Some households are looking grounds. In these households, the person of the home sees his spouse and kids not as individuals however as belongings. Slap a spiritual imprimatur on it, give it the blessing of God Himself, and there’s no telling how far issues will go.
That appears to be the story of Beneath the Banner of Heaven as of the present’s fifth episode, titled “One Mighty and Robust.” That title refers to a prophesied chief who will return the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to its true roots. Predatory losers Dan and Ron Lafferty seize on the idea and act accordingly. The bloodshed that adopted was nearly a foregone conclusion.
The portrayal of Dan and Ron on this episode is really terrifying. In response to data gleaned by investigators Jeb Pyre and Invoice Taba, each brothers had been excommunicated by the LDS church. In Dan’s case, it’s as a result of he introduced to his spouse Matilda his intention to “marry” her 12 and 14 12 months outdated daughters. In Ron’s case, it’s as a result of he beat his spouse Dianna.
Credit score has to go to actors Wyatt Russell and Sam Worthington for his or her portrayals of those two scary figures. Russell, who’s nearly as good as taking part in “unbearable weasel of a person” as anybody since James Woods in his prime, shifts gears radically. As a substitute of the blustery, impulsive determine we’ve seen in earlier episodes, he’s offered right here as a full-bearded radical, calmly explaining to his spouse that it’s God’s will that she settle for her personal daughters as a “sister-wives.” Matilda helps the kids escape; they flee on to their outdated church, the place they’re taken in and subsequently fostered out by the bishop. They subsequently run away from their new house, that means that each they and their mom at the moment are lacking individuals.
Ron, seemingly much less of a real believer at first, is a far cry from Dan’s sangfroid. When he returns house from church courtroom, he roams round the home like a beast or a boogeyman, chasing his frightened kids from one hiding place to the following. Considered one of his daughters defaces his sacred undergarment, which he then wears like some form of talismanic image. Worthington’s gritted-teeth have an effect on, acquainted to anybody who noticed him years again in his numerous Hollywood blockbusters, is used to rather more pointed impact right here. He’s a square-jawed monster, following his brothers Dan and Sam and Robin into psychosis. And his punch to Dianna’s face, which precipitates his excommunication, is completely savage.
However by way of familial violence, each Dan and Ron realized on the ft of their father Ammon. Ron visits the now-bedridden patriarch to taunt and humiliate him, and for good cause: Ammon beat his kids and their mom alike. He beat their canine to dying in entrance of them. He beat Ron’s brother Jacob so badly he was completely brain-damaged by the ordeal. Now, Ron says, it’s Ammon’s flip to be saved from the physician, the best way his brother as soon as was.
Serving to Jeb and Invoice piece all this collectively as they rush from one Lafferty hidey-hole to the following is a gosh-golly-gee fella by the title of Bernard Brady (Nicholas Carella), one of many notorious “bearded males” to whom brother Allen attributed his brothers’ downfall. However Brady’s no prophetic throwback, just like the elusive white-bearded determine named “Onias” for whom Invoice and Jeb are additionally looking out—he’s just a few suburban doofus who bought drawn into the brothers’ orbit with a daily scriptural research group. It’s Brady who warns the cops that Ron is “able to much more than simply home violence.” Because of the phrases of his supportive mom, Ron believes he’s the “One Mighty and Robust” now—a “proud new Lion of the Lord,” a “Latter-day Brigham Younger” as Jeb places it. With a hitlist that features his personal ex-wife, Ron is within the wind, and Invoice forecasts extra blood earlier than it’s all mentioned and performed.
Crosscut with all of that is the continuing saga of LDS founder Joseph Smith. In response to Allen, a letter from Emma to Joseph was doctored by his extra militant followers, placing their name for his give up to native authorities after the destruction of a newspaper’s printing press in her phrases somewhat than their very own. This give up led on to his dying and the ascent of his disciple Brigham Younger, an adherent to the hotly debated doctrine of polygamy. Dan and Ron would see this as simply one other perfidious spouse main her husband astray.
How are we within the viewers purported to see it? I’m not fairly certain. This episode’s cross-cutting between previous and current is much less efficient than earlier episodes, I believe. There’s a tenuous case being made that Emma Smith’s meddling in Joseph’s affairs led to his downfall simply as Dianna’s led to Ron’s, however solely within the sense that she opposed polygamy whereas others in Smith’s circle supported it; if Emma’s message encouraging her husband to give up was doctored by truculent disciples as alleged, how is that Emma’s fault? And Joseph’s homicide by a lynch mob feels solely tangentially associated to any of the present-day occasions, as does Brigham Younger’s ascent as his major successor. I suppose the argument is that Ron fancies himself a Brigham Younger, nevertheless it nonetheless feels barely off-balance, as if previous occasions are being shoehorned into the house occupied by the homicide of Brenda Lafferty and her youngster.
Essentially the most attention-grabbing wrinkle, I believe, is that the Laffertys had been concerned in one thing known as “the varsity of the prophets”—a misnomer in LDS phrases, on condition that just one prophet at a time is ever ordained as such. What does that plural “prophets” imply, and can it issue into the homicide case in any respect?
Time will inform, and I’m inclined to present Beneath the Banner of Heaven time. Whereas much less profitable than a number of the earlier episodes, this stays a captivating research of a household’s fall from grace and the weaponization of religion towards the susceptible, shored up by highly effective performances. I absolutely anticipate the hyperlink between previous and current to be firmed up the nearer we get to the case’s decision. And I dread seeing precisely what sort of monsters Dan and Ron, the mighty and powerful, have grow to be.