So, it's fictionalized, but sticking closely to many facts. It's constructed around episodes, yet isn't episodic in the least. And there are a few notable characters one could easily mistake for protagonists, but the truth is Deadwood is an ensemble show like no other.
I love that they swear like, well, like cowboys. And I understand the swearing is updated to avoid the pratfalls of stereotypes, thus turning a bad-ass like Al Swearengen into a cartoon. But the twists and turns their hoity-toity low-speak follow as they spit back and forth like zig-zagging streamers is cumbersome and irritating, and yet majestic and beautiful. It's unlike anything I've ever seen. Especially in a Western.
The genre tends to rely on the grunting, monosyllabic checkered men who duke it out in lawless encounters of good versus evil. But in this show, words are never spared, which is not to say that they're ever on the nose.
In Deadwood, lawlessness isn't just part of the milieu, it's the theme, the undercurrent that drives every strand of the plot, and it's effect and affect on each character's motivations and weaknesses is all the more powerful. This is unlike any Western I've ever seen, which is why I 've been recommending it to people who hate Westerns. They're gonna love Deadwood.