The NETFLIX original seven-part series Godless came as a surprise. I hadn’t heard of it, but somehow stumbled across it and ended up binging all seven episodes in a day. I highly recommend it.
Often we see new series compared to other series that set a high bar. Ozark was compared to Breaking Bad, which isn’t fair, as Ozark is different in several key ways. “Damn it, Darlene!” has now entered the lexicon between my wife and I. If you’ve seen the first season, you know what I mean.
Godless has an intriguing cast. Jeff Daniels as the bad, bad, bad, guy, Frank Griffin, is brilliant. Michelle Dockery, of Downton Abbey fame, as Alice Fletcher, the widow rancher worked perfectly.
Some of these characters might sound cliché, such as “widow rancher” but they are anything but. The story itself, the bad guy who turns, also seems cliché but it isn’t.
What I really liked about the story was that they explained some things, particularly history, but didn’t explain others, allowing you to draw your own conclusions. Who exactly was Sister Alice? She certainly wasn’t teaching those kids to read and she took Roy Goode’s money and opened a saloon? What exactly happened to Alice Fletcher’s second husband? What was with the German woman?
As part of the history, the Buffalo Solders were mentioned, an important chapter in our western history. Jeff Daniels awful childhood experience in the Mountain Meadows Massacre helped explain why he became what he became, although, strangely, they gave the wrong year for it. In the series he says it was 1854, when it was 11 September 1857. I know that because it’s one of the storylines in Nine-Eleven (Time Patrol). That event is one that few Americans know of. Mountain Meadows slideshow.
The overall story in Godless is brutal. It also is a strange combination of realism with a touch of mysticism. There are numerous subplots that are interesting without being distracting. Every character had a back-story, from the runaway German bride, to the sheriff going blind.
The ending might not have been as satisfying to some, but it had to be that way. Roy Goode had to do what he did — he was still a wanted man.
One thing I really liked was the subtext that reading is a life-changing and critical skill. From Roy’s letter from his brother, to the newspaper articles, reading played a key role in the story.
Cool Gus gives it four paws up.
Originally published at bobmayer.com on November 27, 2017.