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"Some goddamn point a man's due to stop arguing with his-self and feeling twice the goddamn fool he knows he is 'cause he can't be something he tries to be every goddamn day without once getting to dinnertime and fucking it up. I don't want to fight it anymore, understand me Charlie? And I don't want you pissing in my ear about it. Can you let me go to hell the way I want to?"
―Wild Bill Hickok to Charlie Utter[src]

James Butler Hickok, better known as Wild Bill Hickok, is a main character during the first half of the first season of HBO's Deadwood.

He arrived in Deadwood as one of its first residents, along with his good friends Charlie Utter and Calamity Jane, in July of 1876. He was a well-known gambler and gunslinger, participating in many shootouts before coming to Deadwood.

He is portrayed by Keith Carradine.

Biography[]

Before coming to Deadwood

Hickok was born and raised on a farm in northern Illinois at a time when lawlessness and vigilante activity were rampant because of the influence of the "Banditti of the Prairie". Drawn to this ruffian lifestyle, he headed west at age 18 as a fugitive from justice, working as a stagecoach driver and later as a lawman in the frontier territories of Kansas and Nebraska. He fought and spied for the Union Army during the American Civil War and gained publicity after the war as a scout, marksman, actor, and professional gambler. He was involved in several notable shootouts during the course of his life.

Hickok met Agnes Thatcher Lake, at the time 45 years old, on July 31, 1871. Lake, a widow and the proprietor of Lake's Hippo-Olympiad circus, arrived in Abilene and went to the office of the town marshal to pay the performance fee. She and the circus departed the next day, but Lake and Hickok continued to correspond. On March 5, 1876, Hickok married Lake in Cheyenne, Wyoming Territory. Hickok left his new bride a few months later, joining Charlie Utter's wagon train to seek his fortune in the gold fields of Deadwood, South Dakota.

Arrival in Deadwood

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Wild Bill travels with his old friend Charlie Utter and the foul-mouthed Calamity Jane. Hickok's reasons for moving to the Black Hills aren't immediately clear, but it's obvious that his very presence in the town sends excitement through its residents. Hickok and Utter rent a room in E.B. Farnum's hotel. Hickok's presence in Deadwood continues to capture the attention of those in the town. Newspaperman A.W. Merrick of the Deadwood Pioneer tries to get some information out of him, but the gunslinger ignores him. Also taking notice is Jack McCall, a man given to sitting in the dark corners of Tom Nuttall's No. 10 Saloon. McCall claims not to be impressed by Hickok, and swears to "gut that son of a bitch at poker" whenever he gets a chance. Wild Bill does get into a poker game and winds up on a terrible losing streak. However, he is trying to earn up enough money to buy a stake with which to support his wife.

The search for the Metz family

News of a massacre arrives in Deadwood: the entire Metz family, a man says, has been killed by Indians. When pressed, the man says he saw two dead children, but townspeople say the Metz family had three children. Hickok puts together a party, including Seth Bullock, to look for the missing child. Fearing a major disruption of business, saloon owner Al Swearengen offers up free alcohol and discounted sex to those that stay behind with him.

The party finds the third Metz girl, but she's unconscious and hovering near death. They take her back to Deadwood, dropping her off with Doctor Cochran. Hickok and Bullock then confront the man who originally brought the news of the massacre, accusing him of staging the raid in order to line his own pockets. The man draws his gun, but is shot dead by Hickok.

Friendship with Bullock

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The following day it is revealed that the man that was shot by Hickok was Ned Mason. Hickok and Bullock cross paths again. Charlie Utter asks Bullock to set Hickok up with some prospecting equipment, but the gunslinger isn't happy that his friend has so loudly announced his intentions. Later, Utter tries to convince Hickok to take "appearance" money to gamble in one of the local joints, but Hickok rejects this, as he doesn't want to be a shill. Eventually, Utter does manage to broker a deal of this sort, to ensure that Wild Bill has a source of income. Meanwhile, Hickok and Bullock seem to establish some sort of a friendship and mutual respect towards each other.

Swearengen enlists Ned Mason's brother to kill Hickok, inciting the road agent to do the deed under the guise of revenge for his fallen brother. Mason makes the attempt while wildly drunk, tipping off Wild Bill. As would be expected, Mason is gunned down before he even manages to draw iron. Having anticipated the attack, Hickok had asked Bullock, also at the saloon, to watch his back. This pairing once again draws the notice of Swearengen, who becomes even more convinced that the men are working together. The assumed collusion makes it even more difficult for Bullock and Star to buy their lot from Swearengen.

Rivalry with Jack McGall

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To the frustration of Utter, Wild Bill keeps spending a lot of his time at the poker table. Hickok finally manages to win a hand of poker, taking a large pot from the lout Jack McCall, and the game gets heated. Before the situation can escalate further, McCall is thrown out of the game, but not before spewing a stream of profanity.

McCall and Hickok are back at the poker table some time later and once again it's Bill who cleans out the foul-mouthed McCall. Rising from the table, McCall begins a typical stream of insults, but Cy Tolliver stops him, and Bill tosses him a dollar for a meal. Leaving the saloon to get some air, Hickok visits Seth Bullock, who is in the process of building out his hardware store, even at three in the morning. The two exchange quick pleasantries, and the mutual respect between the two is once again apparent.

Hired by Alma Garret

Alma Garret pleads to Wild Bill, begging him to help solve the case of her husband's murder and bring justice to those that may have done her husband wrong. Hickok heads to The Gem Saloon to question Swearengen, but as usual, Swearengen is able to deflect any inquiry directed towards him. Hickok takes an alternate approach by intentionally accepting a bribe from Swearengen. Wild Bill takes Swearengen's money and then enlists Bullock to do a review of the Garret gold claim. Bullock agrees to help, but says that he'll need to bring in somebody from Montana to do the work.

Killed by McGall

Here Was A Man

Returning to the saloon wild-eyed, the long-simmering anger and jealousy of Jack McGall has come to a boil. He strides up to the poker table and shoots Hickok in the back of the head. Word spreads quickly through town, as people take to the street, and McCall is immediately apprehended. Drawn almost by instinct, Bullock and Calamity Jane find their way to Nuttall's saloon, but an era has already ended: Wild Bill Hickok is dead.

Legacy

Hickok is buried at the camp's cemetary and the ceremony is lead by Reverend Smith. Bullock and Utter avenge his murder by bringing McGall to justice after he was set free. Utter and Jane often visit Hickok's grave and talk to him about recent developments within the camp. Bullock keeps his promise to Hickok and helps mrs. Garret in a review of her gold claim.

Behind the Scenes[]

Wild Bill was portrayed by respected actor Keith Carradine during the first season of the series. He was portrayed as an older man in the series, when in fact he was only thirty-nine years of age when he died.

Appearances[]

Episodes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Season 1
Season 2
Season 3
The Movie
Appears Appears as a corpse Appears in a flashback
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