The Atlantic

What Godless Says About America

Netflix’s gorgeous, subversive new series exposes the dark mythology embedded in the Western genre.
Source: Netflix

In the opening scene of Godless, Marshal John Cook (Sam Waterston) rides into the town of Creede, Colorado, as a dust storm swirls around him. The marshal lowers his bandana and squints into the distance, surveying the scene impassively as the landscape slowly comes into focus. He takes in the carnage of a firefight, a wrecked train, and countless bodies who seem to have all been shot in the head. Then one of his men directs him to the sight of something so awful that it makes the steely old-timer stagger a little, and fall to his knees in the dirt: the sight of a small boy, maybe 5 years old, who’s been lynched from a post.

What can the Western, that hoary, craggy old relic, a staple of TCM movie marathons and Disneyland saloon experiences, say about life in contemporary America? , written and directed by Scott Frank () for Netflix, and executive produced by Steven Soderbergh, is a gorgeous, slyly subversive affirmation of the genre’s power, even if it

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