Review: Godless and Longmire on Netflix

So, I’ve been busy with drafting the second novel in the Age of Magic series, but not so busy that I haven’t immersed myself in several Netflix series this month. I dove into several binges, but I’m going to focus this review on the Westerns. I fell in love with Westerns with Sergio Leone’s body of work, and I’ve branched into many Westerns since then. If Westerns are a guilty pleasure of yours, then we’re cut from a similar cloth, and I may have some series recommendations for you to look out for.

The first Western I finished up recently was the final season of Longmire. That series was satisfying and ended on a pretty good note. It was a bit predictable, but not in a bad way. I knew what to expect with Longmire, so I won’t say much more about it. If you liked the first five seasons, you’ll appreciate this Western/Detective hybrid’s conclusion.

GodlessBut Longmire’s not really what we should be talking about. We should be talking about Godless.

Let’s go ahead and start with what I feel is the obvious. Scott Frank, the creator of Godless. Damn you, you amazing bastard! What a well crafted story! I’m jealous I didn’t write it, and probably never could have. I mean, I was totally hooked. Whitey and Louise. Roy Goode. The Mine. The spirits of Indians in the Old West. The natural love stories amongst the women of La Belle. The savagery. The realistic shootouts. The fate of the brave. The complicated villain. The brother who waits on the Pacific.

If you are a fan of Sergio Leone, you will love this series. If you love Westerns, you will love this series. If you hate Westerns, you’ll probably still love this series. The cinematography is superb. The soundtrack fits perfectly. The pacing in regards to emotion and dread and fear and bravery is just amazing. I can’t recommend this series highly enough.

Jeff Daniels is fantastic. I’m trying to imagine anyone else in this role. This is the type of villain I aspire to write. Complex. Damaged. Heroic, terrible, and doomed. Vulnerable physically and emotionally. Well done.


The backstories in Godless were so expertly done. There was just enough to jog your mind, and not so much that you forget the present.  The pacing and storytelling here is just phenomenal. Like I said, damn you, you magnificent bastard! Well done, storyteller. Well done.

Godless: Five stars. Familiar yet unique. Sweeping and deep. Powerful female characters and solid storytelling.

Longmire: Four stars. If you’ve enjoyed the first five seasons, then you’re going to enjoy the last season. Everything wraps up in a satisfying way. Jacob Nighthorse was probably my favorite character in the series. Not too good. Not too bad. Malachi was a bit too over-the-top. Henry and Walt are a unique combination of buddy cops that are both quiet and stoic. Kind of interesting that the combination still actually works after all those seasons. I’m not sure what to say about the Vic arc. I mean, sure, it was obvious. I’m still trying to figure out if I liked the arc or not. The series may just be too Vanilla for me to give it five stars.


Stranger Things and the Demogorgon

First, the obvious. My wife and I love Stranger Things. Season 2 might have even been better than Season 1, and we’re very much looking forward to Season 3.


Demogorgon in Stranger Things Season 1 (Photo: Aaron Sims Creative)

However, there’s one thing that’s been bothering me about the mythology surrounding the show, and it revolves around “Demogorgon”. The reason why this warrants a blog post right now is because Demogorgon is not only a specific Dungeons and Dragons reference (which makes sense for Stranger Things), but D&D actually lifted the character from Biblical discussions (and even discussions of the Greek pantheon before that). There’s actually a lot of history around the Demogorgon character, and I thought readers might find a discussion of its roots and how it relates to the show interesting.

Demogorgon in Stranger Things

First, let’s talk about how Demogorgon has been used in the Stranger Things Netflix series and why this is a bit confusing. For those unfamiliar with D&D, the name Demogorgon is being thrown around and tagged on many things. The kids are using the name as a catch all for basically the worst evil that they are currently laying eyes on. In Season 1, it was the face-splitting monster that drags people into the upside-down. In Season 2, the kids start calling the feral dog-like creatures mini-demogorgons. These creatures appear to be controlled by the Shadow Monster.

So what’s the problem?

