Under The Banner of Heaven Review: Murder meets Mormonism in Andrew Garfield’s gruesomely true crime drama

Police interrogations are different in certain parts of Utah. We’ve seen TV cops fawning over suspects before, but continue Under the banner of heaven, belief is just as important as facts. As one detective proudly confesses, “I’m a Mormon before I’m a cop.”

This startling true-crime series tells the story of the murder of a 24-year-old woman from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Brenda Lafferty (Daisy Edgar-Jones), and her 15-month-old daughter in 1984 in the small town of American Fork. The hunt for her killer forces Detective Jeb Pyre – the series’ fictional protagonist – to come to terms with the violent fringes of the religion he has practiced his entire life.

Based on the 2003 book by Jon Krakauer (Into the wild, into thin air), the series finds Jeb (Andrew Garfield, using only his softest, most tender tones) still investigating the grisly crime scene when Brenda’s husband is taken into custody. Most officers immediately recognize his name, Allen Lafferty (Billy Howie), and from sunny flashbacks to the years leading up to the double homicide, we quickly understand why.

The Laffertys are an important family in Salt Lake City. In a helpful aside, Brenda, who is originally from Idaho, compares her to the sprawling Kennedy clan that’s part of Allen’s appeal. She moved to Utah to pursue two things: a career in broadcast news and a godly community to help her thrive.

But Idaho’s saint is Utah’s sinner. Edgar-Jones is extremely cute as Brenda, and there’s charm in how hard she tries to get the Laffertys to like her too. She mostly wins over the wives of Allen’s many brothers, but the Lafferty men don’t trust a woman with ambitions of her own. The formidable patriarch (Christopher Heyerdahl) is a tyrant, and his eldest son, played by Sam Worthington, is eager to inherit the mantle. Tense family scenes are only soured by Scottish actress Chloe Pirrie’s playful role as Matilda, another of Lafferty’s wives.

Mormonism is not simply a fact of the inner workings of these characters; it’s the rugged landscape of the series. Under the banner of heavenThe biggest challenge of is to convey the intricacies of religion without getting lost in it. Particularly in early episodes, this dig takes place in the interrogation room, where Jeb and Allen, who claims to be innocent, engage in a compelling debate about the core values ​​of the faith. These speeches are sometimes accompanied by historical re-enactments that wouldn’t look out of place on the History Channel and that some, myself included, might find corny.

Andrew Garfield in a still from Under the Banner of Heaven

(FX)

But it is the sifting of what distinguishes Mormonism from the fundamentalist religions practiced in its name that sets it apart Under the banner of heaven from the flood of true crime offers on TV. It’s rare that Mormonism receives such subtle treatment with the Broadway juggernaut in popular culture The Book of Mormon and the reality series from TLC sister wives offers more whimsical views on religion.

The show falters when Jeb experiences a crisis of faith. Dialogue can be clunky and influenced. “Oh, this case. What if it’s not just a husband whose heart is against his wife?” Jeb asks his wife in what is arguably the least sexy shower scene on TV. “What if tonight is just the first edge of a bone that has finally carved itself out of the soil of our own desert?” His wife hugs him; What else is a woman supposed to do?

It becomes clear pretty quickly who killed Brenda and her baby. In this sense, Under the banner of heaven doesn’t hit the gripping beats we’ve come to expect from crime dramas, but it does have nuances that the genre often lacks. More interesting than how Jeb’s faith helps him solve the case is how often it gets in his way.

Under the Banner of Heaven is an FX Production premiering today on Hulu. A UK release date has yet to be announced

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/reviews/under-the-banner-of-heaven-review-b2067293.html Under The Banner of Heaven Review: Murder meets Mormonism in Andrew Garfield’s gruesomely true crime drama

JOE HERNANDEZ

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