***This contains some spoilers***
Decided to check out the Netflix show Godless after hearing great things about it and finding out the writer/director, Scott Frank, is from Ft Walton Beach, which always makes it a bit more special when it’s someone from so close to your home town. I live in Pensacola, Florida for anyone reading this who might not know me. And I love Westerns. Three good reasons to get excited.
During the opening scene of the first episode something struck me as mighty familiar. Lots of dead bodies and the camera pans over to a child’s body hung to death. Sure Westerns are violent but this was foreshadowing an ultra-violence I’ve only encountered one time before in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. I get it though, a Western written after Blood Meridian is going to have similarities, intentionally or not. McCarthy changed the way we view the American West. There is no denying it.
I continued on to episode two. Here is where I nearly turned it off. The leader of the villainous gang, Frank Griffin, is sitting around a campfire with a child on his lap and articulating his worldly wisdom. Luckily Griffin doesn’t scalp the child as Judge Holden does on page 164.
Later Frank Griffin has a monologue about the world being Godless sounding very similar to Judge Holden’s talk about “God is War.” Frank Griffin says, “God? What God? […] There ain’t no higher up around here to watch over you and your youngens. This here is the paradise of the locust, the lizard, the snake. The land of the blade and the rifle. It’s a Godless country.” About as Gnostic as we can get. The only thing we never get is Frank Griffin dancing and playing the fiddle and saying, “I never sleep and I will never die.”
And of course there is the Roy Goode and Frank Griffin father-son relationship and Roy Goode breaking free of Griffin. Again very similar to the Kid and Judge Holden’s relationship. During the same campfire scene, Griffin says of Roy Goode, “I aim to show him that love when we meet up again.” I couldn’t help but think of Judge Holden and the Kid in the jakes at the end of the book.
I couldn’t roll my eyes back far enough into my head. However, I was able to overcome these obvious references and enjoy the show. Fans of McCarthy either have to appreciate what Scott Frank is doing with allusions or laugh at the obvious nods. There are plenty more, too. All stories come from other stories and we sometimes get protective of those we hold dear to us. I’m glad I continued on with the series because Godless is one of the better shows I’ve seen and a damn good Western. And it will have to do until a director gets the cajones to put Blood Meridian on the screen.