“Godless” thoughts, Season One, Episode Two: “The Ladies of La Belle”

Truth be told, you could maybe get a good show out of Frank’s hunt for Roy, and Marshall Cooke’s hunt for Frank, and maybe Alice’s decision to take in and fight for Roy when push comes to shove. Or you could get a good show out of Bill, a sheriff who’s slowly going blind, and Maggie, his queer widowed sister, and the complicated family dynamic they have, with either a mass murderer or an unscrupulous mining company providing an antagonistic spark. Or you could get a good show out of a town full of widows coming together to fend off either the killer or the capitalists, and requiring the talents of women they’ve looked down on because of the race or gender of the people they love, i.e. Alice and Maggie respectively.

At this point, however, I’m not convinced you can get a good show out of all of those things at once. Despite the hour-plus running time of both episodes so far, it still feels like Godless is in a necessarily big hurry to whip from one storyline to the next, which in turn necessitates a shallow reading of each set of characters. The dinner scene in which Merritt Wever’s Maggie tries and fails to singlehandedly prevent her town from getting swindled by a sweet-talking mining company is a highlight of the hour, but I’d happily have followed her for an entire episode to see how she’s maintained a leadership position among her fellow widows despite her unorthodox, masculine style of dress and her relationship with local schoolteacher Callie Dunne, I also could have stood to spend more time in the company of Alice, and to learn the story of her lethal land feud from something other than an expository infodump between young hotshot deputy Whitey Winn and the incarcerated Roy Goode. I could have settled for either a look at life in a frontier town without men surrounded by a hostile world full of them — the kind of story promised by the episode’s title, “The Ladies of La Belle” — or a more straightforward Western thriller centered on the Frank/Roy business. As it stands, I got just enough of each to tantalize, and not enough of any to satisfy.

I reviewed episode two of Godless for the A.V. Club. Looking over this piece, I’m pretty pleased with all the different things I was able to say about the show, good and bad. Please do give it a full read.

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