Second Take: Deadwood – Jewel’s Boot Is Made for Walking

Viewers know exactly who Al Swearengen is by the end of "Jewel's Boot Is Made For Walking," the first season's penultimate episode. #Deadwood #HBO


Season One, Episode Eleven: “Jewel’s Boot Is Made for Walking”

Note: each writing will spoil the episode in review but will not discuss any future episodes.

Deadwood‘s penultimate episode opens with Al explaining to Trixie how he came to have a murder warrant out for him in the first place. (He knifed a cop in Chicago while picking up prostitutes to head west.) If it hasn’t been before, Al enjoys Trixie’s company not just for sex but he likes having someone to hear his big ideas or even bigger problems. Truthfully, Al doesn’t want to be alone, and from later in the episode, this make sense due to the fact that Al was abandoned by his own mother in an orphanage. It haunts him to the day.

From there, Jewel, Al’s hobbled saloon cleaning lady, treks down the muddy pathway — even pitifully falling once — to the Doc’s. She wants to show him a Civil War book. In it is a picture of a brace that she believes will help her walk better, or more specifically, walk without dragging her foot and hence avoiding the wrath of Al. The Doc asks to keep the book and comes back to her later in the episode to let her know that he’ll give it a try as long as he and she agree that he’ll harm her no further than she already is by her genetic defects.

Alma finds out from her trusted employee Ellsworth that it’s time to do bigger things with her claim, such as sinking in mine shafts, in order to get the rest of her gold. She’s understandably for it, but she still wants Ellsworth to continue to oversee it. It’s also in this scene that Alma’s father makes his surprise appearance in town. He seems nice enough at first, but both E.B. and Seth Bullock figure out quickly that he’s there to steal from his daughter. (He almost “forgets” to leave the chunk of gold with Alma as he leaves her room.) Of note is that Alma revealed in an earlier episode that she was practically sold in a sort of arranged marriage to the now-dead Brom Garrett to pay off her father’s debts. This guy is a charlatan, out for money, despite whom it comes from. He should fit in well with the likes of Deadwood’s characters, especially Farnum.

Silas Adams, the bagman for the magistrate, is back the next day and appears to have taken Al’s suggestion of getting his haircut. The two are still measuring each other, but Adam takes Al’s offer to murder the magistrate for a cheap $2,000 — not nearly as much as Adam will make with Al in future endeavors.

Not as involved with any plots so far this season, Tom Nuttall is now catching hell from Charlie, who’s the newly appointed fire marshal. Charlie wants no blame for the camp burning to the ground if it does (oh boy!), so he’s warning Nuttall to get his stovepipes away from the wall lest he incur a fine. It’s then, with Con Stapleton’s suggestion, that Nuttall believes a sheriff is needed in camp and one that’ll be more friendly to him as he feels “the camp is getting away from [him].” The problem is, Con Stapleton’s shitheel. None the less, Tom Nuttall takes the offer to Al, who accepts although he, too, knows that Stapleton is a shitheel.

It’s here that Seth Bullock interrupts a romantic encounter between Trixie and his business partner Sol Star. To kill time so that they can finish, Bullock visits Al’s Gem Saloon. Not only does Seth reveal to Al that Trixie has taken her allowed half day off to see Sol but Seth also lets Al know that he zero approval of Con Stapleton being the sheriff. (He is a shithell, you see.) Seth has a wife and a son coming out, and if the camp is heading in the direction of government, he wants it done right. The sheriff’s position is no joke to a man like Bullock. Al sees this, and thinks that Seth should be the camp sheriff. Seth, once again, declines fiercely.

Across the way at the Bella Union, Cy Tolliver has his dope fiend dealer Leon stir up a big stink about Al giving up a white man’s life in exchange for an Asian man’s. Truth be told, Cy has sights on some of that property likely owned by Mr. Wu (or at least one of the Asians in camp). Getting people to want to oust the Asians makes that property even easier to get. He acts as though he wants it for Joanie’s new endeavor, but knowing Cy, that may not be the full story.

The episode ends with a focus on Al. He calls for Sol Star where he demands payment for Sol’s sexual encounter with Trixie. When Sol refuses, Al says that he’ll take the payment out of Trixie herself, which will not be gentle. Sol finally pays in disgust. Later, Al is in his room with a new whore as he’s now made Trixie sleep downstairs with the other prostitutes. Here, Al recounts how he bought girls from an orphanage run by the same woman (“fat Mrs.-fucking-Anderson”) who ran his orphanage when he was left behind as a kid. Mrs. Anderson was fond of stealing as well, as she took the only thing left behind by Al’s mother: the $7.60. Where Al’s mother, he doesn’t know, other than she had plans to try to get to Georgia and she left him there. It paints a sad picture of how Al ended up the way that he did.

It all works to explain why Al takes an interest in the worsening Reverend. Al, gruff and harsh and downright mean, still has a heart for the things that are abused and left behind in a world that’s more gruff and more harsh and downright meaner than he is.

Other Takes:

  • E.B. thoroughly regrets putting Silas Adams in a room “above the privy”!
  • In a eloquent bit of feminist musings well before the word existed, Alma explains to Sophia what the women are to do in their world with disdain in her voice for each of the expectations.
  • Otis Russell, Alma’s father, certainly alludes to having Seth comfort and take care of Alma, right? Even after Seth says that he’s married and his wife and son are coming out to camp soon. Is he trying to pimp her out again, so to speak?
  • Eddie Sawyer is back in the Bella Union with an aim to steal. Also, Ricky Jay, the man who plays Eddie Sawyer, wrote the episode.
  • In his trusting musings to Trixie, his demands to Sol, and his drunken monologue to the unnamed prostitute at the end, Al isn’t talking to the person as much as he’s saying exactly who he is.

Quote of the episode:

An angry Al to Sol Star when demanding payment for Trixie: “I mean, what can anyone of us ever really fuckin’ hope for, huh? Except for a moment here and there with a person who doesn’t want to rob, steal, or murder us? At night, it may happen. Sun-up, one person against the fuckin’ wall, the other may hop on the fuckin’ bed trusting each other enough to tell half the fucking truth. Everybody needs that. Becomes precious to ‘em. They don’t want to see it fucked with.”


1 comment on “Second Take: Deadwood – Jewel’s Boot Is Made for Walking

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