Between Deadwood and this Netflix series, I seem to be on a bit of a Western kick right now.
These two shows could not be more different, by the by. Deadwood is something of a humanist drama that involves characters trying to bring some form of civilization to an isolated area, and the problem isn’t the land or the natives but greedy outsiders coming to take over the place for their own exploitative purposes. Deadwood still looks like a TV show.
Godless is closer to a traditional Western story, only a hell of a lot prettier. Godless looks like a movie in seven parts.
I shouldn’t be surprised by the aesthetics of Godless. Steven Soderbergh is the executive producer. Godless has a cinematic look to it as a result. The scope for this one looks to be both huge and intimate at the same time.
Set mostly in and around the mining town of La Belle, Colorado, where there isn’t much mining being done, the first episode opens with three very different men looking for medical help. One is La Belle’s sheriff, Bill McNue. He’s trying to get something from the local Native Americans, but he isn’t patient enough to get all of it. And he’s apparently considered to be something of a coward back in town. Heck, his sister Mary Agnes, a widow taken to wearing men’s clothes, seems to be seen as more manly than he is.
Second is a lone rider named Roy Goode. He’s accidentally shot by farm widow named Alice Fletcher (Downton Abbey‘s Michelle Dockery), and with a throat wound, he’s unable to speak right away. She puts him away in the barn for now, with her Native American mother-in-law treating Roy with some salves and the like.
And finally, there’s Frank Griffin (Jeff Daniels), a viscous outlaw, leader of a gang of 30 or so men who’ve been taking to robbing mines on payday. He got a bullet to the arm, and the arm needs to be amputated by a town doctor. What kind of man is Frank Griffin? The local Marshall John Cook (Sam Waterson) can’t get a posse to chase down Griffin and says he needs to get help from a nearby Army fort. Griffin is the sort of man who will ride his horse into a church, singing along with the hymn while the congregation looks on frightened (he’s pious apparently), his amputated arm hung over the back of his saddle, demanding to know where the man who shot him in the arm is.
Who is that man? Roy Goode, who was like a son to Frank.
See, Frank was doing his standard train robbery, killing a few men with his gang, when former member Roy showed up. First Roy saved a woman from being raped inside the train. Then he ran off with the loot which he subsequently lost. He managed to hold off Frank’s gang due to Roy being an incredibly good shot while hiding in a canyon, but eventually Frank and his boys went back to the town they abandoned to chase Roy. When they got back, they found the miners trying to lynch two men Frank had temporarily left behind. Frank’s response? He and his gang lynch everyone in town. The only survivor is the near-rape victim, and she isn’t in a good mental place when Marshall Cook finds her.
Where was that? The town’s name was Creede.
Now, Frank is most likely going to hit La Belle since he’s been robbing mines all throughout the Colorado territory. But the mines aren’t working right now. Why not? There was an accident when the coal dust inside caught fire. Most of the men of La Belle were killed. The town is effectively being run by the women left behind. Sure, there are a few men, like Sheriff McNue, but it’s a mostly female town right now.
Roy, as someone who is good with horses and shooting, seems to be in an odd position at the Fletcher farm. His shooting comes in handy when he sees a sidewinder get too close to an infant, but he is a wanted criminal. Alice is wary of him. Her half-breed son Truckee seems to like the guy. Her mother-in-law thinks he smells of death.
But as it is, when McNue comes by, Roy surrenders to the sheriff and goes to town in handcuffs.
Too bad Cook is off looking for that military back-up, because Frank Griffin is going to hit that town sooner or later.
This is gonna be good…
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