Season Two, Episode Five: “Complications”
Note: each writing will spoil the episode in review but will not discuss any future episodes.
The fifth episode of Deadwood‘s second season, “Complications,” could’ve easily been called “Coming Together and Tearing Apart.” It’s an hour of people joining forces, sometimes after being estranged, and of others who are being split from their previous entanglements.
One of the first sets of people to rely on one another is Alma Garret and Trixie. After waking sickly, Alma seeks out Trixie (laughably with the escort of Richardson and not E.B. Farnum himself). Alma, of course, is pregnant and needs to know a remedy for it. Eventually, after a warning from Trixie, the Doc comes to let Alma know that she can deliver a child despite previous notions otherwise. Later, Trixie and Alma reconnect; Trixie even takes to calling Alma by her first name.
In another pairing of folks learning one another’s first name, Silas Adams and Miss Isringhausen sleep together. It’s clear to the audience that Adams is being played here, but it becomes evident to him after their tryst that she’s lured him to bed in order to have him introduce her to Al Swearengen. Miss Isringhausen (excuse me, Alice) makes it a point to say that Alma Garret has had others done in for. Though Adams suspects the lie, he gets it confirmed when she attempts to further the deceit by saying that Al Swearengen was hired by Alma. What she has in mind isn’t clear yet, but if it involves meeting Al Swearengen, then there are guaranteed sparks to fly.
During its run, the show was criticized for its lack of diversity and in what could be an attempted fix, a new character is introduced in this episode (though not new to the characters: he had visited in the winter). The General Fields finds a friend in Calamity Jane who shares a bottle of whiskey with him never minding what others of the camp may think of their pairing. In a sad, but accurate, depiction of racism of the time, the General Fields is used in place of Commissioner Jarry as punishment for the possibility of the gold claims being negated. Steve, an obvious piece of trash, gathers his mob to attack the commissioner but is cut off by Bullock. Instead, he tars the general for no other motive than the color of his skin. It’s a painful scene that’s disrupted by Sheriff Bullock. It’s also painful to see Hosteler in turmoil of guilt over selling out his friend so as not to be mortally injured himself.
In a pair that seems destined to part, Cy Tolliver finds out about Frances Wolcott’s predilection to harm prostitutes (and perhaps women in general). The look in Tolliver’s eyes shows that he’s of the belief that he’s found just one more way to blackmail someone to make money beyond the cash he’s getting from buying up the claims for Wolcott, and therefore, George Hearst.
Lastly, Al, having improved enough to talk and to sit up in bed, calls for Bullock to let him know that when he’s up again, he’ll carry his own weight on fighting off the likes of the commissioners and Tollivers who wish to grab control over camp.
While the episode as a whole was mainly functioning as a table setter, it’s the pairing of Seth and Al, by far, that offers up the most excitement. It’s high time that Al get on his feet and make a stand.
- Wolcott seems to progress with his favorite prostitute, Carrie, as he asks for her to have sex with him without his pants on. Knowing how defective he is, that won’t work out well, will it?
- More than any episode previously, there is a lot of use of the n-word. It’s an uncomfortable sound for many in the 21st Century. It will be interesting to see how the upcoming movie handles race and gender after ten years of little progress between the 1877 setting of the show and the 1886 setting of the film.
- Cy lets Frances Wolcott know quite opaquely that he is aware that Wolcott has a penchant for harming ladies. There’s a lot more to come between the two.
- Merrick barely gets by without being hurt by the “hoopleheads.” It’s of note that Al really likes Merrick, as Johnny points out.
Quote of the episode:
Calamity Jane to Commissioner Jarry who complains of thirst under her care: “Lie on your back, take aim, and piss.”