In today’s age of streaming television and shows cultivated over many seasons, cancellation of a well-regarded prestige cable show is rare, at least without a big build up to a grand finale. But 15 years ago, even HBO could ax a show leaving audiences hanging—and there was no streaming service to pick it up for the fans. Such was the fate of Deadwood, which was dropped in 2006 after only three seasons and 36 episodes. But now, fans are finally getting their finale on Friday, May 31, when HBO airs a long-anticipated Deadwood movie.
When Deadwood aired in 2004, it was squarely in the height of HBO’s must-see dramas, following closely behind the end of Oz and running alongside The Sopranos, The Wire, and Six Feet Under. Long-running fan favorites True Blood and Big Love were just on the horizon.
Despite its strong viewership and critical praise—plus 28 Primetime Emmy Award nominations (and eight wins), it was announced just weeks before the premiere of the already filmed third season that the show was not renewed. Or, more specifically, that the contracts for the existing cast were not being picked up again. Other vague negotiations took place, and HBO debated other ways to keep the show alive, including a shorter season, and the possibility of a movie was dangled even in 2006. But Deadwood seemed to be dead in the water. It has since been considered landmark television and even more than a decade later, regularly lands on lists of the greatest television shows ever made.
Now, with the revivals of shows from Will & Grace to Twin Peaks, it seems about time to get the long-awaited ending.
Deadwood was set in the 1870s Black Hills settlement that was on the brink of becoming the town of Deadwood. Lawless and overrun by greed, violence, ambition, and gold fever, the show featured an all-star ensemble cast playing largely historic figures, interspersed with a healthy dose of fiction. Timothy Olyphant (Santa Clarita Diet, Justified) played Montana marshal Seth Bullock, who has retired to the camp to start a hardware business with his friend and partner Sol Star (John Hawkes, East Bound and Down). The former lawman soon classes with saloon boss and heavy in the settlement, Al Swearengen, played by Ian McShane (American Gods). Meanwhile, young widow, Alma Garret (Molly Parker) discovers her husband’s claim is worth a fortune, making her a target of the power-hungry men about town.
The initial three seasons too place over less than a year, showing the slow but steady organization of the restless town and the ongoing power struggles between business claims and gold stakes, and the slow move towards Deadwood’s entry into the Dakota territory. In addition to real-life Bullock and Swearengen, other historic figures appear including Wild Bill Hickok (Keith Carradine) and associates Calamity Jane (Robin Weigert) and Charlie Utter (Dayton Callie), as well as A.W. Merrick (Jeffrey Jones) and George Hearst (Gerald McRaney).
In the upcoming movie, 10 years have passed since the events of season three. Rivalries are reignited as the town gathers to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Will we finally see a showdown between Hearst and Swearengen, or Swearengen and Bullock? What toll has time taken on the lives of the people of Deadwood? Some have hardened, others matured, power is waning as the territory modernizes. Most of the original ensemble cast is returning for this landmark reunion event, 13 years in the making.
How To Watch Deadwood: The Movie
The new Deadwood movie will air on HBO on May 31, and is available to through HBO NOW, HBO GO, On Demand, and affiliated streaming platforms. While HBO GO is the mobile access point for streaming HBO with a cable login, HBO NOW allows fans to subscribe to HBO without a cable service. HBO NOW is available for $14.99 a month after a 7-day free trial. Both options have apps and websites that allow viewing via laptop, phone, or TV, as well as through devices such as Roku, Google Fire, and Apple TV.