Making Sense of Deadwood: Seth Bullock and the Indian

Simon Petch


This paper probes the relation between narrative energy, mise-en-scène and historical background in the opening sequence of 'Plague' (Deadwood season 1 episode 6), in which Seth Bullock, Deadwood's future sheriff, is attacked by an Indian, whom he kills. The ironic disjunction between the motives of Bullock (personal) and those of his assailant (racial) focuses a micro-history of relations, in the late nineteenth century, between the colonizing power of the United States and its indigenous inhabitants. Through analysis of the visual and aural syntax of this sequence, this paper uses the structural dynamic of the episode to explore the mainsprings of Deadwood's first season.

A version of this paper was presented at “Native American Literatures: An Interdisciplinary Colloquium,” held at the University of Sydney on 10th May 2011. I thank the convenor of the Colloquium, Dr. Bruce Gardiner, of the Department of English, for inviting me to speak at this event.

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