Deadwood Fans Pick Their Favorite Episodes

Fifteen years after it debuted, HBO’s classic neo-western Deadwood finally receives the next chapter its fans have long demanded with an upcoming movie, set in 1889 as South Dakota becomes the 40th state of the Union. In celebration of the series’ anniversary and in anticipation of the film’s arrival, we asked fans to pick their favorite episodes. Contains spoilers.


“Here Was a Man”: Season 1, Episode 4

Written by Elizabeth Sarnoff
Directed by Alan Taylor


If the first few episodes were prologue, a chronicle of arrivals and of new lives beginning, this episode marks a sudden and violent transition to the next chapter. As Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) works through the night to build his hardware store, his new friend Wild Bill Hickock (Keith Carradine) sees his life seemingly turn a corner, with the apparent end of his legendarily bad run of fortune at the poker table. But a string of victories pushes an unhinged opponent over the edge and leaves Hickok dead with a bullet to the head.

Stream “Here Was a Man”


“Suffer the Little Children”: Season 1, Episode 8

Written by Elizabeth Sarnoff
Directed by Dan Minahan

An episode of contrasting fortunes for Deadwood’s women highlights the distinctions between the camp’s brothel owners. Trixie (Paula Malcomson) attempts suicide; Alma (Molly Parker) is advised her mining claim is a “bonanza”; and Joanie (Kim Dickens) finds herself powerless to resist the scheming Paula (Kristen Bell). But while Trixie’s absence brings anxiety to Swearengen, Cy Tolliver (Powers Boothe) deals with Paula with such extreme brutality that even his longtime co-conspirators — Joanie and Eddie (Ricky Jay) — are shaken to their cores.

Stream “Suffer the Little Children”


“A Lie Agreed Upon, Part II”: Season 2, Episode 2

Written by Jody Worth
Directed by Ed Bianchi


It’s a testament to Ian McShane’s commanding performance as Swearengen that he is effortlessly able to imbue a profane and violent man of profound self-interest with doses of unexpected humanity. In few cases does he combine the complexities of his character as effectively as in this episode: unable to bear the ranting and suffering of Reverend Henry Weston Smith (Ray McKinnon), the brothel owner comforts the minister before suffocating him, while using his act of compassionate euthanasia as a lesson to Johnny (Sean Bridgers) in how to commit a quiet murder.

Stream “A Lie Agreed Upon, Part II”


“E.B. Was Left Out”: Season 2, Episode 7

Written by Jody Worth
Directed by Michael Almereyda

When Wolcott (Francis Delahunt) confirms his psychopathy with a night of cold-blooded murder at the Chez Ami, it proves beyond the pale for Charlie Utter, who  mercilessly beats him. But the importance of Wolcott — and, more specifically, of his boss, George Hearst (Gerald McRaney) — is too great for the future of the camp, certainly greater than justice for three dead prostitutes; and there is a heart-rending sadness and inevitability to the all-but-unspoken decision to turn a collective blind eye.

Stream “E.B. Was Left Out”


“A Two-Headed Beast”: Season 3, Episode 5

Written by David Milch
Directed by Dan Minahan

In Deadwood, there are those who do, and those who tell them to do so. When Captain Turner (Allan Graf) and Dan Dority (W. Earl Brown) fight in the mud as the rest of the camp watches, they battle not because they have any animus but because Hearst and Swearengen have instructed them to. Turner loses the upper hand in one of the tensest, most realistic street fights ever on TV, when he looks to Hearst for guidance; and Dority, having gouged Turner’s eye, kills him only when Swearengen gives him the subtlest nod of approval. 

Stream “A Two-Headed Beast”


“Unauthorized Cinnamon”: Season 3, Episode 7

Written by Regina Corrado
Directed by Mark Tinker

“A Two-Headed Beast” ended with Bullock dragging Hearst to the cells by his ear; “Unauthorized Cinnamon” deals with a collective fear of the inevitable consequences. While seemingly providing little in terms of story arc, the episode is an invaluable intermezzo, its comparative quiet serving only to ratchet up the tension as the community’s leaders meet in The Gem, powerlessly awaiting Hearst’s next move.   

Stream “Unauthorized Cinnamon”


“The Catbird Seat”: Season 3, Episode 11

Written by Bernadette McNamara
Directed by Gregg Fienberg

“Hearst has unleashed his hounds,” Swearengen declares, and at once the tension that has built over several episodes is punctured as the crew at The Gem grabs its guns and prepares for action. The outpouring of emotion that greets the arrival in camp of the body of Ellsworth (Jim Beaver) is not just for the murder that has made Alma a widow again, but for Deadwood and the conflagration that surely awaits it, as the series races toward its conclusion.

Stream “The Catbird Seat”