Wednesday, May 25, 2022

‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ Recap: Episode 3, “Surrender”

In this week’s episode of Under the Banner of Heaven, Jeb’s faith in the institutions governing his religion is shaken as new details come to light about the Laffertys. In the past, Brenda confronts the family as they begin to stray onto a dangerous path. Read on to find out what happens in “Surrender”!

Content warning: This recap contains references to gun violence, child murder, attempted suicide, and child abuse.

Jeb

Michelle Faye/FX

Jeb, Morris, and other officers arrive at Detective Taba’s car, which has clearly been tampered with. He’s scared of the anti-government group they’re going after, but getting Bill back is the priority. As the officers creep through the woods, they hear a metallic clang as the militia tries to scare them into leaving. Jeb and the others make their move towards the isolated cabin. Jeb manages to find an injured Bill, and while the two strategize about how to escape, they compare notes. Allen has a record, including contempt of court, which contradicts what he told them before. The rest of the squad arrives as backup, and Jeb pursues a mysterious figure in the woods while the rest of the officers deal with the cabin. It turns out the person in the woods is a child, and she’s terrified.

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Jeb finds her sticker book and tries to connect with her. Her name is Jenny Lafferty, and her parents are Sam and Sara Lafferty. Jenny tells Jeb that she comes from a “fort” where soldiers come and go. Jeb is able to get her to tell him that she knows Brenda and Allen before her mother shows up, screaming at the cops that the girl is a liar. Jeb sits down with Sara, who is not only racist but indoctrinated in fringe Mormon beliefs. Without revealing that Brenda is dead, Jeb asks about Brenda’s wedding day. Sara calls Brenda an “ugly shade of gray” since she is neither a sinner nor a saint. She also reveals the concept of “blood atonement,” the only way someone like Brenda can ever be cleansed. Their blood must be spilled.

Jeb finds out that only a few adults are inside the house. The rest are Sara’s sons, all under the age of 12. The scene is similar to the Haun’s Mill massacre in Jeb’s mind. Bill wants to go in, but Jeb is worried the children will be harmed. He wants to try to reason with the group, Mormon to Mormon. Bill reminds him of his own girls, but Jeb doesn’t want this to get violent. Sam demands his wife and daughter back, and Jeb attempts to talk him down. But when he sees a gun in the window, he calls in the force. The police escort the children out of the cabin while Bill finds Sam, bloody hands and all. Another man runs into the woods, and Sam won’t reveal who it is.

Back at Jeb’s house, a crisis is brewing as Becca finds that Josie is missing during the girls’ birthday party. A bus driver recognizes Josie and brings her home, displaying both the interconnectedness of the church and Becca’s panic at having others know about Josie’s dementia. She calls Jeb, who promises to make it home in time for his daughters’ baptism ceremony while praising Becca. A social worker talks with Jenny as Jeb watches. Jenny reveals that Dan is the leader of their family and that the last time she saw Brenda, the woman was dressed in a black robe.

FX

At the baptism meeting that night, the bishop goes over the requirements for baptism. The girls pass with flying colors, and Jeb stays behind to talk with the bishop. He discusses Josie’s situation. Years ago, Jeb and Becca agreed to take Josie in because they thought they couldn’t have children. But now, with Anne and Caroline combined with Josie’s dementia, Jeb worries about managing it all. He even shares Josie’s wish to die, prompting the bishop to remind him that assisted suicide is a sin. He does take the opportunity to reassure Jeb that antipsychotic drugs are fine under Mormon doctrine. This doesn’t sit well with Jeb, who is struggling with seeing his mother this way, but he chooses to move on.

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Jeb brings up the case, asking for more details about blood atonement. It’s not clear if he’s asking for evidence or because of his own doubts, but either way, the bishop clams up immediately. He tells Jeb that he’s not a historian and doesn’t dig into the church’s past beliefs, indicating Jeb should drop this line of questioning.

Jeb and Becca talk that night, with Jeb sharing his fear of losing the few moments of clarity he has with Josie by putting her on the drugs. Becca comforts him with the idea that in Heaven, she will be whole, so this earthly struggle is only temporary. Jeb sneaks in that he wants to postpone Anne and Caroline’s baptism, blaming the case and his focus on it. Becca is furious. She knows how people talk, and if they postpone, the neighbors will think the children failed their interview or something darker is going on. She begs him not to do this to her, to the girls, after all the work she’s put in for this moment her whole life. But he tells her the decision’s been made. Jeb is sincere, and Becca can see how this is affecting him too. They make up before Jeb heads back to work.

At the station, Sam is ranting while Allen listens. Jeb interrogates Allen, wanting to know what else Allen kept from him. The contempt of court charge stemmed from unpaid fines that led to Allen being arrested on the day of Brenda’s BYU graduation. The “black robe” Jenny was referring to was Brenda’s graduation robe. Allen says Brenda tried to keep him from following his brothers. He starts talking about Joseph and Emma Smith before Jeb tells him to stop. Allen asks if the bishop told Jeb to “put his questions on the shelf,” and he flinches at the turn of phrase. Allen shares that he feels guilty about pushing Brenda away from her own career and into motherhood, believing he put her in a cage.

Jeb takes over Sam’s questioning. Sam reveals that Brenda and Erica needed to die because they went against the Lafferty men. Suddenly, Robin bangs on the walls. He heard them discussing Brenda’s murder and wants to know if it’s true. Bill simply shows him crime scene photos. Distraught, Robin attempts to commit suicide, as Jeb and Bill stop him. Bill demands to know what happened if he wasn’t involved. Robin reveals several names on the hit list and that some were investigating the early history of the church. Jeb takes several officers to protect those named while Allen’s words linger in Jeb’s mind.

Brenda

FX

On Brenda’s wedding day, she, Dianna, and Matilda are gossiping about church tradition in the church while Sara scolds them. After the ceremony, Dan and Ammon get into a fight over unpaid taxes while Sam and Jenny watch. Ammon lashes Dan in front of the entire family as Ammon says there’s only room for one patriarch. Ron tries to stop Ammon, even physically fighting him, but his father only taunts him. As the stunned kids watch, Dan tries to laugh it off. The next day, Dan, Matilda, and their children pray together while Jenny eavesdrops from outside. He appears to have a divine revelation.

On the day of Brenda’s graduation, after Allen misses the event, she goes after Dan, who smugly spouts off ridiculous doctrine while the brothers surround Brenda. Brenda decimates his argument, but the Laffertys are in too deep to see it. They tell her to honor her husband’s wishes. It’s clear Brenda’s independent streak will cause problems for her now that she’s officially in the family.

Allen and Brenda talk, with Allen agreeing to leave his brothers if Brenda doesn’t go for the Channel 11 news job she is interviewing for. He wants children and a family now, and Brenda’s career can wait. Brenda is thrilled to discover she is pregnant and reaches out to Dianna. She wants to save the rest of the family from going too far down their current path, inspired by the new life inside her.

Mormon History

We see the Haun’s Mill massacre of 1838, where a militia in Missouri massacred members of a Mormon settlement. Three boys survive and are brutally shot by the militia at point-blank range. Emma Smith tries to keep her husband Joseph from raising a militia, which leads to the assassination of Missouri’s governor.

Under the Banner of Heaven premieres weekly on Hulu, with episodes 1-3 available now.

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