In the gun-slinging Old West of Netflix’s new six-part series Godless, the most piercing weapon a man could wield is the empty promise of religion. Settlers and profit-seekers might believe in manifest destiny, but in a land ruled by the ruthless, prayers will go unanswered. Absent a higher power, the townsfolk of Godless live in fear of a figure who uses blunt intimidation to his advantage. And there’s no one more up for the task than Jeff Daniels, who plays a gruff, one-armed madman named Frank Griffin.
The series comes from Scott Frank, who co-wrote Logan, and follows outlaw Frank Griffin as he tracks another outlaw named Roy Goode (Jack O’Connell), a former member of his pack, who goes rogue and leaves Griffin one-armed, but still dangerous. That’s only the A plot. Just about every story thread in Godless is worthwhile in its own right, including standout turns from Scoot McNairy, who plays a Sheriff who goes on a one-man mission to kill Frank Griffin, and Merrit Wever, who plays the alpha-female of an all-female former mining town. The former is an ode to classics of the genre, the latter screams a more contemporary take on the time period. It may sound like parody, but Scott Frank executes in delivering bloody, pulpy tension with each passing scene. It helps that he also directed all six episodes of this ambitious and visually stunning project.
If Godless is the result of Netflix’s wild content spending spree, may the well never dry up, my friends. So much of the fun of this series rests with the performances of the core cast, and, without any spoilers, how they evolve over the series. Daniels’ Frank Griffin is a soulless son-of-a-bitch with an ethics code and maybe a little humanity in the depths of his heart. He’s up there with David Tennant’s Killgrave in Jessica Jones and Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin in Daredevil as Netflix’s best original series villain. McNairy shows his range as Sheriff Bill McNue’s motives and drive are revealed, and it reminds us why the good vs. evil stories of the genre have endured for so long. And Wever’s Mary and Michelle Dockery’s Alice command your attention in nearly every scene. Between these characters, you can fill up a notebook with the one-liners in this show.
To sum up Godless, and the chase for outlaws of the Old West, “you take a shot a Frank Griffin and his men, you best kill ‘em all.” Miss, and no one is there to save you. There is no God in Frank Griffin’s world. This world is about to change fast, though. Statehood is coming, and all the laws that come with it. The fun in that is seeing who is willing to look out for themselves and do whatever it takes to survive in the now.