Television

Second Take: Deadwood – E.B. Was Left Out

deadwood

Season Two, Episode Seven: “E.B. Was Left Out”

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

Deadwood does a lot of theme juggling, but it perhaps confronts the idea of power as deftly as any of the topics. In “E.B. Was Left Out,” as even implied in the title, the writing examines what happens when people who normally have power lose it or what happens when someone has no power at all over his situation.

The first scene shows Merrick in what he believes is a powerless situation. Al, after finding out that the Gem and Merrick’s office are connected, visits with him, surmises the wreck is from Cy Tolliver’s cronies, and stands Merrick up with a slap to the face to show him that as long as he’s not dead, he’s not completely powerless. He has some say.

Wolcott, who has as much power in camp as anyone at the moment, being under the reigns of the unseen George Hearst, briefly contemplates slitting his own throat as self-punishment for the previous episodes murders. He can’t — or won’t — do it. Instead, he takes a beating just outside the hotel from Charlie Utter, who learns from Joanie the evils of what Walcott’s done. This sets up a meeting, called by Cy Tolliver with help of Al, to discuss exactly how important Wolcott’s presence is for the camp. While Cy is covering his own hide, he does make a clear, cogent point that if they kill Wolcott or even punish him, it will just get around to Hearst taking care of them in one form or another, leaving them with no control but to try to please Wolcott and, therefore, Hearst. Even Seth Bullock makes no move towards rectifying Wolcott’s likely crimes, which Swearengen notes and admires later, thinking Bullock didn’t act for the betterment of the entire camp.

Even if Frances Wolcott has to take a beating from Charlie Utter, he has something that Charlie would want: his friend Wild Bill’s last writing, a letter to his wife. This letter has power over Charlie, even getting him to be cordial to a degree to Wolcott, though not stooping down to the point of revealing exactly what Joanie Stubbs had told him. It’s dangerous enough that Wolcott can surmise the unspoken. As Cy Tolliver warns Joanie, it won’t be good for her to go back to Le Chez Ami alone. (Kim Dickens, as usual, gives a weakened, haunted performance for the now lonely Joanie.)

In a meeting no one would’ve thought, Al gets E.B. to set up a sit-down with Alma Garret, the very lady whose husband he had murdered. (Lest we get carried away, Al murders for money, for the betterment of his saloon or camp, or for the betterment of another, not for pure pleasure, a la Wolcott.) Not only is Alma present, but so is a scared Sophia. (“You’ll tell that child no hard feelings, hmm?”) After Al reveals to her the possible impotence the two may share if alone against the damned Pinkertons, it seems as though the two come to an understanding and maybe even the oddest friendship of the show with Alma concluding the meeting by talking tea with Al, who likes “that fucking black Darjeeling” only to end the meeting with a “Did I say ‘fucking'” look to Alma.

Seth Bullock also stops in, unannounced, to visit Alma Garret. He’s there to let her know that he’s aware she’s pregnant and that he is willing to leave if it will help matters. Alma all but asks him to stay in the camp, and it’s clear here that they still care for one another yet are feeble to do anything more about it from this point forward as Seth leaves her with the compliment that she looks good being pregnant.

It’s another compliment to the writing of Jody Worth and David Milch that so many of the characters attempt to reestablish some control of their powerless situations by barking at others: Al to E.B., E.B. to Richardson, and Walocott to Cy Tolliver.

In a final shot of ultimate frailty, Joanie sits alone in Le Chez Ami and awaits whatever it is to come.

Other Takes:

  • Of course Al has peaches at the meeting.
  • Leon and Con are given a new approach to selling the Asian prostitutes that seems to be working.
  • In as excellent a turnabout as seen on the series, Jewel gets Al good with her “always dragging that foot around” statement. Wonderful!
  • Another pitiful character — Jane — is beaten in a blackout and becoming more and more powerless with alcohol.
  • Al has taken to talking to the Native American head that he was given in season one instead of his usual musings to a whore. Maybe the kidney stone troubles and small stroke has changed him in some significant way.

Quote of the episode:

Al Swearengen to Merrick: “Pain or damage don’t end the world, or despair or fuckin’ beatings. The world ends when you’re dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man—and give some back.”

 

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