Steven Soderbergh welcomes us to No Man’s Land in the first teaser trailer for his Netflix Western limited series Godless. The seven-episode series is set to premiere on the streaming service this year on Wednesday, November 22.
Godless stars Jeff Daniels as Frank Griffin, a gun-toting outlaw spreading terror around the Old West, who is on the hunt for his former partner Roy Goode (Jack O’Connell). While Roy hides out at a ranch, Frank’s hunt leads him to stumble upon the town of La Belle, New Mexico, which is populated entirely by women. Logan and Minority Report screenwriter Scott Frank both wrote and directed the seven-episode series, which Soderbergh produced.
After putting out some first-look stills back in August, Netflix has now released a teaser trailer for Godless. Most of what we see in the trailer is what we would expect from a Western: Lone figures framed within huge shots of barren landscapes. People on horses. Frontier people suffering. Bearded, gnarly-looking men whipping out pistols. A train derailment.
“Tis a fearful thing to love what death can touch,” intones the narrator, reciting what sounds like a eulogy. Godless then seemingly will touch on themes of the fragile nature of life in a harsh environment filled with dangers both natural and unnatural (hence the No Man’s Land tagline); an idea driven home by several of the trailer’s images, including a terrifying shot of a baby encountering a rattlesnake. The teaser doesn’t really give much specific sense of the characters, only offering us fleeting glimpses of the show’s main cast, including Michelle Dockery as Alice Fletcher and Kim Coates as Ed Logan.
Writer-director Scott Frank’s reverence for the Western genre comes across in the super-serious teaser, just as it did in his screenplay for James Mangold’s Logan; which made much of the mythopoetic possibilities of the form while suggesting an evolutionary link between the classic Western gunslinger and the modern-day superhero. Frank’s history and the tone of the teaser seem to promise a straight-forward Western series, and not anything that intends to play around with genre tropes or in any way subvert expectations.
Will Godless provide Netflix with a truly classic Western along the lines of HBO’s soon-to-be-revived masterpiece Deadwood, or will the series prove to be more of a bread-and-butter exercise like AMC’s Hell on Wheels? If Godless doesn’t break through with Western fans, Netflix will give it another try next year when they premiere the Coen Brothers’ anthology series The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.