Demogorgon in D&D

Demogorgon[1]The problem is that as far as baddies go, Demogorgon is generally the baddest of the baddies in D&D and beyond. In D&D, Demogorgon is literally the Prince of Demons. He fights with other demon lords for dominance, and he always wins. He’s the Big Baddy, with capital Bs. The Stranger Things kids are D&D enthusiasts, so with that understanding, each time they invoke this name, it almost needs to be something bigger. However, in Season 2, they actually label subservient creatures (the feral shadow monsters that Dart turned into) mini-demogorgons. This is going backwards a bit. Demogorgon is something you really need to save up for, in my opinion, rather than wasting it on the little guys.

Unfortunately, I have a feeling that the name “Demogorgon” might stick with the first monster we see in Stranger Things Season 1, which as you may have noticed in Season 2, is nowhere close to the biggest bad guy we’re likely to see. Things tend to get bigger as seasons progress. The Shadow Monster in Season 2 is a lot scarier and more powerful than Demogorgon. In fact, the “Demogorgons” in Season 1 seem like they are controlled by the Shadow Monsters.

Demogorgon in Human Mythology

What are the origins of Demogorgon? Believe it or not, it’s not Dungeons and Dragons. It’s from ancient Greek and was typically used to describe the chief deity in the Greek pantheon. The only surviving scrolls and works we have from this period (BCs to early ADs) have the term first show up in the works of Lactantius Placidus (350-400 AD). In his work, he said “Dicit deum Demogorgona summum, cuius scire nomen non licet“, which translates to “He is speaking of the Demogorgon, the supreme god, whose name it is not permitted to know”. When Christianity first took hold, this could have been taken to mean that Demogorgon was not a demon but another word for the Almighty God, whose true name we’re not supposed to know. However, that’s not what actually happened.

By the tenth century, Demogorgon was cited as a primal god and the chief primal god in various texts, including Adnotationes super Lucanum to Lucan’s Pharsalia. By the Middle Ages, it begins to morph from the Super God over Pan and Hermes to “Demon-Gorgon”, “Terror-Demon” or “God of the Earth”. It’s these former two labels that really stuck, and some would argue was a targeted campaign to demonize the ancient Greek and Roman pantheons.

Demogorgon was associated with such things as being “Master of Fate” in Hell’s hierarchy by Johann Weyer (~1560s), and it was kind of finalized in its transition with Milton’s Paradise Lost (~1674 AD), where Demogorgon is named with Orcus and “Ades” (Hades) as a “dreaded name” in “Hell”. It’s all downhill from there. Demogorgon became not the “supreme god, whose name it is not permitted to know” but instead became the “Prince” or even “King” of demons, which got kind of confusing when comparisons were being made to Lucifer/Devil. Most Christian scholars appeared to make Demogorgon separate from the Devil, and Demogorgon was somehow placed underneath the Devil, in whatever hierarchy was appropriate.

And this is where we come full circle to D&D and the mythology of Stranger Things. In D&D, Demogorgon is a self-styled Prince of Demons who fights with other demon lords for dominion over the levels of the Abyss. In the biblical scholar realm, Demogorgon is at the very least a powerful prince of Hell and at the very most the Devil himself. So, you kind of want to save this label for something really, really bad.

I’m kind of hoping Stranger Things relabels a creature even worse as Demogorgon in Season 3 so the show eventually ends up pointing at the real Demogorgon from D&D and mythology. In D&D, Demogorgon can mesmerize anything by looking at it with one of his two heads. In mythology, he’s a supreme god and maybe even the creator, or a prince of Hell, depending on which point of the historical arc you are looking at. There’s a lot of possibilities here. I think the creators of the show have great talent, and I’m excited to see where they take this thing. Demogorgon or not, Jenny and I will definitely be watching Season 3!

Demogorgon and The Age of Magic fantasy series


Wrath and Ruin Box Set

Why have I researched Demogorgon? I’m a fan of Stranger Things, but I’m definitely not a fan of him.

Demogorgon is actually a character in my new high fantasy series The Age of Magic, and he’s not a puppet or subservient creature of anyone in my books. He’s the most powerful demon in the Void or the Abyssal Plains, and he fights with Orcus and the mysterious demon lord Mekadesh under the world of Nirendia. He’s such a big baddy that he’s never been defeated, and you really almost have to trick him into leaving for him to ever be defeated, especially by mortal hands.

