This post contains spoilers for the Netflix series Godless and discusses its ending in detail.
Just in time for Thanksgiving, Netflix released Godless, a brutal Western mini-series best consumed over the Thanksgiving weekend alongside mounds of re-heated leftovers. With its beautifully photographed widescreen vistas, lengthy episode run-times, and mix of recognizable genre elements -- the show's main plot follows a handsome young gunslinger (Jack O'Connell) hiding out from a domineering outlaw father figure (Jeff Daniels) -- the series is as familiar as your aunt's stuffing recipe. It's not necessarily great, but, hey, it's around and it fills you up.
But did the finale leave you stuffed and satisfied? Or did the show's blend of loquacious monologues, extended horseback riding montages, and unnecessary flashbacks feel undercooked? From a storytelling perspective, the ending to Godless felt definitive. The show's creator Scott Frank, who wrote and directed all seven episodes of the series, has a background as an ace Hollywood screenwriter, penning crime scripts like Out of Sight, Get Shorty, and A Walk Among the Tombstones along with co-writing the recent super-hero Western riff Logan. He first developed Godless as a feature for director Steven Soderbergh, who serves as an executive producer here, in the early 2000s, but encouraged by the creative freedom and heavy pockets offered by streaming services in the era of Peak TV, Frank refashioned his movie as a TV project. Unfortunately, the final product often feels like a thoughtful, pulpy film stretched thin.
Still, Frank knows how to go out with a bang -- or, more specifically, many bangs. As the side plots fall away and Daniels's Frank Griffin, along with his band of rootin'-tootin' cowboys, converges upon La Belle, a town run mostly by women after a mining accident killed most of the men, the action picks up. The show's most compelling character, Merritt Wever's Mary Agnes McNue, briefly takes center stage, picking off bad guys with a rifle from the roof of a hotel like she's in the climax of a Sergio Leone film. Now that the dust has settled, it's worth taking a closer look at the finale's shoot-out and speculate about what the outcome could mean for the show's unclear future.