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TV Series Review

Frank Griffin wants his money back.

OK, so, it's not exactly his money, if you want to get all technical about it. The $50,000 came from a payroll-laden train that he and his gang robbed a while back just outside Creede, Colo. That's 1884 money, by the way, when you could buy a new horse with a chrome saddle and subwoofers for, like, 50 cents.

Still, he took it, unfair and square, and he sure don't take kindly to anyone taking it from him—especially not his old protégé, Roy Goode. Why, Roy was like a son to old Frank: Frank taught the lad everything he knew about rustlin' and stealin' and murderin', and the kid showed some real talent with a gun, too. The nerve! To turn the tables and steal Frank's stolen goods? Why, that's worth a butchering, for sure.

But Roy escapes from Frank's felonious friends, killing 10 of them in the process and shooting off Frank's arm for good measure. Roy flees into the wilds of New Mexico, eventually taking refuge near a town appropriately named La Belle that's almost entirely populated by women. (The old mining town recently lost most of its menfolk in a mining accident.)

But those women won't save Roy—not if Frank finds him there. You could ask the good folks of Creede about that … if there were any left to ask.

A Fistful o' Fellers

Godless is Netflix's determined gallop into the timeless Western genre—with a bit of a 21st century twist. While most Westerns have been dominated by dusty, whiskered, testosterone-laden hombres, this eight-episode series features women who can handle horses, shoot guns and stare down death as well as any man. Better in many cases. And despite the lack of menfolk, they've built lives for themselves in La Belle: They've converted the town's brothel (Magdalena's House of Rapture) into a school. They're building a church in the middle of town. Men? They don't need no stinkin' men.

A few guys still frequent these parts, though, albeit somewhat sporadically. Bill McNue, the aging sheriff of La Belle, tends to disappear whenever trouble brews, leaving the town's ladies to sort out said trouble themselves. He's lost a lot of respect on La Belle's main street, and he gets precious little of it at home, either: The man's young daughter never speaks to him. But no matter: Sister Mary Agnes holds down the fort better than Bill ever could, anyway.

McNue's deputy, Whitey, favors good books as much as he does guns (though he's a pretty good shot). The settlement boasts a handful of other hombres, too: a barkeep, a barber, men whose livelihood kept them out of the mines that fateful day. But it's not like the women have much use for them.

The townspeople of La Belle have very little use for Alice Fletcher, either. The young widow lives on a ranch outside of town, shunned as a witch who supposedly cursed the place—perhaps because she had the audacity to marry a Native American and give birth to a son, Truckee, by him. She lives with as much dignity as she can muster with Truckee and her mother-in-law, Iyovi, as well as miles upon miles of scrub-covered dirt for company. Oh, and that Roy Goode fellow, who straggled in late one night and has a curious way with horses.

The Goode, the Bad and the Very, Very Ugly

Despite its name, Godless spends a surprising amount of time talking about God—though not always in glowing terms. Bad guy Frank was raised by Mormons, dresses like a preacher and threatens to bring down "righteous" hellfire on anyone who might cross him. In the first episode, he rides his horse right into church, warning congregants never to give Roy Goode shelter. "Unless you want to suffer," he adds, "like our Lord Jesus suffered for all of us."

But neither Frank nor the show itself mind inflicting a great deal of suffering.

Corpses cover the Western landscape like so many decomposing tumbleweeds. We see men, women, children and horses in unimaginable states of decay. This is no bloodless Western of yesteryear, where bad 'uns get gunned down from rooftops to vanish beyond the range of the camera. No, wounds here are ragged. Blood flows more freely than water in this parched land.

La Belle harbors plenty of sex and nudity, too—the lack of men notwithstanding. Language, though curiously florid, often strays into the coarse and profane.

Westerns have long served as a stage for quintessentially American sinners and saviors, heroes and villains laboring in a crucible where morality meets the savage hand of nature and man. Godless offers a virtue here and there, but that hand is more savage than many Westerns. Discerning viewers might be advised to ride on past.

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Episode Reviews

Godless: Nov. 22, 2017 "An Incident at Creede"



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Jack O'Connell as Roy Goode; Michelle Dockery as Alice Fletcher; Jeff Daniels as Frank Griffin; Scoot McNairy as Bill McNue; Merritt Wever as Mary Agnes; Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Whitey Winn; Tantoo Cardinal as Iyovi; Kim Coates as Ed Logan; Samuel Marty as Truckee; Sam Waterston as Marshal John Cook






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Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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