Sorry for getting behind on these posts. Glad to be back! Especially now that we get to dig into a juicy electoral fight.
There’s a marvelous contrast between the brutality that Deadwood‘s first elections inspire and the shyness of many of the participants who are standing for election. Seth Bullock may be beating E.B. Farnum to a pulp, but he’s also shyly asking Martha to look over his speech, frustrated that “Words…doing the wrong jobs…Nothing showy, is the main thing.” Charlie Utter may be a tough man when it comes to the deployment of his fists and firearms, but he’s got his transition written on his hand so he remembers to thank Seth when he introduces him. The contest inspires E.B. to new lows, referring to circumcision in his attack on Sol’s qualifications for mayor, but it also brings other people fully into the life of the camp, as Sofia, once an unreachable outsider, tells Martha that her vote is for baking bread in class “And Mr. Bullock for sheriff, and Mr. Star for mayor.”
And the campaign intrudes into the tender relationship between Trixie and Sol, when Al suggests to Trixie that he’s trying to get Sol to buy a house so “you and the Jew can fall on each other free of prying eyes.” Trixie, prickly as always, interprets this suggestion and Sol’s participation in it not as an attempt to legitimize their relationship (Sol’s intention) but to hide it (Al’s). “I’ll pop from the wall like Grandma Groundhog in a storybook and attend to your johnson,” she explodes at Sol. She may be in love with him (though she might not admit it), but her worldview is still all tangled up with how she thinks Al sees her. Similarly, she’s tender with Alma after Doc delivers the awful news that she seems likely to lose her child, advising that “your circumstances make it prudent to intervene.” Trixie stands up for Alma when she’s afraid she’ll relapse into addiction, and reassures her that she’ll survive the procedure. And when Doc starts the operation, Trixie stands up vigorously for her own lack of squeamishness. Can we please have a show where these two, plus a sobered-up Jane open a prairie abortion clinic together? I would vastly rather watch that than Alan Ball’s George Tiller show.
Speaking of Jane, like Trixie, she’s drowning in a sea of misinterpretation. “Off to the Bella Union like a moth to a fucking flame,” she mutters after Joanie, suspicious that her friend is returning to Cy, and to her old ways, before asking Joanie directly if she’s “Returning to the Bella Union?…As residence and workplace, is my meaning.” Joanie, of course, is engaged in a darker struggle than Jane knows, holding a gun to her temple, crying out, “What am I Lord, that I’m so helpless.” When she tells Cy, “I don’t want to run women no more,” Cy tells her, “That’s turning away from your gift and your training.” It may be intended to jolly her back to work, but instead, it shines a harsh light on Joanie’s convictions that she doesn’t have any other options than work she’s come to despise. Similarly, Jane, at first reluctant to take up Martha’s invitation to tell her story to the class, insisting that it would consist of “Custer was a cunt. The end,” sobers up, cleans up, and makes a speech of her own. And in doing so, she finds the courage to ask Joanie if she can stay. Simply being on the frontier, lodging in a nascent society, isn’t actually enough to make people start their lives over. They have to find the will themselves.