- Critic's Rating - 9/109/10
“God? What God? Look around. It’s the land of the blade and the rifle. It’s godless country.”
The era of Western genre craze had ended sometime in the late 1970s. Gone are the on-screen revolutionary days of cowboys John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Gregory Pack, Kevin Costner and Clint Eastwood. We all have loved, lived and rewatched classics like The Magnificent Seven, The Good The Bad And The Ugly, The Searchers, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid and Once Upon A Time In The West. Yet fifty years down the line, we are still reminded about this typical genre by hits like Django Unchained, True Grit, 3:10 To Yuma, Hostiles, Open Range. Alas, the age of Western has also disappeared from this planet, but we still have the vibe onscreen.
The web platform giant Netflix rolls out another opportunity to love Western in the form of a miniseries. The show is written and directed by Scott Frank, best known for two Academy Award nominations for screenplays of Out Of Sight and Logan. Godless – as the name suggests is a seven-episode revenge drama set in the town of Sante Fe during the 18th century. Giving no break to rest, the story follows a pillaged town which is being surveyed by the Marshall. The don Frank Griffin along with his thirty plus men had raped and set the little town on fire for helping out a rebel of his group. The rebel, Roy Goode, was considered as a son-like figure by Griffin. This has made him mad and he seeks to find and kill Roy along with destroying the ones who harbor him. Well, just like a simple western drama, just like the old times!
Roy finds haven in a ranch outside La Belle town. Alice (Michelle Dockery) a widow with a son who survives on the ranch. She’s a stubborn fighter, ready to take on any number of hostiles who invade her territory. Being hostile initially to an unknown and wounded man, she accepts him. Overtime, a very natural evolution of their relation takes place triggered by the changing conditions in the surrounding. This acceptable bond between Alice and Joy forms the central relation of the miniseries. The town of attention- La Belle had a different story altogether. It was a town inhabited only by women and children. All the working men from La Belle had died when mine collapsed while they were inside.
As the story unfolds, the viewers are not entirely surprised by the tussle that Roy and Griffin had. Probably one of the strongest features of any revenge drama is to set up a strong relation between antagonist and protagonist. Godless certainly lacks creating that atmosphere. When the story was developing over episodes and becoming more personal for both Roy and Griffin, the most important aspect was under hibernation. Jack Daniels plays the heartless & brutal murderer Frank Griffins. He is the leader of a hound. He has his own scars from childhood and is haunted by them. His character in the face of death is unflinching. Also, he’s probably the most recognized actor of the show. Jack O’ Connell as Roy is the mysterious protagonist, his views are kept hidden from the audience which makes one wonder with curiosity.
Being a full-western show, it has all the essentials of what makes a great western setting: the sound of the air rushing past green fields, the thumping sound of horses’ feet, the dusty wind blowing across town, the noise of doors knobs & guns reloading. From the sound of bullets to the mild sound of bottle opener, this immensely enraging and equally engaging tale of the west has its peak by the time it hits climax. This show is on the heels of the nationalized & industrialized west, which saw the boom of railway lines & mines sputtering out across the countryside, driving the economy. The reluctant nature of the army and the lack of law and police resources form a highlight of the western era. And the most peculiar part being the women which is a common feature in the western genre action drama, considered strictly as male-centric.
Never have the countryside ever looked so beautiful. A mesmerizing picturesque has been painted by Scott Frank. Never have the parade of baddies looked so amazing- traversing through the fields in symphony. Never have the western drama looked so beautiful!
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Godless is all what we had hoped from a western drama- the vibe of the 60s, the revenge between the two cowboys, the dust of the action in the wild wild west and the lost beauty of the era!