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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Godless is a bloody, often brutal Western series featuring scenes of disturbing violence and lots of dead bodies. There's gunplay galore, as well as scenes of violence against children (a young boy is shown hanging from a noose). There's some nudity and multiple depictions of rape. The language is harsh, and characters are shown smoking and drinking.
Not a predictable Hollywood script.
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What's the Story?
Set among the dusty vistas of 1880s New Mexico, GODLESS follows demented outlaw Frank Griffin (Jeff Daniels) on a bloodthirsty hunt for his former partner, Roy Goode (Jack O'Connell), who betrayed him during a train robbery gone wrong. Roy holes up at the ranch of the headstrong widow Alice Fletcher (Michelle Dockery), who harbors him in exchange for his horse-training skills. Frank's ruthless quest for retribution leads him to the strange town of La Belle, whose populace is made up almost entirely of women, due to a mining accident that killed most of their able-bodied males.
Is It Any Good?
The marketing for this show focused so much on the female-heavy cast -- the tagline is "Welcome to No Man's Land," even -- that one could be forgiven for assuming it would center on the women of La Belle, the mysterious town in the middle of it all. However, it's still very much a traditional Western, wherein macho outlaws and misunderstood gunslingers are given the limelight, while the female characters exist mainly to react to stuff. It's well-acted, to be sure -- Merritt Wever's no-nonsense, trouser-clad Mary Agnes is a notable standout -- but it would have been nice to see the women's stories move forward and take shape without the toxic masculinity we've already seen so many times before in this genre serving as their catalyst.
The pace is maddeningly slow, perhaps due to the fact that Godless was originally conceived as a movie but was stretched out into a seven-episode series once it was sold to Netflix. There's promise here, however, and the show may hopefully find its footing with a second season that focuses less on repetitive scenes of horse training and generic henchmen being threatening, and more on the backstory of La Belle and the dynamics between its inhabitants.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the way violence is used in Godless. Does it seem necessary to the story, or is it gratuitous?
Mining accidents like the one in Godless really did happen back in the day, and women would be forced to move on to another town, or stay and rebuild. What kind of challenges do you think a situation like this would present for women, especially given their limited rights during this time? Do you think Godless did a good job portraying the reality of such an ordeal?
- Premiere date: November 22, 2017
- Cast: Michelle Dockery, Sam Waterston, Jeff Daniels, Scoot McNairy, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Merritt Wever
- Network: Netflix
- Genre: Drama
- TV rating: TV-MA
- Last updated: February 18, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
Striking Western has some disturbing material.
Wild West satire with strong heroine, but drinking humor.
Vivid Old West drama is way too gritty for kids.
For kids who love Westerns
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate