Thursday, August 24, 2006

"It's Nippy on My Tw@t:" The Quotable Deadwood

(Note: The title quote was spoken on the series by Joanie Stubbs, although you are free to imagine Hearst shouting it to Swearengen in the above photo. Or not).

Fully immersed in its most gripping season yet, I've been pracitcally in denial for months now that Deadwood is, in effect, no more. As you may know, HBO - apparently freaked out about the show's $5 million per-episode budget and their inability to find another Sopranos-esque cash cow - has cancelled my favorite show despite massive critical acclaim and solid ratings. Thus, the fourth, concluding season isn't gonna happen, and the first of the promised two, two-hour wrap-up films won't be ready until 2008.

The season/series finale airs this Sunday @9, but before we drag Andy Craned up here to talk about Deadwood's rotting, maggot-ridden corpse for the funeral service, let me celebrate one more time the most amazing aspect of this show: the dialogue. Never again will we see such a dizzying mix of Eliabethean flourishes, frontier plainspokenness and gutter profanity on television. What started out as a well-acted, well-written revisionist western has evolved - especially this year - into a near-masterpiece firing on all cylinders. The cast's enthusiasm as they sank their teeth into this rare material became more palpable with each year. With that in mind, here's a collection of but a few of my favorite quotes, along with some brief context. Some of these can be put to spectacular use in everyday life, whether you're in traffic, having dinner with the family, or feeding dead enemies to a Chinaman's pigs. Fortunately, I was able to refer to Television Without Pity's recaps for exact wording on almost all of these:

1. "I may have fucked my life up flatter'n hammered shit, but I stand here before you today beholden to no human cocksucker." - Ellsworth; season 1, episode 1. This early scene established "cocksucker" as the word du jour among many of the camp's residents. Since then it's every, frequent utterance has been like a miniature Christmas morning in dialogue form.

2. "Fuck us all anyway for the limber-dicked cocksuckers we are." - Ellsworth, toasting his fellow Deadwoodians, ibid. For this one episode at least, Ellsworth was quite the quote machine; until he "lucked out" by marrying Alma Garrett and had to clean up his act.

3. ""Pain, or damage, don't end the world. Or despair. Or fuckin' beatings. The world ends when you're dead. Until then, you've got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man, and give some back." - Al Swearengen; s2, e7. Sometime after his bout with kidney stones in season two, Al completed morphing from brutal, cutthroat boss of the camp to motivational speaker/political bigwig determined not to let the town he built descend into chaos. He imparted this bit of sage wisdom, along with a wake-up slap to the face, to newspaper publisher A.W. Merrick, who was moping about his ransacked offices at the time.

4. "Heng dai." - Wu, various. Wu - the boss of "Chink Alley" and owner of the aforementioned people-eating pigs - has repeatedly swore this Chinese oath to Swearengen (or, as he calls him, "Swedgin"). Translated literally it means "Brother," but also generally connotes loyalty and trust. Never was it more spine-tingling-ling-ly delivered than at the end of last week's penultimate episode. Unfortunately, while this is an awesome quote, in today's world it's hard to think of a situation where you could bust out "heng dai," complete with crossed-fingers salute, and not look bizarre and/or retarded: Alone with your good lady wife, to signify your fidelity? No. Super-secretive National Security briefing? Noooo. Rocking out at a Drive By Truckers show? Hmmmm, maybe. Perhaps I'll start my own one-man campaign to replace the played-out devil's horn salute with good ol' "HENG DAI!"

5. "You have been tested, Al Swearengen. And your deepest purposes proved, there’s gold on the woman’s claim. You might as well have shouted it from the rooftops: 'That’s why I’m jumpin’ through hoops to get it back. Thorough as I fleeced the fool she married, I will fleece his widow, too. Using loyal associates like Eustace Bailey Farnum as my go-betweens and dupes. To explain, why I want her bought out I’ll make a pretext of my fear of the Pinkertons. I’ll throw Farnum a token thief. Why should I reward E.B. with some small fractional participation in the claim? Or let him even lay by a little security and source of continuing income, for his declining years? What’s he ever done for me? Except let me terrify him every goddamned day of his life ‘til the idea of bowel regularity is a full-on fuckin’ hope. Not to mention orderin’ a man killed in one of E.B.’s rooms. So every fuckin’ free moment of his life E.B. has to spend scrubbing the bloodstains off the goddamned floor! To keep from... having to lower his rates.' Goddamn that motherfucker!" - E.B. Farnum; s1, e7. Uber-weasly hotel owner Farnum, played brilliantly by William Sanderson (a.k.a. Larry - of Larry, Daryl and Daryl fame - from Newhart)is one of the show's most Shakespearean characters. This monologue was delivered while scrubbing a particularly tough bloodstain which resulted from a Swearengen-commissioned murder in his hotel. Scrubbing a bloodstain and receiving a blowjob seem to be the activities most likely to prompt long, rambling monologues in Deadwood, just like in real life.

6. "Fuck every last one of you. I wish I was a fuckin' tree." - Trixie; s2, e3. Trixie - a.k.a. the Whoriest Whore Who Ever Whored - has been known to unleash enough streams of profanity to make even the show's other most quotable female (and best town drunk in TV history), Calamity Jane, blush.

7. "My bicycle masters boardwalk and quagmire with aplomb. Those that doubt me, suck cock by choice." - Saloon owner Tom Nuttall, so excited by his fucking bicycle he repeated this declaration later in the same scene; s2, e7.

8. "I am a sinner who does not expect forgiveness. But I am not a government official!" - Francis Wolcott, s2, e10. Strong words indeed coming from an erudite geologist/whore-murdering psychopath. The fact that Farnum is the town's mayor and that the most bizarre character is a county commissioner should tell you all you need to know about David Milch's regard for politicians.

9. "We'll move in your twelve possessions; you'll be free to come and go by your own fuckin' front door. And as you lay in your beddie-bye, I'll pop from the wall like Grandma Groundhog in a storybook and attend to your johnson, as he'd not see you jeopardize your mayor's campaign whore-fuckin' in your place of business. And I'll have installed in room 3-fuckin'-C or the like, of Shaunessey's adjacent shitbox, that he's paid Shaunessey to cut a hole through to ease my fuckin' fuckin' you." - Trixie; s3, e1, berating her Nice Jewish Boyfriend, Sol Starr, as usual.

10. "Could you have been born, Richardson, and not egg-hatched as I've always assumed? Did your mother hover over you, snaggle-toothed and doting, as you now hover over me?" - E.B. Farnum; s3, e2. Spoken to his hapless manservant while he dresses Farnum's wounds following a long-overdue beatdown.
(BONUS QUOTE: "I loved my mother." - Richardson, in response to the previous quote. Richardson is kind of like the Ralph Wiggum of Deadwood: a hopelessly dumb, walking collection of simultaneously sweet and creepy non-sequiters.)

At least I can take comfort in the fact that the Other Greatest Show in the History of Television, THE WIRE, returns to HBO in two weeks. More on that later. If it weren't for the sweet, sweet Wire I might wash my hands of HBO altogether. I'm still kinda mad about "Dream On" and their various Robert Wuhl-related projects, damnit!

1 comment:

Kimmy said...

I finally decided to watch Deadwood at my father's incessant rants. Now I cannot get enough of the three seasons. It's a shame that they could not conclude the series.

Wouldn't this show make a great old time radio program? Save the cost of a set!