Everyone gather ‘round for some good old-fashioned history lessons, courtesy of the team behind the FX true-crime limited series, Under the Banner of Heaven. In a featurette, the cast and crew take audiences behind the two stories that they wove together to tell the heinous tale of a murder in a fundamentalist Mormon community. Based on John Krakauer’s novel of the same name (which is required reading for any true-crime aficionado!), the series focuses on the grisly murder of Brenda Lafferty (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and her baby daughter, Erica Lafferty. The hunt for the killers is at the center of the story as detective Jeb Pyre (Andrew Garfield) races against the clock to stop the suspects before they strike again.
In the featurette, showrunner and creator Dustin Lance Black joins stars Adelaide Clemens and Garfield in taking audiences back through the years to explain what led to the 1984 murders. In it, they talk about the idea of “blood atonement,” a belief held tightly by the fundamentalist Mormon community following the murder of their leader and founder, Joseph Smith. Smith was the first to introduce the idea that some sins are so terrible that they must be paid for in death, particularly in a very bloody way.
While many members of the religion have since moved away from the belief, some fundamentalists, including the murderers, hold tightly to the thought. The featurette also talks about tying in the fundamentalist ideas of polygamy, or plural marriage. Like blood atonement, many members of the present-day church have separated themselves from this idea, but it’s something that certain sects still practice today. As Garfield puts it, the hope for the series was to “draw a line” from the ideas that initially shaped the religion to the murder of Lafferty and her daughter. Viewers will also hear from several of the season’s directors who shaped the scenes that Black, Clemens, and Garfield speak about.
All in all, (from this true-crime nerd’s perspective) the series reaches its goal of connecting the past to the present and the emotional turmoil that each character dealt with by following their own path. It also sticks to the historical aspect of Mormonism, something that was very important to Black and his team as made obvious through the featurette. Along with Garfield Edgar-Jones, and Clemens, Under the Banner of Heaven stars Sam Worthington, Denise Gough, Wyatt Russell, Billy Howle, Chloe Pirrie, Seth Numrich, Rory Culkin, Sandra Seacat, and Gil Birmingham.
Check out the featurette below and catch all seven episodes of Under the Banner of Heaven currently streaming on Hulu.