The truth shall set you free.
On Under the Banner of Heaven Season 1 Episode 7, Dan and Ron were finally brought down, and Dianna’s fate was revealed.
It was a strong, action-packed finale to a harrowing (if uneven) mini-series.
The episode itself moved briskly despite its length. The stakes were high enough that the parallel searches in Nevada and Florida felt urgent. The pacing was the strongest it’s been in the entire series – there was real momentum.
Despite being staples of the genre, there were some riveting sequences – the search through the casino, the “welfare check” on Dianna’s house, the mad racing back and forth across state lines.
The best moment was when Jeb finally let his frustration take over and cursed into the hills, his “sin” echoing back at him.
The scene leading up to Brenda and Erica’s death sometimes felt exploitative, but at least it left the most horrible aspects of it up to the imagination.
The “dream” of Jeb’s death unfortunately felt like a cheap fake-out. It was unnecessary to resort to a storytelling tactic like that.
Again, Jeb is a fictional character, they could have killed him off, but that wouldn’t have been satisfying storytelling either.
Dianna’s journey was cathartic and inspiring, giving both the character and actor (Denise Gough) the chance to prove their strength.
Dianna finally rescuing Matilda was a way to pay forward Brenda’s support and honor their sister-in-law’s memory.
I believe that in order to stand proud before our Savior on the last day, mothers must defend our families from evil, to help men see past themselves, and to stand up to those even in our church who would lead us astray.
It was a nice change of pace after six and a half episodes of women being subjugated and gaslit by men to see two of them escape their prisons together.
Dianna laying into Sam at the gas station was fantastic. It was heartbreaking but not surprising that Sarah didn’t leave her husband given the chance.
You are a small, weak child, not a man!
Hopefully, Matilda and her daughters were reunited. A “where are they now?” title cards epilogue for the real-life characters wouldn’t have been out of place here.
Sometimes it can be hard to separate the character from the actor, but Sam Worthington was almost too subtle as Ron, making it always feel like Wyatt Russell’s Dan was in control. That may have been the dynamic they were going for, but it rings false.
Would the School Of Prophets have followed Ron and believed in him when he stopped being charismatic after Under The Banner Of Heaven Season 1 Episode 1?
The real Ron Lafferty was declared mentally ill during his subsequent trial, and while we say traces of that, leaning into it might have been a more dynamic approach.
Perhaps the writer / creators didn’t want to create sympathy for a notorious killer, which is fair.
It’s a delicate balance when using factual subject matter.
They weren’t lying. That is a skill particular to your ancestors, Jeb.
Detective Bill Taba
It’s disappointing that Taba’s character was shortchanged. He had so much potential, but he was reduced to helping the white guy on his spiritual journey and educating him about the true history of the Paiute’s involvement with the Mormons.
Having Taba sing the song at the end was beautiful and poignant, but then basically tells Jeb it’s fine to be part of a church you don’t believe in, whose actions are questionable at best and support covering up murder and genocide at worst.
I think it’s okay to sing it now and then, even if I don’t believe it has power anymore.
Detective Bill Taba
To have that message come from the mouth of an Indigenous man felt ill-considered.
At least Jeb finally listened to his partner, though it took a punch in the gut (literally) for him to see his partner as his equal.
Church is a community, and community is necessary for humans to have rich, fulfilling lives. We are social animals.
But is it really worth sticking with a community that actively harms its members just because you’ve always done it? It’s an odd takeaway if that’s the case.
It’s hard to know how Jeb would move forward, reconciling his faith and his family.
My family became my faith.
It was a shame Rebecca had to be reduced to a one-dimensional trope (no slight on Adelaide Clemens, she did well with what she was given). Was Jeb just terrible at communicating what he was going through, or was Rebecca really that close-minded?
Maybe she just didn’t appreciate that he was calling out her way of life after she’d “served” him faithfully for her whole life. Did she think he was a hypocrite?
It would have been great to have them delve deeper into what it meant for their relationship.
How can we measure the abbreviation of a mortal life when considered next to one’s eternal salvation?
Under The Banner Of Heaven would have been better suited as a documentary series rather than a dramatic re-imagining.
The source material was simply too dense to translate well into this format.
The whole thing was padded with so much material that felt of little consequence, with so many side characters and “historical re-enactments” that distracted from the main case.
It could have even been a tight two-and-a-half-hour film if the fat was trimmed. As it stands, it tried to be too many things and fell short.
Stake President Ballard: For some, truth brings discomfort.
Allen Lafferty: For others, lies do the same.
Too much reliance on tropes and the piling on of too many plots, both real and fictional, made this a somewhat engaging mini-series but ultimately left a lot to be desired.
Under The Banner Of Heaven remains a solid effort but not transcendent.
What did you think of the finale and series as a whole?
Share your thoughts in the comments.
Mary Littlejohn is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.