Book One, The People’s Necromancer, introduces the fight of the demon lords but focuses on the interactions of humans and elves in their squabbles outside the battle raging in the underworld between the demon factions. Book Two, The Dark Paladin, talks about the influence of Mekadesh and Orcus and really introduces them to the human population of Nirendia (the world this takes place on). Book Three? That’s where Demogorgon is going to be first presented to the readers, because this is an ancient, powerful creature that is really unrivaled in the demon world. He’s a physical, imposing threat that is really a final boss for humanity, the elves, and even the orcs of this world.

If you’d like to read the first novel The People’s Necromancer, it’s being released for 99c as part of the fantastic Wrath and Ruin box set with 23 other fantasy and science-fiction novels. This box set will be released on January 2nd, 2018, but it is available for pre-order. There are USA Today Bestselling and award-winning authors in this set, and it’s especially a great deal given the preorder price.

As for the Age of Magic series? The second book is being drafted. Both novels should be released in 2018. Stay tuned on this blog or my newsletter.

The Keepers

t-the-keepers-netflixAfter finishing up a final readthrough on Shadows of Our Fathers and sending it to a beta reader, I decided that I wanted to relax for a bit and watch some Netflix. I love true crime dramas, and I had started The Keepers last week. But after two episodes, I realized it was going to be far darker than I could deal with at that time, and I put it off. When I logged into Netflix last night, there it was. I could have moved away from it, but I didn’t. I told myself I would watch one episode, and maybe start a new story or pick one up. I never got to another story. I watched all remaining episodes in one sitting.

You would think that is a strong endorsement. Perhaps, it is, but not for the reasons I would normally recommend something to watch. This is a documentary series that illuminates a whole tier of problems in our society and the natural tendency for human beings to sweep things under a rug, tell people to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and deal with the realities of the world, and in general, take advantage of other people.

I can’t tell you what specifically about this drama caused me to tear up all night. There’s a lot of my own experiences comforting friends and even my first wife about things that happened to them, from family members. Almost always an uncle. But sometimes, it was a babysitter, and not always male. When I was growing up, even then, as a teenager, I was shocked by how widespread the problem seemed to be in a small suburb of Nashville. Watching the women in this documentary going through the shame of revelation was just too close to home.

My first wife dealt with the abuse and memory of the abuse in a way very different than the women in the documentary. She became hypersexualized. Ultimately, it ended our marriage.  She had a need for chaos and a self-destructive wish for herself. She attempted suicide with pills. She slept with my friends, and she sometimes even begged me to hit her. Ultimately, I realized that I was not the right person to help her get through this. I think the shock of our divorce, that after all those years I would no longer participate in this destructive behavior, may have helped her find some peace. She married my old best friend, and they started having kids. She seems happy, or as happy as I think she can be. Watching the documentary, you can see how long disassociation can last and how hard it can hit when the rush of memories comes back. And the effects of shame.

Watching this documentary, a lot of old thoughts and emotions came flooding back to me. I thought about how one of my old best friends from high school, who had been abused by his uncle, dealt with sexual assaults by not only that man but also some of his friends who did the weirdest things to him because he was strange. I remember confronting their whole pack in the hallway after they started spreading rumors that I was gay because they believed he had shared his story with me. And he had, but they underestimated me.

I had been on the varsity football team, and at the time, I was a very fit guy. And when I found them there, smirking next to the principal’s office, I slammed my fist into a door beside the ringleader’s head, while he was standing next to his girlfriend and crew, and I told him, in no uncertain terms, that if I ever heard him say another word about me, I would beat him so badly that his girlfriend wouldn’t recognize him. I eyed his entire circle of friends, daring them to say something.

