It took well over a decade, but David Milch finally has the ending to Deadwood he deserves. And we, the audience, are the beneficiaries. Rarely do these things go well. Milch has delivered, however, a two-hour movie finale that celebrates the things that make the original HBO series one of the greatest TV shows of all time. The friendships, the romance, the language, the humming sense of danger are all still there, and the closure, well — you can feel it in your bones.
It's been 13 years since HBO unofficially canceled Deadwood on somewhat of a cliffhanger. War in camp between the past (everyone) and the future (George Hearst) comes to a head in the Season 3 finale, "Tell Him Something Pretty." After Trixie (Paula Malcomson) shoots Hearst (Gerald McRaney) in the chest for killing Ellsworth, Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) fools Hearst with a ruse. He promises to kill Trixie to quell things, but he murders another blonde instead, betting Hearst didn't get a good look at his assailant. It works. And the series ends.
Deadwood: The Movie picks up about 13 years later, in 1889. The camp is a bustling mining town now, but the faces remain the same. At the Gem, Al still holds sway, but Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) is the law. They're both gray now, but McShane and Olyphant both slide back into character like they never left.
Everyone does. Charlie Utter (Dayton Callie) owns the Hotel with Bullock now and his land becomes a key plot point. E.B. Farnum (William Sanderson) is still mayor, and still greasing palms with sweaty hands. Trixie and Sol (John Hawkes) live in a big house on the thoroughfare. Joanie Stubbs (Kim Dickens) is in familiar surroundings, and harder than ever. Doc Cochran (Brad Dourif) does his best to take care of Al, whose health is failing. Dan (W. Earl Brown) and Johnny (Sean Bridgers) haven't left the Gem. Ditto for Jewell (Geri Jewell ). Alma (Molly Parker) still has eyes for Seth, and vice versa. Sophia (Lily Keene) is all grown up. And Jane Cannery (Robin Weigert ), known as "Calamity" to strangers, remains the show's heart, soul, and prophet. The western is still alive.
The film begins with Senator Hearst's return and Trixie wastes little time welcoming him back. The ruse is up. Hearst sees he's been tricked, and the fallout takes up the rest of the film. Trixie, again, is in the middle of things. And she's exceptionally pregnant. Side plots involve Jane and Joanie reuniting, Al's worsening health, South Dakota statehood, and a new piece of strange (Jade Pettyjohn) who draws everyone's attention. In an homage to classic TV finales, Milch also includes a funeral and a wedding.
There's a serious amount of story crammed into Deadwood: The Movie's 120-minute run time. Like the old days, Milch's writing remains the elegant thread that weaves through everything. His talent for parallel plotting and uncanny ability to satisfy is remarkable. It's been missed. And that's only the context within which his poetry lives. Milch's vocabulary remains unmatched. Every word is carefully curated and sung, not just spoken, by the amazing cast. The film even gets away with flashback clips from seasons past to punctuate the present. Director Daniel Minahan knows what he's doing. It's poignant. This is one of the best movies of the year. It could be the best TV movie ever made. Milch has the send-off he deserves. And all is right in the world.