Hell on Wheels

After Studly Doright and I finished watching the western tv series, Godless, I suggested we start the Handmaid’s Tale. It seemed like a nice change of pace to go from the wild west to a peek at a bleak future. After one episode, though, I could tell Studly wasn’t into the whole “Blessed be the fruit” and “May the Lord open” dialogue.

I’ve read Margaret Atwood’s novel more than once, and tried to coax Studly into giving the Hulu series another chance, but he wasn’t feeling it. I figured I could watch it alone so I tasked him with finding us another series. Apparently he didn’t get enough western fare, because he borrowed five seasons of the series Hell on Wheels from a colleague at work, and we’ve been semi-binge watching for the past week.

Set in the post-Civil War era, Hell on Wheels follows the adventures and misadventures of the men and women who built the railroads across the American wilderness. Hell on Wheels is the name of the moving town that accompanies the workers. Basically, this series is a soap opera set in the Nebraska territory.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to watch, but if you dressed the cast of the Young and the Restless in hoop skirts and put six shooters on their hips you would barely be able to tell one series from the other. There’s adultery, back stabbing, murder, racial tension, substance abuse, uncertain parentage, and all the other stuff one expects from a good modern soap opera, just with muddy streets and horses thrown in to separate one era from another.

The cast is pretty, though, especially Mr. Bohannon played by Anson Mount and Elam Ferguson, played by Common. Whoa!

Okay, I’ve got to go. Studly has the first disc of season four queued up. I’d hate to miss out. It’s time to see who’s conspiring against the railroad and who’s causing a ruckus. Blessed be the fruit, y’all.

Peace, people.

For Your Viewing Pleasure: Godless

One of Studly Doright’s co-workers recently sent him home with the Netflix series, Godless. We didn’t binge watch the series, but only because things like work and entertaining the Texas grandkids took precedence. Otherwise we might’ve done nothing but watch this one-season series from start to finish.

Godless is an unconventional western featuring an ensemble of strong, independent female characters, non-stereotypical Native Americans, as well as a highly nuanced villain played brilliantly by Jeff Bridges.

This Steven Soderbergh production follows a band of ruthless raiders led by Bridges’s character, Frank Griffin, as they scour the southwest searching for Roy Goode (Jack O’Connell), who has stolen a large sum of money from Griffin’s team and left the group for parts unknown.

The opening scene shows the brutal aftermath of Griffin’s band’s vengeance on a small town where Goode had received shelter while on the run. Every man, woman, and child in the village had been slaughtered and their bodies left in the streets as a warning to anyone who might offer assistance to Roy in the future.

Roy, who’d been shot during an exchange with Griffin’s men is tended to by a widow, Alice Fletcher, played by Michelle Dockery, along with her mother-in-law, Iyovi (Tantoo Cardinal) and her son, Truckee (Samuel Marty). Alice and her family live on a ranch outside the mining town of La Belle, Colorado.

La Belle is populated almost exclusively by women after a mine explosion claimed the lives of most of the town’s males. The women of La Belle have had to rethink their roles and to challenge the ways in which women are viewed and restricted during the period immediately following the Civil War. Their lives aren’t easy, but these females aren’t quitters.

The viewer knows that at some point Griffin and his murderous marauders are going to discover where Roy Goode has taken up residence. The women of La Belle think Roy’s last name is Ward and have no idea that Griffin is on his way to wreak havoc on the community. That is until a newspaperman, (Jeremy Bobb) from another community realizes who Ward is while visiting La Belle in pursuit of a story. Griffin discovers where Goode is even as the ladies of La Belle learn they’ve been harboring the object of Griffin’s wrath. Whew. The climactic scene is intense, and everything leading up to the climax is beautifully crafted.

The casting choices for Godless were impeccable. Merritt Wever plays one of La Belle’s widows who has thrown off the trappings of femininity to lead her “sisters” through an uncertain future. Her brother, played by Scoot McNairy, is the town’s sheriff. He’s also slowly going blind, but doesn’t want anyone to know. One of my favorite actors, Sam Waterston, portrays a federal marshall on the trail of Frank Griffin.

If you enjoy westerns then this one-season series is worth watching. Yes, there’s violence and some nudity and sexuality, but the tale is gripping. The only downside is that Godless consists only of seven episodes. Studly and I are in a funk now that it’s over. We both hope there might be a spin-off series down the line.

Peace, people.