This article positions David Milch's Deadwood (2004–6) as a narrative universe that merits serious theoretical scrutiny on account of its far-reaching account of the dawn of American technocapitalism. While Kittlerian media-archaeological wisdom situates media modernity's primal scene at the turn of the century (with the emergence of the Edisonian gramophone, film, and typewriter), Deadwood figures the multimedia Big Bang as having taken place a few decades prior, with the advent of telegraphy, photography, and railroads. In the world of Deadwood, this “Discourse Network 1876” condenses in the spectral figure of George Hearst, a tyrannical mining and media magnate who descends on Deadwood to seize and consolidate the area's gold mining rights. When community leaders Al Swearengen and Seth Bullock rise up to resist Hearst, he wields the cybernetic grid of Discourse Network 1876 to run roughshod over the town's fragile social compact. Although this vision of the American Leviathan is a bleak one (and therein resides much of Deadwood's tragic mythos), Milch's Deadwood: The Movie (2019) revisits the town a decade later and rehabilitates the notion that a tightknit community of concerned citizens can, under the right conditions, serve as a viable, but precarious, bulwark against the Hearstian electrical storm.

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