An Incident At Creede
The Ladies of La Belle
Wisdom of the Horse
Fathers & Sons
Shot the Head off a Snake
Godless sets itself up to be a different kettle of fish compared to other Westerns. With its female empowerment theme running through the show and an interesting, talented cast, its ironic that Godless plays out like a standard Western. The end result is something that’s pretty formulaic; a no frills show that lovingly embraces all the best aspects of the genre whilst peppering it with enough dramatic tension and excellent acting to justify its existence. With each episode over an hour, Godless feels a little bloated at times but there’s enough here to keep your attention throughout in a series that feels like a love letter to the genre it adopts.
The story opens with a brilliant first episode; some clever editing and a nice, straight forward plot line intertwine to set the scene for the ensuing cat and mouse game this seven episode series turns into. After a mining accident wipes out almost every male in the town of La Belle, the self-sufficient women that now run the town, take in runaway Roy Goode (Jack O’Connell) and give him refuge. With the notorious Frank Griffin (Jeff Daniels) hunting the runaway with 30+ strong men at his side, Godless is a slow burning Western that builds toward a climactic, chaotic ending that sees these two sides meet head on. Does Godless really need 7 hours+ to achieve this? Probably not and this is one of the niggling issues with an otherwise excellent series.
Its worth mentioning too that Godless’ cinematography is outstanding. Breathtaking shots of the gorgeous landscape with horses kicking up dust or water juxtapose artistically with the grimy, dull colour palette many of the interior shots are filmed with. There’s some nice aerial shots too; sweeping crane movements show off the landscapes and help to really show the effortless composition throughout the series. The framing of each shot regularly shows off a lot of the background too, with many a scene depicting the endless, rolling hills dotted with shrubs and skeletal trees. Even here, there’s a clever mixture of barren, unforgiving wilderness and lush, tree-choked forest areas that feel like a direct contrast between the black and white theme that runs through much of Godless. With such stark contrasts between Frank’s group and La Belle, Godless really does a great job in showing this in as many ways as possible. Despite the cleverly woven beauty and sharp, thematic plot, Godless can only hold the attention for so long in a story that often feels bloated and woven with more expository dialogue than it should.
Godless is an odd series in many ways. It holds all the ingredients to be one of the best TV shows released this year. The acting is on point, typified by Jeff Daniel’s spine-chilling performance as Frank Griffin with the rest of the cast just behind him in terms of acting prowess. The gorgeous cinematography showcases the beauty of the landscape and the plot is straight forward and enjoyable. For all its strengths, the 7 hour+ length doesn’t always justify the means. There are times where Godless feels unnecessarily long, accentuated by a steady pace that remains methodically slow for most of the series, especially with barren stretches lacking action or character development. Having said all of that, Godless takes all the best elements of the Western genre and moulds them into an excellent series that is sure to please many people. Godless isn’t perfect but if you can look past the slightly overlong length and don’t mind the formulaic storyline full of tropes found in every other Western, you’re sure to enjoy Godless that’ a perfect love letter to the genre it manages to encapsulate.