We've all heard the saying ‘truth is stranger than fiction' and never has this applied more than to Under The Banner Of Heaven starring Andrew Garfield.
The true crime drama was created by Dustin Lance Black based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Jon Krakauer.
Widely praised by critics and viewers, Under The Banner Of Heaven focuses on the brutal murder of Brenda Lafferty and her baby daughter Erica in 1984. The crime took place in Salt Lake Valley, a small town in Utah, and the investigation was led by Detective Jeb Pyre.
What makes this more interesting is that Jeb Pyre (Andrew Garfield) was a devout Mormon and the victims, and possibly the murderer, were all part of the church.
You can now watch Under The Banner Of Heaven on Disney+
What Is Under The Banner Of Heaven About?
While the plot of the show is the murder of Brenda Wright Lafferty (Daisy Edgar Jones), the wider story is about the church of the Latter Day Saints. Specifically, the modern version versus the fundamentalist version of Mormonism.
Initially, Brenda's husband Allen (Billy Howle) comes under suspicion. However, as he re-tells the story of how he and Brenda met, the story of the Lafferty's takes a very dark turn.
The once admired Lafferty family started to disintegrate when the mother and father, Ammon Lafferty, went off on a two-year mission, leaving their second eldest son, Dan Lafferty (Wyatt Russell) in charge of the family business.
When the business starts to go badly, the Laffertys decide to save money by not paying the various taxes and licences required in the state of Utah.
Of course the government comes after them so the brothers decide that in the original and more fundamentalist teachings of the church, taxes did not have to be paid.
And so begins the slow and steady decline into strict fundamentalist Mormonism.
Their biggest obstacle was Brenda, a more modern and enlightened young woman who didn't want to conform. The more Brenda rebelled, the more the brothers upped their rhetoric, attempting to turn back time and live as the first Mormons did in the 1890s.
So who killed Brenda Lafferty? That's the crime that Detectives Jeb Pyre and Bill Taba (Gil Birmingham) have to solve.
Under The Banner Of Heaven Official Trailer
Is Under The Banner Of Heaven Worth Watching?
Under The Banner Of Heaven is an excellent tv series with multiple layers that unravel over the course of seven episodes.
Initially, it is all about the crime and the pressure on Jeb not to involve the church. However, as the series goes on and Allen's story starts to resonate more and more with Jeb, it becomes about one man's crisis of faith.
The more he learns about the origins of the church leaders and how some of the past misdeeds have been buried, the more he questions his own relationship with the religion.
For the viewer, there are three stories at play. The first in the present day, solving the case of Brenda and her baby daughter.
The second is the rise and fall of the Lafferty family's fundamentalist beliefs through flashbacks.
The third is the origins and history of Mormonism starting with the early life of Joseph Smith, founder and first prophet of the Latter Day Saint movement who introduced the idea of polygamy.
The three scenarios play out to give context to the crime at hand, eventually culminating in the arrest of the murderer.
As stories go, Under The Banner Of Heaven is an excellent piece of television. It is compelling and engaging and told in such a way that you can't help but become really invested in the solving of the crime.
Brenda Lafferty deserved so much more out of life and could never have predicted the violent consequences of her marriage to Allen. So in that respect, it's a story worth telling and definitely one worth watching.
Under The Banner Of Heaven Family Members
The one aspect of Under The Banner Of Heaven that I personally struggled with was the sheer number of characters. Especially when there are six Lafferty brothers, plus their wives and children.
As the story flashes back, most have regressed and have grown beards etc…making them tricky to distinguish from the previous ways that we have seen them. Plus with so many names, it's difficult to grasp who is who.
So here is a handy guide to the Lafferty family.
The father is Ammon and he is married to the family Matriarch – Doreen.
The oldest son is Ron, a local builder, who is married to Dianna.
Next in line is Dan, left in charge of the family business when the parents leave. Dan is married to Mathilda, a Scottish divorcee with two children.
Then comes Robin, who helps Dan with the business. He is married to Lynn.
The fourth Lafferty son is Jacob who is mentally impaired following a lack of medical care when he was younger.
Fifth in line is Samuel, the enthusiastic follower of the group who is married to Sara.
Finally, there is Allen, married to Brenda Wright Lafferty and with one daughter, 15-month-old Erica.
Under The Banner Of Heaven TV Series Cast
Andrew Garfield (Silence, Spider-Man) as Detective Jeb Pyre, a Mormon man who begins to question his own faith
Gil Birmingham as Detective Bill Taba, a non-Mormon in the police
Adelaide Clemens as Rebecca Pyre, Jeb's wife
Sandra Seacat as Josie Pyre, Jeb's mother
Daisy Edgar-Jones as Brenda, the murder victim
Billy Howle as Allen Lafferty, Brenda's husband
Sam Worthington (The Shack) as Ron Lafferty, the oldest brother in the family
Denise Gough as Dianna Lafferty, Ron's wife
Wyatt Russell as Dan Lafferty
Chloe Pirrie as Matilda Lafferty, Dan's wife
Seth Numrich as Robin Lafferty
Rory Culkin as Samuel Lafferty
Christopher Heyerdahl as Ammon Lafferty, the family Patriarch
Megan Leitch as Doreen Lafferty, the matriarch
Taylor St. Pierre as Jacob Lafferty