Saturday, February 20, 2016

Legend -- Episode 5: The Life, Death, and Life of Wild Bill Hickok

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Wild Bill Hickok asks Legend for help in bringing in the Jack McCall gang.  As Hickok and McCall battle it out, Legend gets caught in the middle and finds a creative way to resolve the dispute so that no one has to die.

Memorable Quote:
What if I could give you a way to close that circle?  ~Legend
Only one way to do that.  Either he dies, or I do.  ~Hickok

I enjoyed the opening with the small Bartok spy balloon hovering around town (I love the face the little kid makes upon seeing it), and then there's a good scene as Legend's poker opponent accuses him of cheating after spotting and shooting at Bartok's balloon, only to have Hickok come to the rescue at the last minute.   And it's fun to hear Bartok yelling, "Evasive maneuver! Evasive maneuver!"

The song at the end hurt my ears.  It's a rock ballad that doesn't fit the time period at all, and it ruins the climactic scene for me.  The video gallery shows the original aired episode with a different song (which presumably the DVD makers couldn't get the rights to), though that one also makes my ears bleed.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • I did a lengthy report on the life of Wild Bill Hickok when I was in 5th grade.  In my Episode 2 recap, I mentioned The Young Riders which featured Stephen Baldwin as Buffalo Bill Cody, and it also starred Josh Brolin as Hickok.  And I included Hickok in my book, The Nightingale Moon, so as you can see Wild Bill and I go way back.
  • This episode was directed by veteran MacGyver director Michael Caffey and stars John Pyper-Ferguson as Jack McCall.  MacGyver fans will remember him as the spoiled, ungrateful son with the bad haircut in The Wasteland.  He does a great job in this episode as McCall. 
  • "I'll be honest with you, Bill.  I have a very strong aversion to guns."  Is that Legend, Pratt, or MacGyver talking?
  • I like the scene where Legend tells the crowd gathered in his room that he's not teaming up with Hickok -- the look of surprise on the faces of the mayor and Skeeter is amusing.  They also refer to the woman who is flirting with Legend as the "Angel of Death," because her schtick is to come on to guys who are about to die.  Very strange, but somehow the scene still works.
  • Conversation at the 24:00 mark:
    • "You know, Professor, I've been wondering ever since Henry shot down your little spy orb, what would happen if a bullet penetrated the big balloon, eh?"  ~Legend
    • "It would fall."  ~Bartok
    • I couldn't help but think of another moment where a balloon was pierced by a bullet, but yet the balloon did not fall.
    • And not unlike that aforementioned "moment," it seems as if the balloon wouldn't be that hard to shoot down, and the McCall gang certainly had many opportunities to do so.
  • I've been to Deadwood, South Dakota (circa 2008) and saw Hickok's grave.  For those that don't know, the "Dead Man's Hand" is a pair of Aces and 8's which is what he was allegedly holding when he got shot by McCall (who was a real person and Hickok's killer).

Final Analysis:
This is the clear #1 episode for me so far.  There's good pacing and never a dull moment, and the plot is well-written and creative, especially the ending where Legend comes up with the idea to fake Hickok's death.  There weren't any moments that clearly stood out to me as a highlight, but the episode was generally solid from beginning to end (except for the music in the final scene). Hopefully this is a sign that the series is trending up.


  1. This one was definitely the best so far. Pacing was great, the action and humor was great. RDA was so over the top but never too ridiculous, just awesome fun. Whenever he's in a tight spot he always sounds like Dexter, and the aversion to guns, his trying to talk down the kid from a gunfight, and convincing Hickok he could help him close the cirlce was so Macgyver.
    Great how he's still completely chill with the guns on him. Never looked real scared at the poker game and playfully waved it away. Also casually bantering with the gang who captured him.
    The whole "goodbye scene was hilarious. "Consider me inkled," and the constant "WHAT!" were too funny. "Thank you all for stopping by. Means so much when friends pay a visit." He was sure getting into the role.
    Bartok is growing on me. His constant attempts to better the world through science and his relationship with Legend is getting better. I like him.
    The whole episode kept getting better and better. Our definite favorite.

    1. Yeah I like Bartok too -- he's a fun character and de Lancie is a good actor.

  2. Agreed that this was the most interesting episode we've watched thus far. I still don't have a gut-level connection with this series but it was a solid effort with a creative, tightly executed story. I liked the cast too. Between Jon Pyper-Ferguson playing Jack McCall and William Russ playing Hickok, you're talking about two of the most prolific character actors on television in the past 20 years and they both have dozens and dozens of credits to their name. I remember William Russ back to his days playing pseudo-villains on "Miami Vice" and "Wiseguy" back in the 80s. And I hadn't picked up on Legend's aversion to guns yet in the series and agreed it appeared to be a carryover from "MacGyver", one that seems a little gimmicky in this Old West context.

