Entertainment

Godless serves up juicy character intros: Schneller

Michelle Dockery and Jeff Daniels are in the right for playing against types, but Netflix series is in the wrong for laying it on thick for their debuts.

Michelle Dockery, formerly the genteel Lady Mary in Downton Abbey, plays a tough-as-steel rancher in the Netflix series Godless.

Ursula Coyote / Netflix

Michelle Dockery, formerly the genteel Lady Mary in Downton Abbey, plays a tough-as-steel rancher in the Netflix series Godless.

The Show: Godless, Season 1, Episode 1 (Netflix)

The Moment: The overheated introductions

Isolated cabin, 1880s New Mexico. Lightning flashes. The door cracks open. A gun muzzle appears. “Declare yourself or I’ll shoot,” Alice growls. The rider outside doesn’t answer. Alice shoots him off his horse.

Notorious outlaw Frank Griffin rides his horse into a church, up to the pulpit. “Folks, how ‘bout it?” he asks, menacingly conversational. “Y’all been baptized?” He warns them that if he catches any of them harboring his enemy, they’ll “suffer like our lord Jesus suffered.” Long pause. “Amen!” he roars.

Now, factor in that Alice is played by the elegant Michelle Dockery, eagerly leaving Downton Abbey behind her; and Frank is played by Jeff Daniels, who usually conveys moral authority; and you’ll understand why these character intros are some juicy slices of ham.

I get it. Dockery and Daniels are actors. Who doesn’t want to play against type? Why shouldn’t Dockery want to braid her hair and talk tersely to her half-Indigenous son and shoot from the saddle? Why wouldn’t Daniels want to gallop in slo-mo through a river, and menace trembling townsfolk? But someone ought to rough up Dockery’s hands, and tell her that when she ladles stew from a pot, it shouldn’t look like she’s serving consommé from a silver salver. And Daniels might want to forego some of his dramatic closeups — bowed head hidden under his hat brim, lifting it just as the camera zooms in.

Don’t get me wrong, I love ham. I just hope the slices get a bit smaller, so that continued watching isn’t bad for me.

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