August 11, 2014 5:05 PM EDT

In this Western, the West is not so much won as stolen—first, of course, from the barely seen Indians, then by mining corporations from the prospectors who risked death and ruin to find the gold in them-thar hills. (These thar ones being the Black Hills, of South Dakota, just after Little Big Horn.) The law is as much a bludgeon as a savior, as the powerful strike sweetheart deals and the little guys scrabble as best they can: Al Swearengen, the Bowie-knife-wielding saloonkeeper; Seth Bullock, the lawman with rage issues; and Calamity Jane, the drunk, brokenhearted former pal of the doomed Wild Bill Hickok. Written with Shakespearean filigree by David Milch, these characters gave Deadwood its vulgar poetry.

Get This TV Show

Contact us at letters@time.com.

Read More From TIME

Related Stories