Home Do Not Miss Netflix’ “Godless” Reminds Us of the Power and Strength of Love

Netflix’ “Godless” Reminds Us of the Power and Strength of Love

A poster of the series,
"Godless" on Netflix
A Holy Thing...The preacher in Godless reminds us that it is "...a holy thing, to love".  We need reminding because so often it seems anything but holy. Sometimes it seems heavy, when we raise a family, when we care for our elderly parents.  Sometimes it seems light, when we first fall in love, when we marry.  These experiences bind us together in unyielding chains and forgiving arms.  We need only look to a series like "Godless" to understand why. "Godless", produced in association with Netflix, was written and directed by Scott Frank (writer of Minority Report and Logan), and I…

Godless

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"Godless", produced in association with Netflix, was written and directed by Scott Frank (writer of Minority Report and Logan), and I can't imagine better writing anywhere.

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A Holy Thing…The preacher in Godless reminds us that it is “…a holy thing, to love”.  We need reminding because so often it seems anything but holy.

Sometimes it seems heavy, when we raise a family, when we care for our elderly parents.  Sometimes it seems light, when we first fall in love, when we marry.  These experiences bind us together in unyielding chains and forgiving arms.  We need only look to a series like “Godless” to understand why.

“Godless”, produced in association with Netflix, was written and directed by Scott Frank (writer of Minority Report and Logan), and I can’t imagine better writing anywhere.  Godless is a story that needed to be told.  Based on actual events, this story leads us to a town mainly occupied by women after most of the men in the town are killed in a mining accident.  Set in the fictional La Belle, New Mexico, the town sprang up around a silver and quartz mine on the verge of a big yield.  After the accident, the women are left to bury their husbands, and make out some kind of existence alone.  It’s not long until some East Coast mining professionals take advantage of their situation, taking 90 percent of their profits, and sending in a “security team” to keep them safe.

A poster advertising the show "Godless" with a dark brown background and a dark profile of a woman shooting a rifle, her dress trailing behind her in the wind. "Netflix" is printed in bold red colors.

To understand the characters we need only to observe the people around us, our friends and family.  Scott Frank has written characters as flawed as the day is long, and as beautiful as God’s own creation.  They live in the real world now.  Their other lives led before they arrived in La Belle are left behind like belongings fallen out of a covered wagon on the way to…somewhere.  Like many people of the time, like my own ancestors, moving West meant hope for something better, something new, a kind of adventure and freedom.  But freedom has many faces, and actions always have consequences.

A picture of Jeff Daniels standing with his foot up on a rock, looking down at something. He is dressed in 1880's cowboy clothes, with a tan western style hat and a preacher's collar.
Jeff Daniels in “Godless”.

The Desert of Good and Evil

No one knows this better than the story’s villain, Frank Griffin, brilliantly played by Jeff Daniels.  An outlaw and a preacher, Griffin robs stages with his gang of 30 men, and sets the West ablaze.  The antihero, Roy Goode, played well by Jack O’Connell, raised by Griffin after his brother deserts him, steals the take from the last robbery, and makes a run for it.  Why?  We’ll never really know for sure, but as the story progresses we understand the reasons for both his hatred and love for Griffin.  Griffin, perhaps the most complex of all the characters, is a product of an unspeakably cruel childhood in which his family is murdered in front of him, and he is kidnapped by the perpitrators, raised as one of their own.  He continues this life pattern by forming his own gang and taking in strays, as he once was.

Throughout this series, Scott Frank uses the dichotomy of good and evil, love and fear in everyone’s souls as the inner drama brought to life in the consuming events.  Roy Goode, notable outlaw turned ranch hand, tames horses and teaches young Truckee, played soulfully by Samuel Marty, how to ride and hunt, as his father would if he were alive.  Later, we see that these were things the brutal outlaw Griffin taught Roy when he was about Truckee’s age.  But Roy’s anger at being anything like Griffin seeths and must, at some point erupt.  We know the time is coming, but there is so much else going on in the town to keep us occupied!  The women of La Belle’s story and that of Roy Goode’s intersect in the most violent and alternately the most gentle of ways, and both are changed forever.

A movie poster for "Godless" featuring portraits of three of the female characters, while below cowboys ride their horses, guns drawn.
The women of La Belle.

The female characters, Alice Fletcher and Mary Agnes, played so well by Michelle Dockery and Merritt Wever respectively, have their own painful stories.  Alice’s husband was shot in the back, and the killer never found.  Mary’s husband died in the mine.  Her brother the Sheriff, played sensitively by Scoot McNeiry, is branded a coward by the women in town, while unbeknownst to them his failing sight is the reason behind his reticence.  But of course even before those sad times, there were tragedies brought upon them by random events also out of their control.  Flash floods, kidnappings, sudden death by fever, the pox, Indian raiders, and even water contaminated by the mine.  These women never falter in their resolve to live, and dare we say, even to prosper.  They live and they love again mostly because they don’t have any other choice.  That is the human heart – resilient because it has to be.  Loyal and disloyal, hard and compassionate.  Holy and evil.

Scott Frank does not shy away from depicting the women fully.  They are not merely there to prop up the male centered storyline.  And that’s refreshing!  They are mothers, friends, lovers, ranch hands, business owners and co-owners of the mine.  They are trusting when they shouldn’t be and relinquish their power to men they hardly know.  But they are also loyal, smart, and most importantly, brave.  One of the final scenes solidifies their character when they literally have to fight for their lives together, leaning on one another, surviving because of their connection to one another and their strength of will.

 

The Meaning

As the long awaited preacher, played beautifully by Chris Bylsma, at the end of the series tells us, “It is a fearful thing to love what death can touch.  A fearful thing to love, to hope, to dream, to be, and oh, to lose.”  And so it is an important fact of life that we relearn time and time again.  Everyone suffers, but not everyone survives.  It is the story of the survivors that most compels us to listen and learn.  For as Frank Griffin might quote from the Bible, “He who does not love, abideth in death”.

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Melody Stewart is the founder of act.land and President of iactingstudioskc.com. She is a filmmaker in Kansas City.