Based on true events, “Love and Death” brings this crime story back on a new streaming platform. Despite the case of Candy Montgomery being told on the Hulu show “Candy” last year, HBO decided to produce its version of the story. The show takes on a different creative approach to the series as it tries to look at the case from a different perspective. The first three episodes premiered on HBO Max on May 27 with new episodes to follow each Thursday.
Set in the small town of Wylie, Texas, the show follows the true story of Candy Montgomery (Elizabeth Olsen) being accused of brutally killing her friend and lover’s wife Betty Gore (Lily Rabe) with an ax. The first three episodes review the two years from 1978 to 1980 leading up to Betty Gore’s death.
The show follows churchgoers and seemingly normal typical suburban lives. However, after Candy has a moment running into fellow churchgoer Allan Gore (Jesse Plemons), she proposes to start an affair with him. After going back and forth on some rules, the two start the affair by meeting in a cheap motel. During the affair, the duo ends up liking one another’s company and the time spent together. However, Allan eventually calls off the affair, wanting to care for his wife who struggles with anxiety and suspicions of the two. The three-episode premiere ends with a cliffhanger of Betty holding an ax and confronting Candy.
With the show’s title being “Love and Death,” the series’ premiere handles the love aspects of the story as the rest of the show will deal with death. The first few episodes feel like any other typical drama show. However, with the knowledge of what the show is about, there is a foreboding sense of what is to come. This creates a level of tension that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats and engaged in the show. Despite Candy and Allen not wanting to cause any trouble or hurt their spouses, their plan still causes many issues.
While the first three episodes focus on building the plot and setting before delving into the case, the audience needs to understand the characters and their stories before the case. The audience can see perspectives from both Candy and Betty and feel sympathy for both women. While the murder has not yet been committed in the first episodes, the show helps to build up toward the big moment as secrets are uncovered.
The biggest highlight of this show is the performance of the actors, most notably Elizabeth Olsen. With her spectacular performance of Candy, she is convincing in her outwardly bubbly and welcoming demeanor with a darker and mysterious inner personality. It is an eerie performance that only enhances the show and displays Olsen’s acting range. While the audience has yet to see the darker side of Olsen until the latter episodes, there are hints throughout the first episodes that allude to the hidden layers of her character. Additionally, Rabe and Krysten Ritter, portraying Sherry Cleckler, give wonderful performances as well that add to the chemistry between the actors.
Although the episode’s main highlights are the development of the story and the actors’ performances, it does struggle in some aspects of the show in which it can be slow and fail to explore other interesting outlets. The show is slow when there are various conversations between characters. It would be more beneficial to show the actions rather than convey them in conversation. These actions include demonstrating scenes rather than discussing what happens between characters.
An interesting aspect that the show has yet to explore would be looking more into Betty, the victim. While it touches on some aspects of her life that audiences can sympathize with, it would be intriguing to delve into her anxiety and suspicions that would eventually lead to her murder. This can add more depth to her character and add more layers rather than focusing on Candy and her affair.
Verdict: “Love and Death” is a typical crime drama miniseries, which thrills audiences at various points but also lacks in exploring the different perspectives of the case’s victims.