Television: So Wicked, He's Good

Ian McShane returns to Deadwood as the most evil--and fascinating--villain in the West

As Saloonkeeper Al Swearengen on HBO's Deadwood, Ian McShane once swindled a prospector, had him killed and then tried to fleece his widow. He has bribed officials and orchestrated or covered up numerous robberies and murders. And he very nearly killed an orphan girl for witnessing her family's massacre.

But his greatest act of criminality was stealing the show. When Deadwood debuted last year, HBO did not promote Swearengen as the lead. The cast is an ensemble, and since when is the bad guy the star of a western? But as the season unfolded, the complex, amoral yet philosophical master of...

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