The finale of the first season of Deadwood (2004–2006, 36 episodes, written by David Milch, no spoilers here) … amazing.
The show is a dramatization of life in the gold rush town of Deadwood, South Dakota, in the 1870s. Deadwood is not “easy” TV, but of course that’s a good thing. By the end of the first season great characters have already come and gone, and it seems unlikely that the show can even limp on, let alone reach new heights. But Deadwood is carried forward by the painfully messy lives of its citizens, and their stories converge in a dazzling, intricate finale — some of the finest scripting and acting I’ve ever seen.
I’m partial to Doc Cochrane (Brad Dourif) throughout the series: haggard, bitchy, and compassionate; a fine scientific mind on an ignorant frontier. His humility and weary self-deprecation are pitch perfect, a great example that every health care professional should see. In the finale, he has a terrific “do no harm” scene discussing the hazards of a leg brace to help Jewel with her cerebral palsy (Geri Jewell), another great character. Despite her challenges, Jewel is probably the most cheerful person in Deadwood, and manages to get the grumpy doctor dancing at the end the show and the season — beautiful!