In real-life, Swearengen was a brothel owner/entrepreneur/thug who was equally feared for his brutality and respected for his business savvy. But while he was ostensibly the villain of the HBO series (which you can stream on HBO NOW), the show’s writing staff portrayed him as being much more complicated than just a mustache-twirling antagonist. McShane infused the character with almost a quiet nobility, making Swearengen someone who committed deplorable acts at times, but who was also capable of surprising kindness. He also got the series’ best lines. So, join us as we travel back in time to the South Dakota frontier as we take a look back at the best Al Swearengen quotes from Deadwood.
“Welcome to f*cking Deadwood!” – Al Swearengen
Shouting those four words while beaten and bloody, Al sums up Deadwood as a show — it’s a brutal and profane place. And so worth visiting.
“Pain or damage don’t end the world. Or despair or f*cking beatings. The world ends when you’re dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man… and give some back.” – Al Swearengen
Bizarrely enough, sometimes Swearengen acted as the show’s moral compass, such as in this speech to world-weary newspaper man Merrick (Jeffrey Jones). If you ask me, HBO needs to capitalize on a golden merchandising opportunity and release a series of prints featuring inspiration quotes from Al.
“In life, you have to do a lot of things you don’t f*cking want to do. Many times, that’s what the f*ck life is… one vile f*cking task after another.” – Al Swearengen
Not only was he an excellent pimp, Swearengen was one hell of a life coach. Who knew they even had those in the 1800s?
“Oh, don’t tell me how to talk in my own f*ckin’ place! Now, here’s my counter offer to your counter offer: Go f*ck yourself! ” – Al Swearengen
Ian McShane’s Al Swearengen and Timothy Olyphant’s Seth Bullock were like the Sam and Diane of Deadwood. Only here, the will they/won’t they question concerned bloodshed, as opposed to coitus.
“God rest the souls of that poor family… and pussy’s half price for the next 15 minutes!” – Al Swearengen
Al understands more than most the circle of life. There’s a time to mourn and a time to get back to business. To everything turn, turn, turn.
“I want to know who cut the f*cking cheese.” – Al Swearengen
Life in the Old West was hard. Who knows how many innocent souls Swearengen callously cut down in their prime for invoking the smelt it/dealt it rule.
“Get a f*cking haircut. Looks like your mother f*cked a monkey.” – Al Swearengen
It’s a shame that the Internet didn’t exist in the time of Deadwood, because something tells me that Al would be absolutely fierce at writing TV recaps.
“No one gets out alive, Doc.” – Al Swearengen
In some ways, Swearengen is a tragic figure. He spends all of his days working, trying to build his whole dubious empire, knowing all the while that because of his environment and line of work that his life could end at any second. But there is no “carpe diem” positivity to be found here, just the cold realization that death is always lurking around the corner. Bummer.
“Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh.” – Al Swearengen
The writers of Deadwood didn’t invent this idiom, but they did realize that it perfectly suits the world-weariness of the Swearengen character. Speaking of which…
“Every f*ckin’ beatin’, I’m grateful for. Every f*ckin’ one of them. Get all the trust beat out of you. And you know what the f*ckin’ world is.” – Al Swearengen
There’s no better way to wrap up this collection of Al Swearengen quotes than with this statement that sums up his ideology that the world is a kill or be killed place, and, as the show’s tagline succinctly stated, Deadwood is a hell of a place to make your fortune.
Updated on 1/8/16 with news of the Deadwood movie confirmation.