February 2019 Archives

Steal These Lines

'You can't cut the throat of every cocksucker whose character it would improve'

No television show loved language more than HBO’s Deadwood, but that statement comes with a caveat: It was not particularly quotable. The dialogue by David Milch and his writers was gorgeous, but it was purposefully verbose and had an often-challenging syntax.

Yet in that thick stew of words and convoluted sentences were tons of great lines, and — more to the point for this article — lots of quotes that can be adapted to your everyday life. My wife and I compiled this list last summer, looking for nuggets that one might use at home, with friends, or in the workplace (but only, it should be stressed, in carefully selected company). A few require a scene partner, but the vast majority are merely waiting for the perfect moment.

With the long-hoped-for Deadwood movie arriving this spring (exact date TBA), I figured that now would be a good time to share.

Failure in a Moment

A race against dementia

Sometimes the success or failure of a movie, book, or television show hinges on a short passage. If that small part works, so does the whole; if the crucial bit comes up short, the entire enterprise falls apart.

For me with the third season of creator/writer Nic Pizzolatto’s HBO series True Detective, the moment comes late in the finale when former cop Wayne Hays drives up to the house of a person he strongly suspects is Julie Purcell, who disappeared with her brother Will 35 years ago and has eluded him ever since.

Done well, this section would have salvaged a story plagued by missteps. But Pizzolatto botches it.


The question of what actually happened with Nora hangs over the finale of The Leftovers, but it is finally unknowable in any conclusive sense. Yet as much as the finale’s approach invites speculation, questions, and theories, it also tells us how to process it. If Damon Lindelof ain’t telling or showing us what actually happened, we must infer that it’s not really important.

But it’s absolutely relevant whether Nora is telling the truth, which is an admittedly odd thing to say on the heels of the preceding sentence. The episode also gives us this answer, subtly but unmistakably: She’s lying.

The genius of “The Book of Nora” is that it lays this out for us with immense clarity and then welcomes us to set it aside.