Thursday, May 12, 2022

REVIEW: 'Under the Banner of Heaven' - The Church Targets the Progress of Pyre's Investigation in 'Church and State'

FX's Under the Banner of Heaven - Episode 1.04 "Church and State"

The investigation intensifies after Pyre uncovers details of the Lafferty family's fundamentalist beliefs, sparking a search for missing Lafferty brothers, Ron and Dan, and putting Pyre at odds with his own church leaders.

"Church and State" was written by Gina Welch and directed by Courtney Hunt

Some beliefs have to be subjugated onto others no matter the costs. Mormonism espouses itself as the one true religion. A person has to accept that fully in order to be welcomed into this community. Any small deviation from the path is seen as blasphemous. It's better to live in denial than face the reality that radical fundamentalism has entered this community. The church is so concerned about public perception. It also wants to control the thoughts of those who make up the faithful. Pyre is struggling with his faith. He is questioning everything he has ever known because he's forced to confront these ugly realities for the first time. He was never raised to have any doubts. He could simply trust the church elders. They would never lead him astray. They kept him on the righteous path. As a result, he was blessed with a wonderful marriage and two beautiful daughters. Now, he needs to step up as the man of the house to ensure everyone under his reign is held accountable to these teachings. He can't serve in that role. Nor is he trusted to do so. And so, intimidation enters the picture. He has to be kept in line. That's true in every aspect of his world. He knows the local reporters don't know the extent of the crime he's investigating. He eventually sees the benefit of enlisting the public's help. Even then, his message is contorted to make it more palatable to the community who don't want to reckon with the idea that their lives have been infected. The Lafferty family name is revered here. Dan ran for county sheriff. Public perception shifted on the entire family. And yet, everyone is so quick to protect them. It's easy to see the Lafferty men in custody as nothing more than troubled boys who've gotten in over their heads. The effort is made to make them seem innocent and saintly despite the vicious murder of Brenda and her daughter. People want to accept the narrative that she did something to deserve this. It's not Pyre's place to question God's laws. He called on Brenda and her daughter. He asked people to loyally serve him without question. Nothing Pyre does in private can be trusted to stay that way. He seeks guidance for his spirituality. His questions are spread and allowed to take root. He isn't the one being tempted by fundamentalism. Yet he is the one dealing with the most public shaming. He is the one who introduced the concept into the conversation. The Lafferty brothers never used it by name. They simply professed its teachings. And now, people have been killed while other trusted leaders have gone missing. Some of these clues point to salvation. Others only lead to more depravity. It's Pyre's job to enforce the law. He simply leads in a community that refuses to let him operate with that authority.

This show is fundamentally about the clash between the laws of God and the laws of man. The latter is seen as always changing. Whomever is in charge gets to dictate what the law is and how it's enforced. The former is constant. It's God's word. It must be seen as more sacred and devout than any other path one can walk in life. No one can challenge it. And yet, the Mormon faith has evolved over the years. The current leaders want to forget about the extremism of the early days that resulted in so many clashes with the federal government. Ammon never allowed his children to forget it. However, he always positioned himself as a devout Mormon doing what was expected of him. It was his children who only saw the extremes. Dan is told he needs to return to the scripture. He needs guidance now more than ever. He took that as a quest to seek out exactly what Joseph Smith was told. In doing so, he uncovers how the current state of affairs is a perversion of what the founder wanted. His teachings are no longer being upheld. It's Dan's responsibility to bring the people back to the light. That's the only way they can receive grace in the afterlife. He desperately prays for his family's souls. He needs them to enjoy that paradise alongside him. Pyre and Taba are put on this journey. They are trying their best to understand. However, they don't know how far radicalized any individual has gotten at various points in this story. They see Dianna's plight to get the church to help her husband and his brothers. She was condemned for doing so. This family is incredibly cruel and despicable. Allen realizes he was in the dark to so much of the pain and misery. His family dealt with the ultimate consequences. Brenda intervened. She wanted to save this family. They killed her instead. She represented the most dire threat to their existence. This radical move had to be taken in order to offer salvation to the rest of the community. Several of the brothers are still unaccounted for as well. Plus, none of them can be dismissed as not belonging to this radical sect. Dan is the most outspoken. He allowed his soul to be filled with these beliefs. He clung onto them needing to know the power he wanted was ultimately righteous. Meanwhile, he convinced Ron of his own importance. He is destined for success despite the government's attempts to keep him down. They walk the path towards freedom. They must remain strong together. Something broke within them. The community still wishes to defend them. This divergence is severe. Everyone worries how the thoughts will be perceived. Pyre just wants to solve this murder. Everything at his core is now trying to stop him from doing that. He is no longer a trusted brother in the church. Instead, he's an outsider who doesn't respect the natural order of things. That's troubling and must be condemned. He makes that conscious choice to defend his pursuit of the truth. It quickly produces an entire church willing to attack him and those he loves. It's way out of proportion. Yet that's how devout these beliefs are for so many. It's all-consuming especially when the facts can so easily be distorted.