IMDb’s list of the best Deadwood episodes covers the spectrum. From the fate of the real-life gun-slinging legend “Wild Bill” Hickok (Keith Carradine) to knock-down drag-out fist fights, Deadwood masterfully blends real-life historical events with fiction in a way that is satisfying to even the most die-hard Western fans.
Set during the post-Civil War gold rush, the town of Deadwood is a melting pot of cowboys, outlaws, and entrepreneurs all looking to stake their claim. Saloon owner and procurer Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) keeps watch over the up-and-coming mining camp from the balcony of the Gem Saloon. Unfiltered, Al’s adversarial nature puts him at odds with Sheriff Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant), leading to some of the most explosive episodes of TV ever.
The following article contains spoilers for Deadwood.
10 ‘Jewel’s Boot is Made for Walking’ (Season 1, Episode 11)
IMDb Rating: 8.3/10
Jewel (Geri Jewell) serves as the Gem’s housekeeper and cook, continuously receiving verbal abuse and insults because of her stiff leg. Tired of annoying Al, Jewel asks Doc Cochran (Brad Dourif) to build her a boot brace so she can walk without dragging her leg behind her.
Despite being skeptical at first, Doc changes his mind after seeing how much it means to Jewel. It’s a tender and genuine moment when he shows her a brace he thinks will be suitable. Jewel isn’t used to being treated and talked to as kind as Doc does, and for once, viewers get to see Jewel experience true happiness.
9 ‘I’m Not the Fine Man You Take Me For’ (Season 3, Episode 2)
IMDb Rating: 8.4/10
Deadwood’sthird and final season is a point of reflection for both the town and the show’s main characters. Previously working behind the scenes, millionaire mining magnate George Hearst (Gerald McRaney) continues his plan to secure ownership of the area’s gold claims, with widow Alma Garrett (Molly Parker) being the lone holdout.
Refusing to sell her stake, Alma is determined to open Deadwood’s first bank with Seth’s business partner Sol (John Hawkes), which puts all three in a conflicting position. The already complicated relationship between Seth, his former mistress Alma, and Seth’s wife Martha (Anna Gunn) worsens when Alma’s pregnancy is revealed during a business meeting with Sol.
8 ‘Something Very Expensive’ (Season 2, Episode 6)
IMDb Rating: 8.5/10
Working on behalf of Hearst, geologist Francis Wolcott (Garrett Dillahunt) is one of Deadwood’s most dangerous residents. A sadist, Wolcott gets off on torturing the young women at Chez Ami, which escalates to murder in one of the show’s most gruesome episodes. When Chez Ami’s madame, Maddie (Alice Krige), realizes what Wolcott’s done, she makes a fateful decision.
Joanie Stubbs (Kim Dickens) walks in but leaves without going upstairs to see the bodies. Alone with Wolcott, the sadistic killer overpowers and kills Maddie while Joanie successfully smuggles the remaining girls out of camp.
7 ‘A Lie Agreed Upon: Part 1’ (Season 2, Episode 1)
IMDb Rating: 8.6/10
Deadwood welcomes a new made in Season 2′s premiere when Maddie arrives with a wagon of fresh faces, which doesn’t make Bella Union owner Cy Tolliver (Powers Boothe) happy. Visibly upset that his longtime partner Joanie is striking out on her own, their relationship hits an all-time low.
Seth and Alma continue their affair despite the pending arrival of Marthaand their son William (Josh Eriksson). The quintessential antagonist, Al, provokes Seth by insulting Alma. When the Deadwood sheriff returns to the saloon, the men come to blows in a fight scene worthy of one of TV’s best Westerns.
6 ‘Amalgamation and Capital’ (Season 2, Episode 9)
IMDb Rating: 8.6/10
Tensions between Alma and Martha are simmering when Seth’s wife begins to suspect something may be going on between her husband and the wealthy widow. Plans for the bank continue, and an unsuspecting friendship forms between two of Deadwood’s most memorable female characters, Joanie and Calamity Jane (Robin Weigert).
