"Welcome to Deadwood...a hell of a place to make your fortune." These are the words that serve as greeting for saddle-weary former lawman Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) as he rides into the illegal Dakota Territory settlement of Deadwood, a scant few weeks after Custer's defeat at the Little Big Horn. Before long, Bullock makes the acquaintance of another displaced Westerner, the cynical, burnt-out gunslinger Wild Bill Hickok (Keith Carradine) -- and not long after that, both men have had their first run-in with town boss Al Swearengen (Ian McShane), the confident, corrupt owner of the Gem Saloon (an establishment largely populated by flint-hearted whores). Thus begins season one of the iconoclastic HBO Western series Deadwood, arguably the most realistic program of its kind ever seen on American television. In the 11 episodes that follow the season opener, a group of vicious outlaws tries to foment another Indian war; Swearengen's status as the lord of the flies on the Deadwood dungheap is challenged by a Chicago "syndicate" (yes, they had them as far back as 1876); a valuable land claim held by feisty, wealthy frontierswoman Alma Garret (Molly Parker) becomes the focus of a deadly serious power struggle; the notorious Black Jack McCall (Garret Dillahunt) kills Hickok during a poker game (quite a jolt, to knock off one of the series' main characters so early in the game!); Deadwood is ravaged by an epidemic, during which the rambunctious but compassionate Calamity Jane (Robin Weigert) becomes a legend; Bullock is marked for death after bringing a murderer to heel; Swearengen is double-crossed by duplicitous "working girl" Trixie (Paula Malcomson); the town's criminal element tries to block annexation of the Dakotas, which would bring much-despised law and order to the territory; a minister finds himself less welcome in town than an opium dealer; and at season's end, Seth Bullock becomes Deadwood's official sheriff -- a position that offers neither job security nor much chance for survival.
by Hal Erickson synopsis