Netflix’s Godless Review
Just in time for Thanksgiving weekend, Netflix has released new series Godless to binge after, well, binging. This limited series explores the old west through the eyes of a town run by women and two outlaws playing a game of cat and mouse.
The old west conjures up images of cowboys, shootouts, and raucous saloons. We often forget that this was an era of change and lawlessness. Netflix’s Godless depicts a less romanticized view of the wild west. Where most films and television shows about the west live in a black and white depiction of morality, Godless inhabits a grey area free of the caricatures of traditional villains and heroes.
With Godless Netflix provides a twist on the classic tale of a man searching for redemption and a villain seeking vengeance. In this tale the west is a “godless country” where there is no clear delineation between good and evil and survival is all-important. The town of La Belle and its inhabitants get caught in the middle of a feud between cruel outlaw Frank Griffin (Jeff Daniels) and his former ally Roy Goode (Jack O’Connell). Roy hides out with outsider Maggie Fletcher (Michelle Dockery) and her young son just outside of town. There he forms a connection with the family, endangering the town in the process.
Godless further explores the dangers of the wild west by considering the lives of women. Specifically, the women of La Belle. La Belle is a town that lost most of their men in a mining explosion. This leaves only women, children, and older men inhabiting the town. The women of La Belle take up the mantle of their dead husbands out of necessity and survive in their defunct mining town by creating their own society.
Godless explores gender and racial politics, depicting the difficulties faced by the women of La Belle. Particularly the mayor’s anachronistic widow Mary Agnes (Merrit Wever). The show also explores racial tension between Native Americans, freed slaves, and the towns that shun them. Though set in the past, Godless feels all to current considering these debates continue to this day. The show depicts the difficulty of life in the west including disease, starvation, and the danger of a world far from the civilization of established cities.
While the show provides a fascinating look at a highly glamorized era through the eyes of oft overlooked people, it is definitely a slow burn. That being said, this is a visually compelling show. Beautiful scenes of rolling hills and pristine land are contrasted alongside images of massacres and disease. While I enjoyed the show’s perspective and the slow unveil of the character’s pasts, there were some issues. Some episodes fell under the Netflix curse of dragging on longer than necessary. Viewers looking for scene after scene of bloodshed and duels at noon with little or no plot would likely not find it enjoyable. Those looking for a different perspective on the west with a focus on the lives of women will enjoy the slow burn of the show and the nuanced acting put forth by the actors.