Joanie comes home to find Jane drunk on her doorstep. The former madame invites Jane in to sleep it off, leading to an intimate friendship that fills a void in both their lives. The episode takes a tragic turn when a runaway horse tramples William.
5 ‘Mr. Wu’ (Season 1, Episode 10)
IMDb Rating: 8.6/10
Chinese immigrant Mr. Wu (Keone Young) runs Deadwood’s opium trade and is known for using his feral hogs to dispose of those who cross him or his business. Though his interactions with Al appear adversarial, viewers can see the two men have mutual respect for each other even when they’re at odds.
In “Mr. Wu,” Wu goes to Al for help after a shipment of dope is stolen by two white men at the camp. At first, Al’s apprehensive until he realizes part of the shipment was his. Al promises to find the thieves but tells Wu he can only kill one. Al reminds Wu that although the men are thieves, they’re also white, highlighting racial relations and tensions at Deadwood.
4 ‘Here Was a Man’ (Season 1, Episode 4)
IMDb Rating: 8.8/10
Wild Bill leaves an impression on Deadwood and viewers in his short time on the show. The infamous gunfighter meets a violent end when disgruntled poker player Jack McCall, also played by Garrett Dillahunt, shoots Wild Bill in the head at the No.10 Saloon. Though one-sided, the shooting of Wild Bill is one of the show’s most memorable scenes.
Alma’s opiate addiction worsens after her husband Brom’s (Timothy Michael Omundson) tragic fall. Unconvinced that Brom’s death was an accident, Alma reaches out to Wild Bill, a former lawman, to look into what she believes was murder over their claim.
3 ‘Boy the Earth Talks To’ (Season 2, Episode 12)
IMDb Rating 8.9/10
George Hearst arrives in grand style in the Deadwood season finale as the town prepares for a wedding while William’s parents continue to grieve his death. As Hearst makes the rounds meeting with Al and Cy, his intentions become increasingly clear. Cy threatens to expose the geologist Wolcott’s role in the death of the three women from Chez Ami.
The celebration of Alma’s marriage to Ellsworth (Jim Beaver) brings the town of Deadwood out to celebrate. Juxtaposed against the backdrop of Alma’s former lover Seth and Martha’s solemn grief is storytelling at its finest. When Mr. Wu attacks one of the Chinese men working for Hearst, Al steps in — saving Wu from Hearst’s retribution. Joanie and Calamity Jane continue to explore their friendship after Joanie asks Calamity Jane to move in with her.
2 ‘A Two-Headed Beast’ (Season 3, Episode 5)
IMDb Rating: 9.0/10
After suffering a miscarriage, Alma resorts to old habits and starts using opiates again, which disgusts Sol’s girlfriend, Trixie (Paula Malcomson). Meanwhile, Alma continues to expand the bank’s services despite her relapse. Married to a man she doesn’t love, and losing the child she was carrying with the one she does, sends Alma into an emotional tailspin.
One of the best scenes in any TV Western is the face-off between Al’s right-hand man, Dan Dority (W. Earl Brown), and Hearst enforcer Captain Turner (Alan Graf). Dan kills Turner in a fight to the death. A drunken Hearst is later arrested at the Bella Union after threatening Seth. The sheriff takes him by the ear in embarrassing fashion and tosses the millionaire in jail.
1 ‘Sold Under Sin’ (Season 1, Episode 12)
IMDb Rating: 9.1/10
A group of U.S. soldiers comes to Deadwood looking for a group of Sioux. Under the command of Army General George Crook (Peter Coyote), Cy attempts to coerce Crook to stick around and protect the camp, but Crook soundly rejects the offer. Alma’s father, Otis (William Russ), has finally worn out his welcome and pushes Seth over the edge by threatening to implicate his daughter in Brom’s death.
After nearly beating Otis to death, Seth tracks Crook down at the Bella Union, urging him to put Alma’s father in protective custody after realizing Crook’s life is in danger. When Reverend Smith’s (Ray McKinnon) mental and physical health takes a downturn, Doc prays for an end to the reverend’s suffering. Al is already on it, putting the preacher out of his misery in one of the show’s most emotional scenes.
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