Tuesday, July 5, 2022

‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ Recap: Episode 5, “One Mighty and Strong”

In the latest episode of Under the Banner of Heaven, Jeb finds himself entrenched even more in the church cover up of the Lafferty family’s crimes. Sam Worthington and Wyatt Russell both give fantastic performances in an episode that focuses on Ron and Dan moving further into their fringe beliefs while Jeb moves further away from the church he loves. “One Mighty and Strong” is a powerful and at times disturbing exploration of one man losing his faith while another fatefully turns down a fanatical path.

Content Warnings: domestic violence, sexual assault, implied sexual abuse of a minor

Jeb

Michelle Faye/FX

Jeb interrogates Sam, who pretends he was the one to kill Brenda and Erica. But Jeb catches him in several lies, telling Sam that he knows he’s covering up for someone. Sam mentions being part of a “school of prophets,” a slip-up that Jeb and Taba both latch on to. Jeb goes back to Robin, who tries to brush it off as Sam getting hysterical about an innocent scripture study group. Jeb goes for the jugular, threatening to tell his stake president about this study group and get him excommunicated. Robin relents, sharing that a friend of Dan’s named Brady was the one who started it. Robin is able to give him a few more names, but not much else. Sam and Robin are both released into the stake president’s custody as word comes in that the Lowes were found. Taba and Jeb head to Bishop Lowe’s house to find out why Ron and Dan were excommunicated from the church. He’s tight-lipped, especially since he clearly has racist beliefs about Taba and doesn’t respect the non-Mormon detective. But Jeb is able to play the game and get some useful information about what led to Ron and Dan’s break from the church.

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The police track down Brady, who, shocker, isn’t totally surprised by this turn of events. He gave Ron a place to stay after his excommunication. His wife cheerfully notes that she was the one to tell Ron that if he touched Dianna again, she’d go to the police herself. It’s unclear if she knows the extent of the abuse, and she definitely does not know about the school of prophets. Brady sends his wife away and privately admits to Jeb and Taba that he knew about the more fringe beliefs in the group but thought they’d never have the guts to actually do any of it. He produces a notarized letter he had written so he could have a cover in case they did go after anyone on the blood atonement list, which is the best representation of “legally fine, but morally reprehensible” ever. He’s terrified his wife will find out about the polygamy talk, which Jeb reminds him is the least of his worries at this point. Brady tells the duo that he can’t be sure if Dianna was on that list (translation: she definitely was). Proving his status as husband of the year, he tells Jeb that if Dianna or Brenda were on this list, they probably deserved it for talking back to their husbands.

Jeb and Taba are having none of that, making Brady take them to the Lafferty farm he had heard them talk about in their sessions. Allen helps them sketch out the general layout, and they make a plan to raid at dawn. Jeb heads home to find his house empty, and he fears the worst. But it turns out Rebecca and the girls went for Annie’s lesson at Brother Young’s house and are fine, to Jeb’s relief.

In the darkness of the next morning, he admits to Taba that he thinks the lesson and the stake president’s growing closeness with Rebecca is a ploy to keep him telling the official story rather than the one that Jeb is determined to investigate. In a moment of rebellion, he contradicts Brady’s understanding of Dan’s excommunication and shares what happened to Matilda’s daughters. The raid reveals that Onias, one of the mysterious men in the scripture group, brought young girls from the FLDS compound Bountiful to the farm. It seems he wanted to create his own outpost here. Jeb gently questions the girls, who admit they know Ron and Dan but not where they went. He and Taba find the blood atonement list, which mentions Dianna specifically.

Ron and Dan

Michelle Faye/FX

Matilda is milking a cow in a pioneer dress at Dan’s new compound, signifying just how far Dan has gone beyond the teachings of the main church. She walks in on Dan giving her daughter Cora a “back realignment” (Wyatt Russell is terrifyingly creepy here). He claims God is calling him to take Cora and her other daughter as his second and third wives (!!). Matilda is understandably horrified, and it’s the last straw. That night, she distracts Dan by having sex with him as her girls run away. They go to their old congregation and tell their story, leading to Dan’s excommunication. Both the girls later ran away from the foster home the church placed them with and are now missing, with CPS never even notified as Bishop Lowe and the other higher ups didn’t want word of what happened with Dan to taint the rest of the church.

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We then flash to the incident that led to Ron’s excommunication. At Erica’s church blessing, Dianna and Brenda try to tell Sister Lowe about Ron’s increasingly erratic behavior. As Ron gets in a fight with the Bishop over Dan’s excommunication, his wife seems reluctant to get involved. Brenda speculates that maybe the threat of excommunication will get Ron to stop hurting Dianna, a possibility so terrifying that even Dianna doesn’t want it.

After Ron is called for an excommunication hearing, he finds out Dianna was the one who asked for it. She took Brenda’s words about threatening him to heart. He goes on a rampage at home, ranting and terrifying his children. He hits Dianna, but when he goes after the children she kicks him out and tells him never to come back. Dianna shows up at the Lowe house with bruises on her face and they give her money to get out. Like with Matilda and the children, they have no idea where she went after that.

Ron’s excommunication hearing goes as well as you might expect, with Ron accusing everyone of hypocrisy before leaving. He decides to claim his “rightful place” and immediately runs home to his family. The kids all run from him and try to hide as he loses what’s left of his composure. He’s hearing the voice of his own God now. Ron goes to his mother, who is all too willing to reassure him that he is her chosen one (again, creepy). Ammon is sick, and Ron takes this opportunity to get revenge for years of abuse and win the family patriarch battle. He lets his father die, believing himself to be the new prophet.

Joseph Smith

Michelle Faye/FX

When Joseph Smith’s brother Hyrum destroys a printing press, Joseph is forced to go into hiding. The others, especially Brigham Young, are worried that if Joseph doesn’t surrender, the church will be invaded by the U.S. government. Their polygamist ways will be discovered, and ended. John Taylor adds a line to one of Emma Smith’s letters urging Joseph to surrender, leading to his capture and death at the hands of a mob. This left two sects: Emma’s monogamous one, and Brigham’s polygamist one.

Under the Banner of Heaven releases on Thursdays on Hulu.

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