A small Utah town is shaken when a young mother and her young daughter are murdered in the Disney+ Star/Hulu Original Series, “Under the Banner of Heaven.” Detective Jeb Pyre is a faithful Mormon who is leading the investigation. But while looking into what led up to the murder he ends up learning more about the less desirable aspects of the Mormon faith and how that may have corrupted the victim’s husband’s family. It leads to him questioning his own faith while trying to bring the perpetrators to justice.
This miniseries is loosely based on a book about the actual murders of Brenda Wright Lafferty, and her 15-month old daughter, Erica, by Brenda’s brothers-in-law. It’s one of the most disturbing murders I’ve ever learned about. The book and the series basically serve as an indictment of Fundamentalist Mormonism. Some may see it as an indictment of all Mormonism, but I think it serves as a warning about going too far in one’s beliefs rather than attacking the basic belief system of one religion or denomination of religion.
The series is heavy, but amazing. Andrew Garfield shines as Detective Pyre. He clearly is strong in his faith at the start, but it’s clear with each passing episode that his faith is being shaken and he’s fearful of what a life in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints means for his daughters. More than being a detective or a good Mormon, he’s a loving father, husband and son. He brings a gravitas to the role that really should’ve netted him an Emmy nomination. On top of that, Wyatt Russell and Sam Worthington shine as the brothers who have fallen down the fundamentalist route and have gone too far. Plus, Rory Culkin, the younger brother of Macaulay and Kieran Culkin, plays a really good crazy brother who didn’t commit the murders but seems to believe the same as his older brothers.
If you like lighthearted affairs, this isn’t the show for you. If you love stories based on true crime events, this one is perfect. It’s heavy. It’s heartbreaking. It will shake you emotionally and spiritually. But, you are likely to come away with it appreciating the efforts of all the actors in this series.
Ranking: 4.5 stars
What did you think of “Under the Banner of Heaven?”