UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Denise Gough, Wyatt Russell, Billy Howle, Chloe Pirrie, Seth Numrich, Adelaide Clemens, Rory Culkin, Sandra Seacat, and Gil Birmingham
Creator: Dustin Lance Black
Having grown up in a religious household (and having since lapsed), it was not the murder mystery of Under the Banner of Heaven which had me holding my breath and tensing up, but the crisis of faith that fueled it. The detective elements of the miniseries are certainly just as gripping, no doubt, but it’s the perversion of religiosity under the guise of righteousness that brought it from pure detective show to outright horror. Andrew Garfield continues to impress, able to will gravitas out of an understated performance, and the writing is absolutely excellent. Well done, creator Dustin Lance Black.
Under the Banner of Heaven very obviously wants to be a true crime version of True Detective. It features the same dour atmosphere, non-linear storytelling, and (essentially) a cult-related murder. However, Andrew Garfield’s Detective Pyre isn’t nearly as compelling as Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle, and nothing about the investigation is all that engrossing. The murder is mostly a MacGuffin to explore the havocs that can stem from religious fundamentalism (in this case, Mormons), which is fine, but it makes for a plodding bore of a series that thinks mood equals depth. With so many true crime options out there, this one just doesn’t cut it.