Season Two, Episode Three: “New Money”
Note: each writing will spoil the episode in review but will not discuss any future episodes.
New money, indeed.
It’s a term usually applied to a family or person who comes into being rich on his or her own, without it being passed down from generations. Here, it fits more with the new money that is in the camp, money not staked in a gold claim from the hills of Deadwood.
The arrival of a Frances Wolcott propels the season into brand new realms: the first two episodes of the season felt like tying off threads that dangled from the ending of season one; here we get new narrative strings emerging, especially from “Mister W’s” appearance. And yes, that is Garret Dillahunt doing fantastically creepy work as Wolcott, the same actor who played Wild Bill’s killer Jack McCall in season one. Show creator and writer David Milch is having fun with the tradition of old Western television shows to hire the same actor for different roles in different years. And guaranteed that Wolcott is a very different kind of person than the coward Jack McCall.
It’s his entrance into Deadwood that sets off many fears throughout camp, particularly how he sets ablaze the notion that the gold claims in the hills won’t be validated. It’s of everyone’s interest to sell those claims. And ostensibly, it’s what Wolcott is there to do: buy up the scared prospectors claims for his one and only boss, the (in)famous George Hearst, a man whose name brings Cy Tolliver to heal and E.B. Farnum to a blubbering, repetitive mess. That name has far more fear-inducing qualities than Al Swearegen or Cy Tolliver’s ever had. (It even causes Cy to go into his saloon and offer anyone a two-weeks’ severance pay if they be upfront about their disloyalty or fear of their monies diminishing, a play that he uses to stir up more concern to pass around the camp.)
E.B. garners the connection to Hearst via Wolcott after trying to fleece him with Wild Bill’s final letter. He tells Wolcott that Wild Bill was bragging about striking rich and alludes that the letter may tell where. It’s an utter scam that feels like Wolcott sort allowed to happen as a way of not just creating fear within E.B. but to also employ him into Hearst’s circle. With Al laid out with a treacherous kidney stone, E.B. has no one else to turn to for advice when he first realizes the kind of money he may could bilk out of Wolcott.
There’s a sinister calm and quiet from Wolcott, perhaps even more than Cy Tolliver, who boasts and brags of his deeds in order to arouse anxiety. From Joanie’s friend and partner, Maddie, it’s learned that Wolcott is a repeated customer to high-end whorehouses. Not only that, but he has a proclivity to get rowdy with the girls. Maddie later admits that she’s got a girl stowed away especially for Mr. W, one that that he’s specifically requested. To make him wait is the plan so that she — and Joanie whom she ropes in to the plan — can get a sum of money to help see to her retirement. Maddie is one of the most disgusting of all of the players of Deadwood. She not only sweeps up girls into the life of prostitution but she is about to knowingly turn a girl over to Wolcott who’s liable to harm her mortally for pleasure. Not only is Wolcott under the employ of one of the most powerful men in the nation, but he is also a serial killer.
Elsewhere, the Doc tries to take care of Al as best he can by — indue cringes now — sticking probe up his penis in order to determine if he has kidney stones in his bladder. If you have ever had a catheter, this is not a fun scene. In fact, Al’s screams even reap looks of sympathy from Jane, one of his most hated rivals, and the sounds can even be heard at the Bullock house at the end of the camp.
Alma Garret even acts in fear, which comes out in anger. She first inquires about buying the hotel in order simply to kick out E.B. Farnum to the street (she’s “pissed off,” she says) and she fires Ms. Isringhausen nearly out of spite but more so because the lady is always on Sophia’s ass and never shows the child a kind look. Deep down, much of her actions come from her anger and loss of her private company with Bullock, who’s trying a better hand at being a family man who does not lie to Martha.
With Al prostrate due to illness, everyone but Wolcott acts on some fear, no matter how it manifests, and only time will tell whom that will help and whom that will hinder. Wolcott, instead, stirs the panic in the camp that’s only now beginning. So it’s Wolcott (and, therefore, Hearst) who has an upper hand, and they’ll be the ones to fear going forward.
- Alma Garret has a look at her massive mining operation, an operation that could use five times the machinery she already has going. One would think that this is exactly the kind of gold that George Hearst has sent his man to find.
- E.B.’s quote of “Did they speak that way then?” to Wolcott is a nice comment on the critics of Deadwood at the time of original airing from Milch: many claimed that no one in the 19th Century would’ve talked with so much foul language.
- It’s revealed via Trixie that Al did, in fact, “buy” Jewel so as to save her from the life of an orphanage, a setting he knows much about. In that same unlikely conversation with Jane, Robin Weigert’s expressions for Jane makes for a funny moment in a serious episode.
- Con Stapleton, former sheriff, is now under Cy’s employ, having been bought off by Tolliver at the end of the first season.
- Note the look of shock that Powers Boothe uses when Cy finds out that he’s dealing with George Hearst. It’s a slight moment, but it’s clearly a look of a man who just changed his mind about everything.
- The Doc manages to let loose some urine from Al’s bladder, which is something, anyway.
Quote of the episode:
E.B. leaves a message via Dan and Johnny for the decrepit Al, who’s unable to take any visitors as he lies on the floor of his office: “‘Al, if you’re not dead and already moldering, I send news to revive you. A fish to rival the fabled leviathan has swum into our waters. Get well soon and we will land the cocksucker together. Your Friend, E.B.’ You might add as a postscript, ‘I also have the news you dispatched me to secure of the newly arrived cunt.'”