bell) make their way to the frontier settlement with a certain arrogance of status only to find themselves out of their element. And when forces of order enter the town like the army, Al and the other power players make every effort to limit their presence and mitigate their influence.
There is no doubt that Deadwood is a town steeped in patriarchal systems. Yet we see characters like Joanie and Jewel (Geri Jewell) demand a place alongside her counterparts. In this episode, Doc Cochran (Brad Dourif) struggles with his anguish over the Civil War and delivers on the boot he promised to make for Jewel. A heartwarming scene captures the liberation of Deadwood. Jewel and the doctor dance in a moment of genuine happiness: Cochran enjoying a few moments of peace after the reverend’s passing and Jewel with a newfound freedom of movement.
The one character who seems unable to escape their history is Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant). He’s left his wife and child behind and found new love with Alma, but the specter of the life he’d committed to still hangs over him. Moreover his rage seems as much a part of him as anything else, and while he no longer wanted a role in law enforcement, he now finds himself sheriff of Deadwood. Yet maybe there’s something different this time.
As his demons get the better of him, we see a Bullock whose wholesome ideas of right and wrong may have a grey area — a feature that will be useful in a town as morally ambiguous as Deadwood.
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That’s a wrap on Season 1 of Deadwood and “Hoopleheads”! It has been an absolute pleasure navigating the frontier with you all. Interested in more? Leave a comment below and we’ll be sure to circle back on Season 2 in the future. We’re just as sad it’s over as you are.