By Dave B
Godless (Netflix) attempts a rejuvenation of the Western genre and it largely succeeds. It tells the tale of a town that is predominantly populated by women after over 90% of the men were killed in a mining accident a couple years prior to the events in this story. For the long-term, I believe that Netflix has shown that the miniseries is the ideal format for Westerns. Through a combination of good story-telling and amazing character development, Godless rarely disappoints and oftentimes wows. However, it commits the ultimate Hollywood sin; the thing that pisses me off more than anything else that happens in Hollywood movies, and that really cast a pall over the entire series for me.
As a whole, Godless is phenomenal. The direction and cinematography are first class. The scenes are beautiful. The score works well. On the technical aspects, this is a first-rate show.
What sets Godless apart in my opinion is the character development, and it is why I say that the miniseries is the ideal format for Westerns. Now that Westerns are a niche instead of the drivers of the movie going experience like they were during the early twentieth century, they really have to click on all cylinders to get large audiences. Most people simply can’t relate to what life was like back then, so character development is paramount. Movies often don’t have the time to do this well in two hours. In seven hours, a creative team can take the time to get an audience to really connect with the characters and their world. The creative team behind Godless excelled at this. They should teach classes.
The acting ranges from decent to spectacular. Two performances stand out in particular. Jeff Daniels is one of those actors that you’ll forget about for a while and then he’ll do something so amazing that you ask yourself why he isn’t more famous. This is arguably the greatest performance in his long career. As the antagonist, he accomplished the rare feat of being both irredeemably evil and not completely unlikable. Merritt Wever was also fairly exceptional in her role as the de facto town leader.
My only major issue with Godless is that it commits the unforgivable Hollywood sin. And in a HUGE way. And I can’t tell you what that sin is, because I don’t do spoilers. But, you can probably guess the gist of it. I’ll just say that even though I thought Godless was great, it can also kiss my ass. I recommend this show and wish that I could rate it more highly. It hits all of the right notes except for one, but damn, is that one a doozy. 8/10