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  • Awesome Music: The opening theme song has a suitable Western feel that alternates in mood throughout. Each episode also ends with a unique musical selection, which ranges from hidden gems to big stars like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.
  • Badass Decay: Swearengen and Bullock are built up as ruthless, pragmatic, and proactive men who are willing (albeit sometimes reluctantly on Bullock's part) to Shoot the Dog if necessary. Then Hearst shows up, and their big plan to deal with him? Write a Strongly Worded Letter to the editor about his labor practices and then wait until his boot is on their throats before sending someone to a neighboring town to see about maybe hiring some guns.
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  • Catharsis Factor: The Movie serves as this for fans, with many characters getting a satisfactory ending. Sol and Trixie get married in the Gem surrounded by all their friends and Al gets to die gracefully with Trixie and Jewel by his side while shooting off a final retort at God. Perhaps best of all, the impossibly smug Hearst gets long-awaited karmic retribution for all his vile deeds with seemingly the town itself coming to life to beat him down: his arrogance allows him to be exposed by Bullock, humiliated by Merrick, called out by Jane and beaten to within an inch of his life by an angry mob who utter reject his way of the future talk; the fear in his eyes as the mob gathers is something to behold in someone so smug, and then he's tossed in jail by the ear just as Bullock did many years ago. As an extra cherry on top, a member of the mob is a cameo by Garrett Dillahunt, allowing Wolcott to posthumously take revenge for being used to death by Hearst.
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  • Complete Monster: Season 3's Big Bad, George Hearst, slaughtered the Cornish workers in his employ for unionizing, cut off Al Swearnegen's finger as a show of power, and attempted to have Captain Turner kill Dan Dority in a public street fight that is long and drawn out, both to emotionally torture Al and demonstrate that Hearst holds all the power in town. He also hires an army of Pinkertons to terrorize the town, sending Odell Marchbanks on a dangerous quest to find gold which ends up getting him killed. He has the head Pinkerton Barret savagely beat Merrick in response to posting a notice about the poor working conditions of Hearst's employ. Hearst then orders the death of heroic prospector Ellsworth to force Ellsworth's wife to sell the land Hearst wants to him. To demonstrate his power, he also forces Al to murder his favorite prostitute for trying to assassinate Hearst. It's implied he may know Al killed a lookalike girl, but simply doesn't care, more than happy he broke Al completely.
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  • Creator's Pet: The theatre troupe in general in season 3 come off this way due to the time we spend on them in spite of their lack of relevance to the larger plot. They were supposed to have more impact in season 4, but the show got canceled, so they end up serving no larger point.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: Mr. Wu goes to Al's office to demand (in his broken and extremely limited English) that he do something against his rival, Mr. Lee. Al says that he will meet him "to see how much juice [Lee]'s got behind him". Wu is confused and asks "Jews?" while mimicking a bunch of coins in his hands. Al negates. Wu gets up from his seat then, moves to the window, points to Sol Star's shop, pretends to have a big nose, and asks again: "Jews?"
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Mr. Wu, due to his many comedic moments, his strange bond with Al, the subtle character work that makes him a clear counterpart to Al who likely has a whole show of material happening off-screen, and Keone Young's engaging performance.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Reverend Smith's slow degeneration from a brain tumor is even harder to watch given David Milch's own affliction with Alzheimer's Disease while writing the finale movie.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Santa Clarita Diet provides the knockdown, drag-out brawl between Timothy Olyphant and Gerald McRaney that we were denied in this show.
    • Bullock is quite concerned with getting his hat back after his brawl with Al, much like a certain later Timothy Olyphant character would be.
    • As unlikely as it seemed at the time, this would actually be one of the healthier marriages in Anna Gunn's career.
  • Memetic Mutation: White COKSOCKA!
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • Doc Cochran helps Al pass several kidney stones by inserting a large metal spike into his urethra — while he's awake. This procedure causes so much pain that Dan has to keep administering smelling salts to prevent Al from passing out.
    • The fight between Dan and Captain Turner. Even besides the famously horrifying conclusion, it's one of the least "glamorized" fights in any medium: just two men using every ounce of strength they have to overcome the other, because anything less means death. It's not surprising that Dan's recovery from it amounts to sitting alone in a room, weeping.
      • Like mentioned, the conclusion of the aforementioned fight is terribly unpleasant. After gaining the upper hand, Turner pins down Dority and is about to beat him to death but suddenly, as a moment of desperation, Dority tears out Turner's left eye which ends up dangling from his socket. The way he shrieks in agony and horror is what drives this scene even further. Needless to say Turner squeals like a pig. Dority then finishes him off by beating him to death with a log which comes as an outright Mercy Kill.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Peter Coyote rolled into Deadwood, was a badass, told Smug Snake Cy Tolliver that he'd have him hanged if he could, gave Bullock the final push needed for him to become Sheriff, and rolled out leaving a trail of Badassery in his wake. In one episode.
  • Retroactive Recognition: One of the first onscreen roles for Kristen Bell.
  • Rooting for the Empire: Until Hearst shows up as the Big Bad, the rather wooden goodie sheriff Bullock doesn't hold a candle to the criminally magnificent Swearengean. Not a literal rooting as his early deeds are despicable enough, nevertheless Ian McShane's role is widely considered the most memorable character of the show.
  • Squick: The Gleet. "Mother of God" indeed. Also Doc Cochrane pushing a needle through a headwound in the first episode.
  • Trapped by Mountain Lions: The theater troupe in season 3. Maybe they would have had some kind of payoff if the show had continued, but as it is they just feel like a big waste of time in the final season.
  • What an Idiot!: Flora and Miles seem to be building a cunning plan to rip off the Gem and the Bella Union. Then Flora just makes a flimsy pretext to grab a fistful of Joanie's jewels and make a run for it. She fools no one and the plan is a spectacular failure.
  • The Woobie:
    • Reverend Smith. No one takes him seriously from the start, but at least he has God - then it's suggested that his intense feeling of being loved by God is a symptom of the brain tumour that's causing his fits. Then his body starts falling apart and he starts to hallucinate.
    • Alma Garret for her Cartwright Curse.
    • Whitney Ellsworth.
    • Joanie. First Cy makes her shoot a young girl on the face, then her attempt to start her own business far from him is ruined by a Serial Killer.

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