First, let me admit that that I'm a bad-luck charm. If I love a television show, you can pretty much count on it being cancelled. Take, for example, the phenomenal Terriers, which lasted all of one season. I enjoyed Dead Like Me and Pushing Daisies, and look what happened to them. Journeyman, Damages, and Rome are all victims. I thought The Ben Stiller Show was the funniest thing on TV, so it got the gong.
Deadwood actually survived three seasons of my love, which is a rare thing. I still miss it, and there's no character I miss more than Al Swearengen. I was already a fan of Ian McShane's before the show aired (thanks to Lovejoy, which I — fortunately — discovered after that series had been filmed; also because of the film Sexy Beast), but nothing prepared me for the wonder of Al.
Who could have imagined that this twisted wreck of a human being would end up being so lovable? Al is a foul-mouthed, vile-tempered, murderous, thieving, scheming pimp. He's generally embarrassed by his good impulses (he takes care of a crippled woman named Jewel, giving her a job cleaning his whorehouse, but he verbally abuses her, too... though, to be fair, Jewel's got an awesome mouth on her; Al generally doesn't mind being sassed back by loyal employees). When Al is being compassionate, he's no less scary than when he's being bad. One of his kindest acts is the mercy-killing of Reverend Smith, a man who'd lost his mind and was in agonizing pain; when Al smothered him, he said, "You can go now, brother" — which was about as sentimental as Al ever got.
Here he is in all his brutal glory. (Note to those offended by cursing or graphic violence: DO NOT WATCH. Also, this is definitely NSFW. Consider yourself warned!)
R.I.P. Al Swearengen. I'm not the only one who misses him, am I?