My friend was there. He was so proud. He had told me the ringleader would fold like a flan, and I had worked myself up for a couple of days. He had egged me on, and I remember that he looked so triumphant watching me do this to them. Threaten a bunch of frightened morons. And then I let him down. I started feeling like he had manipulated me into my intense anger–that I might have lost my chances at scholarship if I ever did something like that again and got caught. I would have beaten the kid down if he had said anything to me, instead of sitting there whimpering in front of his girlfriend and friends. I stopped dropping by my friend. I stopped hanging out. I withdrew. I had stood up for him in my own, extremely angry way, and then I had dropped it. I was ashamed. I reminded myself of my father. His rage. How infrequently he controlled it. I didn’t want to be that guy.

So, I let him down. He didn’t have me to confide in. I went on to graduate and eventually, I found my way through college and grad school. He went on to be a psychiatrist. He became gay. I know there is an argument that says all gay people are born that way, but I’m not sure he was born that way. I think he was molested by multiple males, and I know how he internalized his shame. I remember it. He wore dark clothing. He had very low self esteem. I wanted to help him. And my ex wife. And one of her friends who was molested by her uncle. And on and on. I had found so many people who had gone through things like this. And now, all of them are out of my life.

I hang out with my wife Jenny, and she’s my best friend. I ask myself sometimes if all of this is selfish. By cutting ties to these people, after knowing their problems, if that makes me part of this system. Maybe it does. It probably does. There’s only so much darkness I can consume though. I’ve been through plenty of things in my life, and I’ve made choices to try to see the best side. To move forward. To treat the past like the past. But for some people, especially people who have been molested, I don’t think that’s easy to do. I think it especially marks people of extreme faith in the worst way. A dark blemish on a good person, one that they feel responsible for.

Why did I not say anything? How did I allow myself to be molested the second time? What is wrong with me? These are the kinds of questions my friends would ask. And all I could say was “You’re a good person. They’re a bad person.” Because of my life, I’m very good at shutting things down. Compartmentalizing. Putting bad things in a box and looking toward the future. I’m not the best friend to have, and I know that. Writing is an outlet for me. It’s cathartic. In a way, maybe it’s helping me to avoid my past and enjoy the abstract and fictional scenarios. I try to write things that have meaning. I could write paranormal romance or something else like that, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. I’d rather have something to say.

And that’s what The Keepers creators are doing. They are allowing these women to have something to say. They are saying something about the Catholic church and the policemen who aided them in these coverups. They are talking about the statute of limitations laws and how they benefit the offenders and not the victims. They have something to say. I can only hope that one day I have something this powerful to say to readers.

The Keepers is not fiction. It’s not hopeful. It’s not going to make you feel better. But it’s a powerful show, and from my experience with molestation survivors, it feels real. If this is fake, then they know their source material. This show brought back a lot of bad memories, but it’s so important that people are aware of the problems that this show talks about. This will always be a problem with humanity. I believe there is an innate problem, especially in men, that creates this kind of molestation culture by itself in isolation. It doesn’t require a special stimulus. In some men, there are just broken parts. And these broken parts cause those men to break others.

I’m reminded of a line from The Perks of Being a Wallflower. “Welcome to the island of misfit toys.” That movie too dealt with molestation. And that’s what I remember about spending time with molestation survivors throughout my teens. That they saw themselves as broken toys. Rarely feeling like they deserved love. Frequently seeking out other malfunctioning toys. That’s how they found me. If you’re broken, for whatever reason, you generally can recognize it in others. And if you’re a good person, and you’re a mended or functioning toy, you’ll see these people and say “I wish I could help fix you.”

And I kind of imagined myself as a robot toy, finding another toy that had lost an arm, and trying desperately to help them put it back on. But after what the broken toy had been through, the arm just wasn’t right for them anymore. For whatever reason, the arm would never fit. Like their shoulder had changed and would no longer accept it at the joint. But still, we fumbled with the broken pieces for a while, trying to make them whole again.

That’s how you’re probably going to feel watching this series. You’ll want to help fix the victims. You’ll want to help fix the system. You’ll want to help find them justice. I’m not sure if such a happy ending is possible. Even if the system resolves this particular case in some way, there will always be victims. As sad as that is, I think there’s something inherently wrong in some people, and it will likely always be true. The defect in humanity will always be there. The best parents can do is just be vigilant. Don’t leave your children alone with relatives or “friends” and especially not priests who must abstain from sex for their religion. I highly recommend the series.

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