Netflix has rolled the dice on an awful lot of content. They’ve placed their faith in a business model where they generate their own stuff and not show other people’s stuff. In short, they want to be HBO, not a distributor like Blockbuster [cue scene of creepy cemetery with Blockbuster jingle playing in background].
The problem is as they’ve transitioned to this model they’ve ended up producing or contracting a large amount of garbage. In other words, Netflix is no longer infallible and falls into the same trap as other content creators. Sometimes things work out, sometimes they’d don’t.
If you’re looking for one where Netflix mostly succeeds, you can safely go with Godless. This was good. It wasn’t great, but good. With all the recent Netflix failures I’ve had, I’ll take good, and be happy for the experience.
As Western’s go, this one’s pretty straightforward. The plot almost doesn’t quite matter. What you get is incredible acting, set design, costumes, etc. And you can then check out your brain and enjoy the experience. The plot isn’t magical, but it works and works well. You care what happens to these people. You’re invested in what’s happening on screen.
Where it nearly comes off the rails is in tone, which is why I can’t consider it great. I could list several examples. Instead I’ll just list one:
Is this a shocking, horrific Western like Unforgiven? It certainly starts out that way. The very first scene is a town massacred with a child hanging from a church. But, then later in the series they seem to forget about this horror and it becomes some kind of cooky Western where in a battle where thousands of bullets are flying they won’t allow themselves to show one horse shot (because everybody loves horseies) and an important villain comically gets shot out a window into a pile of flames. Not the biggest of problems, but often in Godless the tone just didn’t make sense.
My biggest two positive takeaways:
1) They take their time. Did you ever think a modern series would take 15 minutes of screen time just to show how a cowboy tames a wild horse? I didn’t. And I loved it. In a world where studios think the viewer’s attention span is eight seconds this idea is to be supported.
2) Jeff Daniels. I don’t get why people don’t think Daniels is one of the great actors of our time. This is a dude who can play an outstanding role as random dude (a), George Washington, a comedy idiot, a Civil War general, and here in Godless an absurdly creepy villain. Daniels is simply amazing. Godless is worth it just to see him go at it.
This was good.