If you watched this Netflix limited series purely for the horses, we wouldn’t blame you — and there are plenty of epic horsey moments to keep you satisfied.
The Netflix limited series Godless released back in November of 2017, but since my internet binge-watching usually isn’t quite up to the times, you’re getting the official Horse Nation take just a few months late. (When your options are “stay up to date on Netflix” or “go ride your real horse”… sorry, folks, but the real horse wins every time.)
In case there are more readers like me who are always a little late to the party, I’ll say it now — spoilers ahead!
At least according to the original trailers, Godless is portrayed as a female-driven western centered around the town of La Belle, Colorado, which lost nearly all of its male population in a mining accident; a gang of outlaws sets its sights on the town thanks to on ongoing feud and the woman must defend what is theirs.
Well, that’s not exactly how the series itself went down, as it turns out — Godless is mostly about the redemption of a few men, the fall of a few others, and a mostly-static cast of female characters who provide a backdrop for these storylines. It’s violent — I mean, it’s a western, so that sort of comes with the territory — but there are plenty of gorgeous moments set against the dramatic western landscape to balance the bloodshed. Setting aside initial expectations and pretending I was never led to believe that this was an epic tale about a town of women forced to make it on their own, Godless is worth the watch.
One thing I noticed about this series was that it focused on the horses in ways that no western has before — yes, they are tools to move the plot around, as Griffin’s outlaw gang rides 40-strong across the west, but they are also integral to the story itself. Roy Goode sticks around Alice Fletcher’s ranch to tame and train her herd of horses so she can sell them to the women of the town of La Belle, and the horses serve as a mirror for the more complex characters.
And if nothing else, some of these scenes with the horses are just downright epic. Here are my favorites.
1. Roy lays down the horses
Say what you want about this particular method of horsemanship — it’s been argued as both the ultimate trust exercise and learned helplessness by various sources — but as far as Godless goes, if you can lay your horse down by some combination of the right pressure points, physical manipulation and horse magic, you can get him to do almost anything. I’ll maintain a healthy skepticism about this particular training tool being the end-all to horsemanship, but these scenes are given plenty of slow, quiet screen time without emphasizing too much “magic” going on. Anyway, it’s nice to see someone not having to “break” a horse in that traditional old-timey western sense.
2. The Griffin Gang crosses the river
As it turns out, this scene really was filmed with the actors themselves in a very limited window to make sure the light was just right — and the care and time it took to craft this scene definitely paid off. I don’t care how evil these outlaws are… watching them splash in slow-motion with the light filtering through the water in the air is one of the coolest moments in Netflix horse history.
3. The Griffin Gang chases Roy
Okay, there are a few brutal equine deaths in this drawn-out flashback scene, but watching forty riders chase the lone Goode into a box canyon is pure epic western at its finest.
4. Roy tames the black horse
Yep, it’s another horse training scene in which a horse lays down. During this entire episode, my husband and I kept glancing at each other and commenting that for a general-public series, Godless certainly was spending an awful lot of time on horse training, and not even in the typical soundtrack-montage. While I’m not sure how non-horsey people felt about this, I found it lovely, while hoping in the back of my mind that people weren’t actually thinking this is how horses are trained.
This black horse, being solid black, looks a lot like the horse Roy is attempting to escape on in the earlier Griffin-gang-chases-Roy-into-the-canyon scene. After galloping across the plains bareback and bridleless, Roy whispers “Good to see you again, boy.” Is the first horse reincarnated in this steed? Not sure, but it certainly makes you wonder if there’s more “magic” going on than we originally thought.
5. Truckee’s first riding lesson
As we all know, “green on green” is usually not a good combination for horses and riders, and if I fell off as many times and as hard as Truckee falls in his first lesson aboard this bay horse who has been saddle broke for about five minutes I probably wouldn’t have come back for a second ride. But hey, this is the movies/television, and it works. And it’s a great metaphor for Truckee starting to mature as a person with Roy’s father-figure influence.
6. Frank introduce Xenophon
“If you get to reading someday, you might come across a fellow named Xenephon. Greek fella, student of Socrates. Some say the first real horseman. He believed that horses being prey animals and all, greatest instincts are fear, flight and lastly fight. So on account of that, old Xenophon thought taming ’em made more sense than breaking ’em. So rather than hauling and beating the animal, use a bit of rope and some gentle restraint, and kindness. Do it that way. Not natural for a horse to be laid down… makes ’em amenable, but full of fear. This is hard for him to do; what he wants to do is bolt. He’s gotta trust you. Despite what some men think, it’s not just about showing ’em who’s boss. It’s about showing him you’re gonna be the one to feed him, water him, you’re the one who’s gonna take care of him. It’s about showing him that he can trust you. Always and forever.”
7. Roy, Alice and Truckee drive the horses to town
Watching riders galloping alongside a herd in full flight will never not be cool. That’s all.
8.The Griffin Gang heads to La Belle
Apparently, this is not CGI: this is, in fact, forty stunt riders galloping single-file across the plains. Which is really freaking cool. I’d still hate to be that last guy in line sucking on the dust from 39 of my closest friends, but it’s still really freaking cool.
9. Roy’s westward-ho montage
No good western is complete without a traveling montage, and Roy’s ride across the best landscapes that the west has to offer is one of the prettiest tourism commercials for the Rocky Mountain states that I’ve ever seen. Seriously, the man rides on some trails that I want to put on my bucket list, and ultimately at the end gets to lay eyes on the Pacific Ocean, all on horseback. It’s the perfect happy ending… for this individual character, anyway.