    I didn't realize you had been to Deadwood, SD. I've been there a few times myself and was amused by the generic southern California backdrop meant to represent Deadwood but I enjoyed the reference. My favorite stunt from the episode was Pratt/Legend getting knocked out of the balloon and hanging upside down again. RDA almost spent as much time upside down on this series as he did right-side up. Now I didn't detest the rock ballad at the end as much as you did but agree it was hilariously out of context for a show set in that era. Clever idea to fake Hickok's death with the early incarnation of a bulletproof vest. There was something else I was gonna mention but can't recall it right now. I'll come back if I think of it later.

    Anyway, definitely the best episode of the five.

    1. I was also in South Dakota in 4th grade (family trip across the country), and one thing I remember vividly is stopping at Wall Drug Store in the evening and seeing this guy play Mad Dog McCree (a first person shooter arcade game that I had never seen before). There were about 50 people crowded around and watching him -- he was a total pro and seemed like the coolest guy I'd ever seen.

      On my more recent trip, I also stopped at the Mitchell Corn Palace which was unique -- I'm guessing you've been there? And then there's the Crazy Horse Memorial which was under construction when I was in 4th grade and then still under construction during my 2008 trip.

    2. I never saw anything as cool as Mad Dog McCree at Wall Drug. My biggest memory of the place was searching everywhere to find the advertised "free ice water" and never actually finding it. The guy you describe sounds more like what I saw on the streets of Deadwood.

      The Mitchell Corn Palace is one of those places that's cool to stop at once but there's not much new to see after going there once. I was in Deadwood in 2008 as mid-August. That would have been wild if we were there at the same time. Did you go down the road to see the dumpy old mining town of Lead? Deadwood was the red light district for Lead back in the pioneer days. Coming from cornfield country, I'm not used to steep inclines so those hillside streets in Lead terrified me.

    3. The town of Lead does not ring a bell. One other thing I remember about that trip was going to Teddy Roosevelt Nat'l Park in Western North Dakota and expecting to easily find a hotel that night, but there were no hotel rooms available in the whole western half of the state and we had to drive to Bismarck. Little did I know that North Dakota was experiencing an oil boom and there were tons of out-of-staters who had come in for work, so occupancy and unemployment were at 0%.

  3. Lead is only three miles from Deadwood. It was a dumpy town but worth seeing since it was the mining town cousin to Deadwood. I went to the Teddy Roosevelt National Park area in 2012 and knew there wasn't gonna be any available hotel rooms because of the oil boom. What year did you go? Some of those years, you were lucky to even find a hotel room available in Bismarck.

    1. It was that same 2008 trip. ND doesn't exactly get a lot of national media attention so I had absolutely no clue about the oil boom - in fact I had assumed just the opposite, that there would be tons of hotel rooms available figuring that ND wasn't a top tourist destination and one that's not easy to get to.

  4. Haven’t quite decided where to place this episode yet –I hope my own review will help me decide! I’m enjoying watching out for examples of the mayor’s efforts to big-up the town. Here we have the ‘community development plan’ (a great anachronism for 1876) and ‘Sheridan, home of heroes’. Later when he, along, with half the town, comes to say goodbye to Legend, he’s already, calculatingly, anticipating the boom to the tourist trade that a Legend memorial will bring.
    Also enjoyed more amusing oneliners; Legend’s ‘creative differences’ as his reason for not working with Hickock and Bartok foretelling the air-stewardesses of the future, who will cater to one’s ‘every whim’ but not necessarily Pratt’s! Enjoyed the ‘goodbye’ scene generally along with Legend falling out of the balloon and scenes where he is captured. RDA must have relishes the physical action which he always threw himself into so enthusiastically.
    Thanks for the John Pyper-Ferguson spot – I would never have caught that one.
    I’m still finding the Pratt/Legend character combination a bit confusing. It seems that the character is now no longer ever completely Ernest Pratt or completely Legend. A lot of the townspeople are now fully aware of ‘Legend’s’ predilections; drinking, womanising and gambling, but it doesn’t seem to bother them and Pratt himself is no longer as cowardly or as self-centred; he actively tries to prevent the gunfight, he’s very cool when he’s captured by McCall and goes into action with a great charge at the villain to save Hickock. Maybe it’s a good concept – a gradual character development as Pratt’s less attractive side is subsumed by the Legend persona.
    I was not so well-informed as Nick about WBH! As usual, it was entertaining to find out more about a real historical character. Apparently he really did develop bad eyesight and he did sit with his back to the door when he was shot, having asked several others to swap seats He was also one of the first heroes of the real dime novel genre so he was a great character to pick for the story. Sadly, the bullet proof vest which worked so well as the twist at the end of the episode wouldn’t have really worked as he was actually shot in the head!
    I’ve convinced myself; this one goes to my number 1 slot too!

    1. His charge at the villain was reminiscent of some of MacGyver's great dives!