I have a strange relationship with westerns. I didn’t grow up watching them and would probably consider Kevin Costner’s “Wyatt Earp” (a whopping 3 hr film) my first real exposure to the genre (I still have a love for this film that most people don’t. I blame it on the fact that Tombstone was rated R and therefore I was not allowed to watch it back in the early 90s). Over the years, though, I’ve watched more westerns and grown to enjoy the genre as a whole, but only if it has a few key elements.
Netflix’s “Godless” encapsulates everything I want as a viewer. It has grit and grime of what I consider a great western. Sometimes, westerns don’t feel right to me. I expect and imagine frontier life was not clean or easy. Sometimes, westerns feel too…shiny. Instead, I want to feel every piece of granule of discomfort that I believe life was back during that time. Few luxuries could be found. “Godless” delivers on all fronts.
Set mostly in New Mexico back in the late 1800s, we are introduced to territory that is for lack of a better word, godless. The law is sparse as the military is spread thin over the west and outlaws run rampant. The most notorious is Frank Griffon. With a group of twenty plus men, he is searching for Roy Goode who betrayed him and stole a great deal of money from the group. Frank is injured and forced to hold off his search while Roy runs.
Most of the story takes place in the small mining town of La Belle where the population was cut in half a year prior when all the men who worked in the town’s mine died due to an accident. Made up now of mostly women, children, and a few older men, the town is struggling financially. We are introduced to a great many characters who round out a strong cast. Aside from the beautiful cinematography and great casting, it’s the weight of the conflict that drives the story.
Every major and even some of the minor characters are fleshed out very well. You sympathize with several (good or bad) and find yourself engrossed in what will happen. The show takes several twists and turns, leaving you shocked that what you expected of a western is not the case. Like I said, I want to feel every granule of sand and gunpowder and “Godless” throws it at you. The action is felt more than just watched.
As for inspiring me as a writer, there were small elements for character building that I latched onto. Just small details that I noticed and even if I pointed that out as something that is perfect for characters development, some people might look at me like I was a nerd (and I am but that’s besides the point).
I would be absolutely fine and satisfied with only one season of “Godless” and it ends in a manner that closes out the show in a satisfying way. However, I would not hesitate to watch more of this unforgiving world. If you are a fan of shows like Deadwood or Hell on Wheels, you’ll enjoy this one.
Call to Action: I’m looking for beta readers for my book. If interested, please let me know. If you know of anyone who has done good work as a beta reader for other writers, please pass the word along. It helps if you are well-read but you do not necessarily need to be a huge fan of fantasy. Thanks!