‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ Episode 4: “Trust Me, I’m a Bishop”(Review)

Under the Banner of Heaven Episode 4 picks up where its predecessor left after the pin dropped on Brenda (Daisy Edgar-Jones) setting out to save the Laffertys from fundamentalism. Fearing that more people might suffer the same fate as Brenda and Erica, Jeb Pyre (Andrew Garfield) and Bill Taba (Gil Birmingham) try to locate the families of Bishop Low and Stake President Stowe when Robin (Seth Numrich) reveals they might be on the hit list his brother Sam (Rory Culkin) mentioned. Under the Banner of Heaven returns to focusing on the investigation, but this time, we see more through Pyre’s eyes.

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Wyatt Russell, Sam Worthington, Billy Howle, and Seth Numrich as the Lafferty brothers in Under the Banner of Heaven. (COURTESY: FX on Hulu)

Pyre continues leading the investigation without fully putting his questions “on the shelf,” as advised by his bishop, but still holding out for hope. His trust in the institution grows weaker as he speaks to members of the church who could be of assistance to the case and encounters more resistance from his community as the case becomes better known. Despite all of this, one of the two times we see Pyre smile during Episode 4 is when he learns that the prophet wishes him luck on the investigation, giving him a glimmer of hope towards his faith before it comes crashing down later. Pyre also keeps quiet at home while navigating his family life: his daughters’ postponed baptisms and his mother’s illness.

As I predicted in the Episode Three review, the series’ pattern is to unfold its story one Lafferty at a time. Under the Banner of Heaven Episode 4 focused on Dan (Wyatt Russell) and how he found the path of fundamentalism and his attempts to get his brother Ron (Sam Worthington) on board, and by extension the episode also shed light on the experiences of their wives Matilda (Chloe Pirrie) and Dianna (Denise Gough). With this episode, we finally get into the core motive of the crime, which starts with Sam getting his hands on The Peace Maker, a pamphlet that speaks in favor of plural marriage. The Laffertys considered the reason for their personal failures to be the abandonment of original doctrines like polygamy and blood atonement.

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Gil Birmingham as Detective Bill Taba in Under the Banner of Heaven. (COURTESY: FX on Hulu)

When Pyre gets his hands on The Peace Maker as evidence it overwhelms him to say the least – especially when he realizes that his own community can be just as deceitful as anyone else. It’s close to a devastating revelation when paired with the shushing and the manipulative Mormon officials telling him to “trust the priesthood” while urging him to release the Laffertys so as to not embarrass the church. From Episode One to now, we’ve seen a man exposed to only the positive parts of his faith beginning to understand that there are negative aspects as well; Garfield’s portrayal of Pyre’s armor chipped away little by little is extraordinary. Also extraordinary are the little moments in which Pyre lets Taba in on his personal life and accepts emotional support from his partner.

With this episode’s crescendo, Pyre decides to put the truth above everything, even if it means letting down his community – and by extension his family – and he doesn’t look back.

Rating: 8/10

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