In Hulu and FX’s new true crime limited series Under the Banner of Heaven, Andrew Garfield plays a detective with a crisis of faith as a brutal murder threatens everything he thought he knew about his community. The second episode, “Rightful Place”, dives further into the investigation now that two Lafferty brothers are in custody, as well as exploring Brenda’s place in the Lafferty family and the Lafferty family dynamic overall.
Trigger warnings for the episode: animal torture/murder, discussions of murder, depictions of graphic violence, sexual harassment
It is the young Pyre girls’ eighth birthday.
Jeb and Taba confirm that Allen and Robin are both in custody and determine that if Robin knows anything about the murders this will indicate his guilt, as no details have been revealed to him. Jeb and Taba question the woman who lives across the street from Brenda and Allen Lafferty, who says she saw four bearded men in a car parked across the street. Back at the crime scene, Taba suggests alerting the media only to be shut down (again) by Jeb — however, the pair agree that Taba will contact forest services and put out an APB on three bearded men — armed and dangerous.
Results from the lab prove that there are no prints belonging to Allen at Robin’s house and that neither the handprint left on the nursery door nor the blood by the front door belongs to him either. Jeb puts in a call to Sister Doren to request her help with his daughters’ birthday party while he works the case. Sister Doren agrees to help and insists she will call in the help of her other sisters, but not before asking Jeb if a Lafferty was hurt due to a rumor she heard. Small town means rumors travel fast.
Jeb’s initial attempt at questioning the elder of the two Lafferty brothers in custody, Robin, goes poorly until Robin asks why he is being held as he is a “good LDS man.” Jeb asks Robin why he ran from the police, who states he did so to avoid the persecution of the government and laws that harm LDS families. Jeb brings Allen some water and asks him why Brenda’s blood was on his hands and knees. Allen explains that he knelt to pray for his wife and daughter, which causes Jeb to further question him as just an episode prior Allen admitted he is no longer faithful. Allen tells the detective that the prayer he said that night was his last.
Jeb is able to get a basic description of the men with beards from Allen, who recalls seeing them for the first time at a tiling job with his brother Dan the year before. Allen recounts that after the job was completed a car pulled up with two men — one older, with a long, braided beard, and the other round with brown hair. As Allen recalls, Dan got in the car with them, and Robin was in the back. Allen provides clarity to Jeb that his brothers Dan and Robin were in an organized anti-taxation group, but wonders why Jeb is so interested in Robin.
Several things are revealed through Jeb’s interrogation of Allen and Robin Lafferty during the episode — that the Lafferty family is actually in financial trouble, the anti-taxation group some of the brothers are a part of is called “Patriots for Freedom,” that while the Lafferty’s disapproved of Brenda’s “interfering” their way of life only excited her and made her want to be a Lafferty boy, and that Robin is considered the most loyal to the church. Jeb asks Allen whether or not he thinks his family could be involved with his wife and daughter’s murder, to which Allen responds he’s not sure he can be certain about anything ever again.
Allen says his views on the church shifted when he had a daughter of his own, and how he didn’t want his daughter to be forced to obey men for the rest of her life. This conversation prompts Allen to ask if Jeb has daughters. Jeb gets flustered, insisting he is the one who asks questions. Allen apologizes, and Jeb exits while telling the man to get some sleep. When Taba’s whereabouts are unknown, Jeb asks Robin if his officers are in danger if they find his brothers. Robin’s response is not reassuring in the slightest. As Robin rants about the prophet Joseph Smith, Jeb concludes that this is the man who killed Brenda. Allen is heard screaming, and as the elder Lafferty brother demands to know who else is being held, Jeb exits.
With so much going on in the investigation, Jeb has missed his daughters’ birthday party.
Driving through the forest, Taba sees a person in the woods off in the distance. Taba arrives at Forest Services, asking about recent gunfire and if there’s been anything unusual happening recently. The two head up the mountain together where the ranger mentions he saw two men with guns “making a big mess.” Many of the trees surrounding them are riddled with bullet holes or destroyed, and there are mutilated squirrels hanging from the stumps. The ranger mentions that he actually found one of the mutilated squirrels nailed to his door this morning. He describes the men as in their 20s-30s, leading Taba to ask if the men looked like LDS pioneer types with beards. The ranger says yes, but also notes that there are many men like that in the area.
The ranger also reveals the men did have two girls with them who looked like they were from the pioneer ages, but the girls ran off quickly. The ranger didn’t follow them and warns Taba not to pursue them either. Over the radio, Jeb tells Taba that Allen has said Robin was in the anti-taxation group, and that he also provided descriptions of the bearded men. Taba says he is going to explore the woods and asks Jeb to send someone to look for him if he isn’t heard from in an hour.
