Deadwood PD Blue, South
The titles sequence for Deadwood runs over the desultory perambulations of a magnificent, wild, sorrel horse, intersperced with fragmentary moments refined from crude life in a working gold mining camp. The thematic score and visuals combine to set the tone for deep immersion in a very specific universe of rough pleasures, raw toil, rampant corruption and the fervent search for gold. The horse will eventually become the agent of destruction of the innocent son of Seth Bullock, the primary representative of law or order throughout the series.
The pilot episode of Brooklyn South erupts in cataclysmic urban violence with breathtaking suddenness as a sorrel-colored ungentleman (named Hopkins [as in Lightning]) begins his unbridled paroxysm of gunthug murder with a devastating punch to the face of guy who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Late in the third season of NYPD Blue, Andrew Sipowicz, Jr. is murdered while responsibly intervening in the violent celebration of two guys (wildcat capitalists) who are busily rejoicing in making good their escape from the scene of another recent crime scene. This story of Andy J’s murder is told entirely confessionally, in retrospect by victims and cowardly observers, all of whom chose not to take a stand against the sudden intrusion of dedicated, random violence erupting in their presence. It’s like, you know, stylistic variations of the same violent incident; transnarrative storytelling with virtuoso flourishes that fanthropologists and graduate students will probably be thinking about until hell freezes over (if anybody gets around to it).
Having a fairly literal mind, I’ve always read the horse metaphor as a beautifully fleshy manifestation of Unbridled Capitalism running amok in its pristine, natural, native environment, into which relatively-civilized Easterners intrude, bringing with them inappropriate attitudes and customs which the horse will summarily reorganize, and, in telling instances, crush, destroy, maim and render barely-recognizable (like William Bullock, as it eventually turned out). But David Milch, in his commentary, thwarted my literalist read by indicating his consternation at the inclusion of a wild horse cavorting in the countryside…which kept me thinking despite my tendency to figure I’d read the symbolic significance of the horse well enough. As it turns out, the horse probably didn’t die, but it’s worthwhile beating it, anyway, retrospectively and repeatedly, possibly forever. And there is no such thing as well enough because 9/11/2001 marks a date of violent action like a pebble striking the surface of a pond, making ripples that flow from the moment of impact AND ripples that lead up to it.
In his commentary for the pilot episode of Brooklyn South, David Milch remarks on Bill Clark’s frequent remarks about the manner in which violent behavior erupts, in Clark’s experience; suddenly, unexpectedly and often with breathtakingly disastrous results and unforeseeable consequences…kinda like 9/11.
So, I’m blithely cruising one of my favorite television shows with a couple of guys named Sipowicz and listening quite casually as one of them pointedly tells the other that policing starts and ends with paying attention to, and getting intimately familiar with
- The Things they do, and
- The Times they do them
…and I’m reminded of the horse, the Hopkins massacre, and the murder of Andy Sipowicz, Jr…as a violent realization overcomes me…that David Milch and Bill Clark have been explaining sudden, cataclysmic outbreaks of fictitious violence based on real events for a couple of decades…and I’ve only paid attention to the action, when the requirement is to read the ongoing interactions of people, places, things and times.
I see the internet as one small step toward telepathy and one giant leap toward global Culture. While certain sources of information feed my need for infomation, and other sources don’t, the internet is very like a gold mining camp in the wilderness, or a policeman’s beat in a community, or a medium in which violent action (that draws attention) erupts from persistent inattention to stuff that’s happening all the time. Likewise, Milch sloughs praise and awards for being The Creator of television shows that grab attention away from real life in which Culture grows a-David Milch-a-minute. I think he’s telling us to police our own areas with greater care, to invest redoubled attention in our lives, and to act with heroic-yet-conscientious decency. The alternative is to remain fixated on politicians celebrities and media heroes — whose successes (which ironically bring celebrity and hero-worship) derive solely from their immersion in policing their respective areas. I think he’s advising us to invest in our lives and not in our stars. Dave’s Epistle to the Skells.
Sorry about the anticlimax.
I almost forgot to mention that Yvonne leaves a gaping, ulcerated wound in Brooklyn South. Her mercenary duplicity and bottomless bitchiness match the trials of Andrew Sipowics, Senior, and she presents an excellent (though rarer) example of Milch-made antiheroine monsters written to spar at par with the demon-ridden guys (who absolutely do get more facetime, Wally).