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If the candidates can just stay alive long enough, democracy is on its way to the Dakota territory, to that anus of the Old West I have previously located somewhere between Casablanca and No Exit. Somehow these claims jumpers, road agents, real-estate swindlers, saloon girls, opium addicts, and Indian killers will have to decide between Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) and Harry Manning (Brent Sexton) for sheriff and between E. B. Farnum (William Sanderson) and Sol Starr (John Hawkes) for mayor. Meanwhile, as usual, Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) talks potty-mouthed Elizabethan English while waiting on his profit margin; the widow Alma (Molly Parker) is taking the vapors again, although this time it might be pregnancy instead of laudanum; Calamity Jane (Robin Weigert) has recovered enough from her troubles to tell the camp children what she learned while scouting for the late, unlamented General Custer; Cy Tolliver (Powers Boothe) still languishes gut-shot in a dark room; George Hearst (Gerald McRaney) seems to be buying more than elections; theatrical promoter Jack Langrishe (Brian Cox) arrives by stagecoach to up the ante and the Sturm und Drang; and Joanie Stubbs (Kim Dickens) considers killing herself despite the fact that she’s one of maybe four characters in the whole cast we wish wouldn’t.

From what I’ve so far seen of the third season of David Milch’s Gothic Western, I omit much plot, many cocksuckers, and the occasional shit monkey. What makes Deadwood so fascinating is not the action we put up with; it’s the language we listen to, ranging from a sort of pornographic King James bloodlet and begat, to Jacobean revenge orgies, to James Fenimore Cooper’s Deerslayer tales, to Erskine Caldwell’s down-and-dirty. Nothing I’ve heard this season compares with McShane’s “fucking imponderables” a year ago, but the summer is young, the West is old, and the moon is blue.

HBO, Sundays, 9 P.M., premieres June 11


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