When is an assassination attempt…not an assassination attempt?
That’s the question at the heart of this episode as Alma, on a short walk to the bank, is shot at by parties unknown. Bullock is out of town, campaigning for sheriff, and he sits out most of the episode. Alma’s husband is out at the claim. Who can protect her?
How about Al Swearengen?
Now, see, Al’s smart. He sets first Silas and later Charlie to watch over the schoolhouse where Alma’s adopted daughter is, has Dan knock out Ellsworth so he doesn’t do anything stupid, sets Trixie to watch over Alma, and eventually sends Alma off to the bank alone.
See, the shooter came from Hearst. That’s not a surprise. But Hearst doesn’t want Alma dead, or not any more than he wants most people in Deadwood dead. He’ll settle for Ellsworth. But the one he really wants dead is Bullock, and making a half-assed attempt to kill Alma (that was meant to fail) was really a plan to lure Bullock into a trap.
Fortunately, Swearengen sees through all that. He can get a warning out to Bullock.
And then when Hearst sends the head of his hired guns over to Swearengen, and the guy does some tough talk about how Dan’s big opponent was meant to drag the fight out, mostly to demoralize the town so Hearst can get his way, and, well, sure, the guy talks tough, but it seems that Al kicking him in the balls a bunch of times convinces the guy to not be so tough, confess Hearst has something like 100 hired guns at the ready, and some other juicy secrets before Al eventually just slits his throat. If the fellow hadn’t had a rough time with his employer, it might have gotten some notice, but Al can claim the guy lit out the back and made a run for it and Hearst might actually believe that.
So, there’s a plan forming, and that’s good, since there’s only two episodes left at this point.