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

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic3 min readPolitics
Republicans Don't Understand Democrats—And Democrats Don't Understand Republicans
A new study shows Americans have little understanding of their political adversaries—and education doesn’t help.
The Atlantic6 min readPolitics
Is There Still a Deal to Be Done With Iran?
The United States stepped right up to the brink of striking Iran over a downed American drone—and then abruptly stepped back. Yet the conditions that have stoked weeks of tensions remain fully in place, as does the question of what exactly President
The Atlantic9 min readPolitics
Cory Booker’s One-State Plan
URBANDALE, Iowa—Cory Booker’s New Jersey accent never comes out stronger than when he pronounces caucus as “kaw-kus.” And here in a two-story building that used to be the city hall—and then was briefly a massage school—Booker’s team of 50-plus people