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Great Plains Quarterly

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Deadwood -- Television program, State formation, Mining camps, Gold mines & mining


Deadwood's final episode of season 3 opens with a monologue from theater operator Jack Langrishe (Brian Cox), a relative newcomer to the camp of Deadwood. Shown in a wide shot that spotlights him on the dark stage of his nascent theater, Langrishe ostensibly speaks to one of his companions, the actress Claudia (Cynthia Ettinger), shown in one medium reverse-shot. Yet Langrishe also speaks and performs beyond the theater to the residents of Deadwood and to the program's viewers extradiagetically as he sums up the tense state of affairs within the camp: This camp is in mortal danger. The man Hearst is a murderous engine. My friend Swearengen, aware their combat is unequal, feels the appeal of the gory finish. Others I've just come to know stand candidates in the elections whose results they know may be moot. What, one is disposed to ask, in fuck ought a theatre man to do? Langrishe rightly summarizes season 3 as a period dominated by the presence of the mining magnate George Hearst (Gerald McRaney), a ruthless, extremely wealthy man who first appears in Deadwood at the end of season 2 in "Boy-the-Earth-Talks-To," an episode that is named after Hearst's "Indian name." Hearst is bent on what he names "consolidating purposes" within the camp, and his stated goal is to own all of the mine claims in the area and to make the camp into a company town. As Langrishe notes, his friend Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) and other camp dwellers actively oppose Hearst's attempts at consolidation, through the electoral process, the press, economic development within the camp, camp gossip, and violence. In this article I examine the opposition to Hearst that Langrishe articulates and situate it within the program as a condition of the camp that develops throughout the three complete seasons of Deadwood. In seasons 2 and 3, Hearst's consolidation is represented as the work of an outsider and is seen as an interest that will diminish or annihilate the existing personal interests of camp dwellers. I consider how the tension between outsider consolidation and the "insider maintenance" of the camp is represented throughout the program, especially in relation to law and order and as a struggle over the role of the camp within the formation of the State.


Copyright 2007 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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