If you’re anything like me, you’re not the kind of person who would think they’d like Western-themed film or television shows. What "Game of Thrones" did for the fantasy genre, "Godless" does for the Western through its layered plot and execution.
The show is set in the late 19th century in the town of La Belle, New Mexico, which is inhabited almost entirely by women in the aftermath of a tragic mining accident that killed nearly all the town's men. Outlaw Frank Griffin and his band of riders search for a member of their group, Roy Goode, who fled after he stole part of the profit from the last heist.
Goode takes refuge in an outlying ranch inhabited by Alice Fletcher, her Native American mother-in-law and her teenage son. The women of La Belle are doing well enough keeping the young town alive, though many want to sell it to another mining company to bring in new residents, particularly men.
At first, the show seems a bit lost and confusing as we open to several different scenes, including a graphic train crash, Roy Goode arriving at Alice Fletcher’s ranch, and Frank Griffin appearing at a doctor’s house to have his arm amputated. However, after watching the first episode one finds the show is not confusing, but intentionally layers plotlines in a non-chronological order to keep viewers interested.
The level of gore in the show is surprisingly pleasing. Many television shows use gore for shock value, and “Godless” is no exception. With explosive gunshots, it feels realistic to the time without being a tactic to gain views.
With Westerns, there is a fine line between a realistic “country” accent and one that is simply overdone. Being from the South, if I hear an obnoxious accent in which the diction and slang are obviously scripted, it not only annoys me, but pushes me out of the context of the show; I no longer feel like I can a part of the world I’m watching. “Godless,” however, does an excellent job of giving their characters a southern drawn without being gratuitous, which is a feat in and of itself.
Westerns typically don’t focus on the women or Native American perspectives, and “Godless,” at the very least attempts to. To me, the issue is found in that in order for the women to be autonomous in their own town, nearly all the men had to die.
In addition, many of the women are simply clamoring for a man, and are fine with selling their town to a mining company in order to return to their gendered roles. While these desires are historically accurate, I would’ve liked to see more power from the women. Only a few of the women in the story seem to take control of their own narrative. However, it is still exciting to see commanding women in an 1880's man’s world.
The show also attempts to portray accurate relationships between white settlers and Native Americans, which were historically often laden with racism. While I haven’t made it far into the series, thus far there hasn’t been much screentime from the Native American perspective.
Overall, “Godless” is a must-watch that will surprise you and have you searching for all the other Westerns you’ve ever discredited.