I don’t recall if I ever watched all of Deadwood – I only remember bits and pieces. Anyway, I went through all three seasons in order, and the ending is … interesting. Throughout the whole season, they’re clearly setting the stage for this big gunfight between the warring factions of Hearst and Bullock / Swearengen. The camera pans to the Chinese grabbing a bunch of guns, the Pinkertons are already in town roughing everyone up and nerves are raw… that’s exactly what you’d expect from a western finale, right? And then … presto, via deft machinations and behind the scenes negotiations, they manage to avoid it!
At first I was nonplussed: that’s the end of the series? No climactic deaths? No cold, steely eyed gunfighters taking the measure of each other, pistols blazing? No street fighting and gutting people with knives? Hearst just … slowly rides out of town while people glare at him?
I suppose the lesson is that this is how the west was really won – when people finally stopped killing each other en masse, and let politics and law take hold to resolve conflicts, even when the ending wasn’t exactly happy for any of them, and it involved painful (but not deadly!) compromise. That’s how they lived on to settle the area.
(This also makes the weird interlude with the talent show make more sense, as well as the elections, and the school for the kids. Further signs of civilization creeping in.)