December 16, 2017

Godless, a Western series on Netflix

My grandfather was an honest to goodness cowboy so I have a soft spot for Westerns. Netflix is streaming a pretty decent seven-episode series Wild West drama called Godless, created by Scott Frank. Steven Soderbergh burnishes the pedigree as executive producer for the show.

The strongest element just may be the acting. Good guy Jeff Daniels plays against type as a complicated villain who leads a pack of violent bullies. Michelle Dockery, last seen as Lady Mary in Downton Abbey, plays Alice Fletcher, a hard scrabble widow with a convincing American accent. Merrit Wever who was so charming in Nurse Jackie does an about face as Mary Agnes, a widow who has started to wear men’s clothing, carries a gun and has been courting a local prostitute turned school marm. Even the venerable Sam Waterston has a small but memorable role as mustachioed Marshal John Cook.

Jack O’Connell playing hero-of-sorts Roy Goode has a phenomenal scene as he tames a wild horse with Alice Fletchers’ half Paiute young son, Truckee (Samuel Marty). Never have I seen a more convincing depiction of horse-breaking.

 

This is a current day take on the Western concept, to be sure, with a town full of women who have been forced to assume male roles, African-Americans who are Buffalo soldiers turned farmers and Paiute Indians who are some of the wisest and most endearing characters of the show.

The cinematography is stunning with panoramic views of the Southwest and arty shots like filming through a graveyard as a band of outlaws makes its way to town. Some will be disturbed by the “symphony of guns” scene towards the end of the series, but the Western genre usually has an equivalent of the Gunfight at the OK Corral, does it not? Only this is the good gals versus the bad guys.

If you feel like communing with cowboys, dance hall girls, farmers, Indians, sheriffs and deputies, school marms, Buffalo soldiers, yellow journalists, mining executives and psychopaths on horses, Godless might be worth a look-see.

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