While in the woods, Taba sees figures hiding behind the trees and hears the rattling of a metal canister — and in a flash, a woman in a pioneer-style dress flees the scene. Taba orders her to stop, but chasing her is futile as he immediately falls into a hole. Eventually, Taba is able to crawl out of the hole with his gun drawn and begins his search for answers again. He finds a small cabin in the woods, and standing on the porch notices a bullet hole in the wall. As he peers into the hole, the barrel of a shotgun appears.
Brenda & The Laffertys
Ammon Lafferty and his wife are leaving for their mission, leaving Dan and Robin in charge of the family. The Lafferty matriarch gives Matilda Ammon’s patient information, telling her that as wives it is their duty to support their husbands. As the old Lafferty heads of house prepare to leave, Brenda checks on Jacob, who has a mutilated squirrel corpse in his hands. Brenda uses her dress to wipe the blood from his hands, telling Jacob she’ll help take care of him while his parents are gone. As the parents leave, many of the Lafferty children begin to have fun, which is immediately shut down by the new patriarch — Dan.
Brenda gives Matilda advice to listen for the Holy Spirit for guidance, teasing that women can hear the Holy Spirit more easily than men. Brenda isn’t the only one giving advice in the Lafferty family, as Robin gives Allen some advice as well — it is essential to find a woman who will help you build a family for eternity. Allen assures his brother that Brenda does want a family. Unfortunately for Brenda, her helpfulness is perceived by some of the Lafferty brothers as a nuisance — including Dan who is refusing to help the family through their financial troubles, feeling scorned by his father for not being appointed patriarch.
Dan, now running the chiropractic business, is pushing away patients by praying over them as he works. Losing patients and patience, Dan confers with Matilda who only adds to his plate — there are many bills past due including tax and licensing fees from the government. Dan tells Matilda to pay the water and electric over the taxes, which comes back soon after to bite the family — the US government has sent someone to seize assets. Dan, armed with a baseball bat as he tries to persuade the official to let him pay half of the bill now and the remainder later, loses his temper when the official cannot be persuaded. Robin and Matilda enter just in time to prevent Dan from probably beating this man with the bat — but not before Dan is sprayed with pepper spray. Why didn’t Matilda pay the tax bill? Because the Holy Spirit gave her guidance and told her to listen to her husband.
At the television station, Brenda is able to convince one of her professors to give her a chance reading the news — only the professor has something far different in mind as he locks the two in the room alone. After multiple inappropriate advances, Brenda catches wind of the older man’s true motives and uses the opportunity to blackmail the professor. This is her chance to actually get to read the news, which she does the following week as the Lafferty brothers watch.
It is also revealed that the young couple — Allen and Brenda — had unsupportive family toward their relationship on both sides. Brenda wanted to wait to marry Allen until her bishop father met him, which finally happened at Christmas. Christmas with the Wrights isn’t the happiest of occasions, however, as Mr. Wright continually grills Allen with questions making Allen incredibly nervous, resulting in some not-so-savory answers to the questioning. Allen is excused to help Brenda’s younger siblings, Brenda and her parents quarrel over Allen’s worth as a husband. Outside, Allen accidentally sets fire to some landscaping while shooting off fireworks. It definitely was not the perfect first impression Brenda hoped for, but ultimately she loves the man and wants to be with him.
We also hear a story from Allen in the episode recounting a time Ron received a dog for his birthday. One day Ammon came home, and the boys hadn’t done their chores — so Ammon put the brothers in a circle and with the dog in the center and made the boys watch as he beat it to death with a baseball bat. It was (supposedly) to teach them a lesson about responsibility, and to show them their “rightful place.”
Allen proposes that perhaps his father returned from his mission and may have thought Brenda needed a lesson about her “rightful place.”
In this week’s flashes of Mormon origin, we hear and see a gruesome story that Ammon used to motivate his sons. Much like with the dog Ammon beat to death with a bat, Joseph Smith happened upon Ohioans hanging a dog who killed a lamb. Begging the villagers to let the dog go, Joseph offers his gold pocket watch as payment for the lamb. The Ohioan, scorned for the last time, takes the watch and then shoots the dog anyway, telling Joseph that he and the rest of the Mormons need to mind the laws. This creates a desire in Joseph to build a city of Zion on Earth.
Later, we see the Ohioans pull Joseph and his wife out of their home in the night, saying he has defiled his marriage. They go to cut out his tongue and cut off his penis, but he declares a prophecy to them, and they stop, merely telling him to leave with the rest of his Mormons. The next day the group leaves as Brigham Young is seen stealing something.
Under the Banner of Heaven will drop weekly on Hulu, with episodes 1 and 2 available now.