Review of ‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ and ‘Shining Girls’: Andrew Garfield and Elisabeth Moss star in crime dramas that receive a mixed sentence

“Under the Banner of Heaven” plays as a cross between “True Detective” and “Big Love”, beginning with the gruesome murder of a woman (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and her child, revealing the kind of dark secrets that little ones societies exalted to true-crime status inevitably seem to contain.
Adapted from Jon Krakauer’s book by Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”), the seven-episode series stars Andrew Garfield – and comes from “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and his Oscar nod for “Tick, Tick … Boom! “- as Jeb Pyre, the detective who catches the case, leaving widower Allen Lafferty (Billy Howle) as the main suspect. But the investigation finds more insidious roots that suggest a larger conspiracy, one that involves the Lafferty family’s embrace of fundamentalist principles and the dirty practices related to them.

Pyre, meanwhile, is a family man and member of the church whose faith is being tested by the grim nature of the crime and the defensive reaction of local officials. His situation is balanced by his piggy partner (Gil Birmingham), an outsider who is more than willing to play a bad cop if that’s what is required.

The framing is a bit flabby as the flashbacks slowly put in how the outspoken woman could have become a murder target. It also does not help that the narrative flashes far back to the story of the church’s founder Joseph Smith and this origin – an element of the book that, as presented in this format, to some extent distracts from the more contemporary plot, as if history has taken a abrupt detour into a story channel docudrama.

Yet the central mystery provides a powerful hook, and the material is elevated by a disproportionately good cast, with Sam Worthington, Wyatt Russell and Rory Culkin as Allen’s older siblings, with Allen shakingly saying, “I could not hear the Holy Spirit in the same way. as my brothers could “after telling Pyre,” You may not be as good a Mormon as you think. “

“Under the Banner of Heaven” is not an absolutely fantastic show, but it is a solidly good show, which is more than can be said about “Shining Girls”, which mostly wastes a cast with the main name of Elisabeth Moss, who also acts as its producer.

Elisabeth Moss and Wagner Moura in 'Shining Girls,' premieres on Apple TV +.
The project is based on Lauren Beukes’ novel and shows Moss as Kirby, a newspaper archivist who survived a brutal attack but discovers that her own reality continues to change, as if the playing field is being reset. Her search for answers causes her to team up with a reporter (“Narcos” star Wagner Moura, underemployed) who somehow seeks to connect a trail of victims spread over decades.

Jamie Bell co-stars as the mysterious time traveler, while Phillipa Soo (“Hamilton”) is another potential victim. Still, the explanation for this science fiction-style spin on a serial killer story despite being the obligatory flashbacks – it’s unclear what the rules are – is not that these details make much of a difference as the project starts thriller mode down the line.

Moss is of course a draw, but even she can only do so much with thin and confusing material. While “Shining Girls” seems potentially exciting at first glance, when one has seen the end of the disappointing eight episodes, the light flickers and for the viewers it will be too late to press the reset button.

“Under the Banner of Heaven” premieres on April 28 on Hulu.

“Shining Girls” premieres on April 29 on Apple TV +. (Note: My wife works for an Apple department.)

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