Utilizing its nuanced emphasis on religion, “Underneath the Banner of Heaven” step by step depicts in intensive flashback how their methods turned so monstrous. The performances that typically are too overzealous of their manic nature—like how Culkin transforms into full mania and guttural scripture-spewing. (It doesn’t assist that by design we don’t see till later the connective tissue of how these modifications got here to be till into later episodes.) And whereas Worthington is particularly stiff in a job that additionally requires him to be step by step monstrous, Wyatt Russell provides the standout efficiency right here. He makes use of his salesman-ready heat and typically cracking voice as an example the expansion of considering, from why he shouldn’t need to pay taxes, to why he ought to have a number of wives. Like his father, he can readily declare a problem from Heavenly Father as simply extra gas for his damaging hearth.
“Underneath the Banner of Heaven” strikes about its expansive story of poisonous religion with the rhythm of a true-crime page-turner, due to its rising checklist of witnesses who present increasingly background, and its choose moments of motion. Courtney Hunt (“Frozen River”) has an assured contact for tense standoffs that finish in revealing conversations, and David Mackenzie (“Hell or Excessive Water”) provides hearth to scenes which might be largely constructed from police questioning, whereas making a sturdy buddy cop chemistry between Garfield and Birmingham’s unamused, non-religious outsider Invoice Taba. In the meantime the plotting stays tight, motivated by a thriller in regards to the potential suspects seen at Brenda and Allen’s residence, together with the uncertainty of the place sure Lafferty brothers have vanished to within the fashionable timeline.
The sequence is so expansive that it even takes time to recount the historical past of Joseph Smith, his spouse Emma, and the competing prophet Brigham Younger, which is informed in sizable snippets all through. Used to enrich what the Laffertys have come to imagine, these reflections can really feel extra sinister and eyeopening than the common Historical past Channel-ready passages they resemble in manufacturing worth. It’s extra that the modifying may be overzealous in flashing again between them, as if overemphasizing how these tales all overlap, however disorienting the viewer within the course of. It’s simple to think about “Underneath the Banner of Heaven” with out these moments, or in a lot element. However they show a part of the present’s personal wrestling with Mormonism, and its intricate albeit usually horrific reckoning with messengers who use the message to serve themselves.