What You Need To Watch On Netflix This Winter
Mr Jeff Daniels in Godless, 2017. Photograph by Ms Ursula Coyote/Netflix
Why you should stream Godless as the days draw in.
You may have spent a fair few nights of the summer with the curtains drawn, deep in a Netflix vortex, but the good news is that now that winter is upon us and the days are growing ever shorter, you can continue doing exactly the same thing but without feeling bad about it. And yes, whatever the mysteries surrounding Netflix’s long-term business strategy (it’s notoriously reticent about revealing audience figures), in the meantime the entertainment company continues to plough enormous sums into its original programming, meaning plenty more exciting films and series coming our way before Christmas. Here, in our opinion, are some islands in the stream.
Mr Jack O'Connell in Godless, 2017. Photograph by Ms Ursula Coyote/Netflix
Godless, launching on 22 November, opens as all traditional westerns should: with the sound of whistling prairie winds, the clop of hooves and a silhouette of a man with a hat on a horse emerging from the dust. In a masterful set-piece, writer-director Mr Scott Frank’s new series seems to give us all the clichés in their most elegant (and expensive) form: the year, we are told, is 1884, and we follow the man on the horse and his posse through a scene of utter devastation in Creede, Colorado: bodies draped across wagons and windowsills in a town silent but for the mournful ring of a bell; a train derailed, with its passengers strewn on the ground; and finally a sight, high above, that brings the man in the hat to his knees.
In fact, you could watch the whole first episode of Godless and think that Mr Frank, who also wrote the surprisingly excellent Logan, was choosing simply to stick to the western formula, albeit doing it very well.
But you’d be wrong. Godless, as it unspools over seven, 70-minute episodes, is a subtle, simmering re-evaluation of the familiar, introducing a host of atypical characters: a young widowed sheriff who is going blind (Mr Scoot McNairy), his gun-toting, trouser-wearing sister (Ms Merritt Wever), plus a host of other women who are keeping the town of La Belle – the menfolk of which were all but wiped out in a mining accident – almost on the straight and narrow as the character motives and plot lines become gradually more complex. It’s a series to be savoured, and never underestimated.
…And the rest
Of course, if westerns are not your thing, there are other clichés to be blown apart, as Netflix hopes to do with Bright, a buddy-cop movie starring Mr Will Smith and Mr Joel Edgerton, which launches on 22 December. Its director, Mr David Ayer, has form in this area – see 2012’s End of Watch – but the twist is that, in this futuristic Los Angeles, one policeman is human (Mr Smith) while the other just happens to be an orc (Mr Edgerton). In an almost literal articulation of Netflix’s desire to cater to all tastes, for those who don’t like the sound of Bright, there’s also Dark, a spooky German series about disappearing children and supernatural family secrets, launching on 1 December; and if secrets are your thing, you need to see Mr Errol Morris’s docu-drama Wormwood, starring Mr Peter Sarsgaard and out on 15 December, a true story about the CIA cover-up of the death of a government scientist. If that all sounds too new and risky, there’s always the latest batch of Mr Charlie Brooker’s unfailingly pertinent dystopian satire Black Mirror, which is due out before the end of the year. See you in the spring.