Turns out, the series is not like this trailer AT ALL. I mean it is… but it totally isn’t the “feminist western” that I was tuning in for. What we have with Godless is a case of the ol “bait and switch.” And while I really wanted the feminist western and feel a bit duped when the first few episodes are mostly about Frank and Roy and feature the other male characters, Godless was a great series that roped me in even after misleading me. I appreciate a great story whether it has a feminist point of view or not, the marketing of this series is relying on the political and social discourse that we’re wading through and seems like a bit of a misstep for the marketers to try and cash in on. We’re not dumb! ANYWAY, Godless is a great story but don’t go into thinking you’ll be cheering on women’s suffrage or empowerment.
There are four main storylines:
Roy Goode, Lady Mary and her fam
Lady Mary of Downton Abbey (aka Michelle Dockery) lost her high brow accent, found some boots and became the matriarch of a family in the frontier. Between her bumbling son, Truckee (shoutout to central California!) who doesn’t fit the typical Native American stereotypes, and her badass mother-in-law, Iyovi played by Tantoo Cardinal, Lady Mary really lucked out with her new family in America. I wonder if Michelle hates being called Lady Mary as much as I’ve called her character Alicy Fletcher, Lady Mary while watching Godless. Heh.
I really want Alice’s pants… BAD.
And yes, for as big of a role as Michelle Dockery’s Alice plays in the story, we don’t get nearly enough backstory on her… unlike a lot of the male characters we encounter.
Roy Goode aka Jack O’Connell aka that guy you’ll spend half the series wondering what other movies you’ve seen him in, let me save you the trouble. Here is his IMDB page it’s most likely Skins, Unbroken, or Money Monster. Roy is the good guy ensnared by the villain, who is just trying to make things right because he has a bigger life waiting outside of a lawless posse. You’ll love Roy the interplay between Roy, Truckee and Iyovi, his relationship with Alice and the whole family’s outcast status.
The Town of La Belle and the women of Godless
Around episode three we finally start to meet the women of La Belle who star in the Godless trailer and who deserve their own follow up series. We find out due to a mining accident that took most of the men in La Belle, the women have been left widows, with children, their lives, and a town to run. As you would expect, the women are bosses and know how to get shit done. From selling the mining rights to finding horses, and schooling their children in the vacant brothel, Godless should be about these women and their backstories which we get faint glimpses of but not nearly enough.
Maggie McNue aka Merritt Wever
One of the women we get to know quite well is Maggie McNue, sister to the sheriff, widow of the mayor and all around aces character played by Merritt Wever who should be in ALL the shows and movies from now on. Given the tragic state of the town after the accident Maggie (literally) puts on her big girl pants and brings the women together. In some of the best storytelling in the series, we see the past life of Maggie and the budding relationship between her and the only women left at the brothel, Callie, who’s also arguably the richest person left in La Belle.
Sheriff Bill McNue and his Vision Quest
If you’ve watched Godless you can thank me for that bad joke. As we come to find out, Sheriff Bill played by SCOOT McNairy (he has the best name) is a man who has “lost his shadow” and is losing his eye sight. Bill is the sheriff of La Belle and one of the only remaining men in the town. He, along with the kid from Love Actually who plays his deputy are the men tasked with keeping La Belle safe from people like Frank Griffin… and Roy Goode. But not without the help of the women. After finding out about Frank Griffin’s threat to wipe out any town that welcomes Roy Goode (La Belle does unknowingly), he sets off to find Frank Griffin and bring him in or… well, do something so they’re not all slaughtered. This is a bit hard considering he can’t really see anything and he’s being trailed by a Native American man who may or may not be alive.
Sponsored by Warby Parker.
Frank Griffin and his meeting with Destiny
Harry Dunne from Dumb and Dumber aka Jeff Daniels is the villain of this series. Frank Griffin, an outlaw who himself was a victim of Mormon “outlaws” as a child, is a bit of a twisted religious Robin Hood character in his own mind. In actuality, he and the posse of 30 men he rides with are ruthless, mostly cunning, and people I don’t wanna meet in a dark alley behind the OK Coral. Frank uses the guise of religion and family to lure in victims like, Roy as a young teen, grooms them as his killing proteges and then is somehow mad when they turn against him. It’s people like Frank whether fictional or not that use religion as a weapon that make me see red. You see Frank’s past but you also want him to meet his maker whether at the hands of the La Belle women, Roy Goode, Sheriff Bill or whoever, regardless of how HE thinks he’ll die. He is a GREAT villain because I am STILL made about him. BYE BITCH!
The use of flashbacks in Godless made me ask myself repeatedly, “why can’t Outlander use flashbacks like this?” Instead of Michelle Dockery telling the audience some long story about how she ended up in the west, we SEE how it happened. Instead of hearing about the mass murder in Creede, Co by Frank Griffin and his posse, we SEE in great detail the event that sets this story in motion. Not only are the flashbacks helpful to the storytelling of Godless, they are beautifully shot with a sort of black and white tone with subtle colors. ARE YOU WATCHING STARZ?
Godless is an amazing series, like keep-you-up-at-night-thinking-about-it amazing but not because it was solely about a town of kick ass women who didn’t need no menfolk. It was amazing because of the four storylines, that the trailer doesn’t tell you about at all. And it’s good. REALLY good, but at the end of the series, welling up as they tied up so many plot lines, I couldn’t help but wonder what the trailer version of Godless, the Feminist Western™, would have been like.
Watch Godless, now available on Netflix