Episode 3 of Under the Banner of Heaven begins with Jeb driving, on his way to find Bill. He finds out that Dan and Allen have criminal records: Allen for unpaid traffic tickets, for which he went to jail the day after his wedding. Jeb now thinks Allen might share his brothers’ dislike for officers like himself.
Jeb and other officers go into the forest to track Bill. A man calls out, saying that they will defend their private property. Jeb soon finds Bill hiding and nursing a twisted ankle.
One deputy finds a child who is all alone in the forest, and Jeb talks to the girl in a police car. She says her name is Jenny Lafferty; she’s the daughter of Sam and Sara. She says it’s her job to pick food in the forest, where men often come and go from the “fort.”
Jeb tells her he met her Uncle Allen and Aunt Brenda. She says she gets to see them on special occasions. Before she can say more, a woman comes out, screaming that the girl is a liar. She’s Sara, Jenny’s mother.
Jeb tells Sara that he heard there was an army forming up here, something to do with taxes. He asks about Brenda, whom Sara disparages. She says Brenda broke temple rules on her wedding day, and calls her a pretender. Some sins, Sara says, are beyond repentance. The only way to forgive them is through the doctrine of blood atonement. That is, to cleanse one of their sins by spilling their blood.
Jeb and Bill conspire about how to approach Sam and his men. Jeb thinks Sam’s army considers themselves devout, that they are willing to give up their lives and those of their sons for their cause.
He muses about how this scenario probably looks like the Haun’s Hill Massacre of 1838 to Sam. Then, the Missouri governor ordered for all Mormons to be killed. Militia attacked a Mormon settlement, killing everyone. Jeb thinks that, to Sam and his men, the police look like the militia, surrounding them to persecute them for being Mormon.
So, Jeb sheds his equipment to prove to them that he is a Mormon before he is a cop. He walks to the cabin, calling out, “Brother.”
Jeb apologizes for how authorities have treated their “most faithful.” But he talks about how Joseph didn’t fight back. He surrendered “to ensure the future of our faith.” But Sam says he won’t go down like Joseph. Then, cops rush into the cabin. Sam drops his gun and surrenders. However, someone else runs from the cabin and gets away.
At the station, Jenny talks about how her dad often instructed her to pick food without the “bad people” seeing her, meaning people in uniforms. But she says her dad isn’t the leader. The true leader is the one whom God chose.
Jenny remembers what led up to this. In the past, Ammon returned home to scold Dan. He discovered that he’s about to lose his home due to unpaid taxes and license fees. So, in front of their family–including Jenny–he took off his belt and cracked it on Dan’s hands.
Ron rushed in to stop him, so Ammon punched him in the face. They got into a fist fight, only stopping when a member of their church approached.
Jenny says the Heavenly Father chose the leader the next morning. Dan prayed for wisdom, ending his prayer with the statement, “I accept thy will, Heavenly Father”
Jenny also mentions that the last time she saw Brenda, her aunt was wearing a black robe.
Back at Jeb’s, Rebecca loses Josie during her daughters’ birthday party. She goes for a walk and eventually finds her confused mother-in-law with the mailman.
Later that night, the Pyres arrive for their daughters’ baptism meeting. The bishop tells them about how their old sins will be washed away, but their new sins are going to be their responsibility to repent of.
After their interview, Jeb stays behind to talk to the bishop. He first brings up his mom, who moved in almost ten years ago. Since she started to show signs of dementia a couple of years ago, she stopped being able to sleep at night and has had a lot of difficulties. The bishop thinks Jeb worries he can’t pass this test.
Jeb says it’s more than that. He says that Josie told him in a clear moment that she doesn’t want to be here anymore. He asks the bishop what he can do with all of that pain she’s carrying.
The bishop doesn’t have a satisfactory answer. He tells him that it’s against God’s plan to help end a human life. But medications aren’t looked down on by the Lord. He mentions that women struggle more with “feelings” than men. Many women in their congregation, even, supposedly take medication to help with their feelings
Jeb thanks the bishop and also brings up the double murder case. He’s concerned that what he’s found is pointing inward to early Mormonism. He talks about the term Sara used, “blood atonement,” and how this idea supposedly came from their prophets. He asks if this truly could have come from their past.
Yet again, the bishop can’t help. He tells Jeb not to look to the past, but to put his trust in today’s prophet.
Jeb tells Rebecca he’s concerned that medication is going to take away anything that’s left of his mom. Rebecca tries to comfort him that it’s all temporary. He’ll have his mother back in heaven.
Jeb mentions the possibility of postponing the girls’ baptisms. He wants to get his case behind him. But Rebecca doesn’t like the idea. She says people will think the girls failed their interview. Plus, she’s waited her whole life for this. Jeb isn’t asking, however. The decision has been made
At the station, Jeb enters the room where they are holding Allen. He asks about his arrest and contempt of court charge.
Allen says they planned their wedding day before Brenda’s graduation. On graduation day, Allen was on his way to buy her flowers. His brother pushed him into refusing to pay traffic fines, so he got pulled over while he was out.
Brenda was angry, and she confronted Dan, who simply gave his tax-resistance spiel. He and Sam teamed up against her and told her to honor Allen as the priestholder in their marriage.
Dan promised that things were going to change. Just like Joseph Smith’s calling to run for president, God called him to run for sheriff.
Allen tells Jeb that he could have been mad at Brenda, but notes now that wives often see their husbands more clearly than they themselves do. The same was true for Ema and Joseph.
Allen says he wanted Brenda to be happy. He offered what he felt was a sacrifice at the time. If she wanted him to give up most of his family, he needed to know she wanted to start their own. So, he asked her not to take the job at Channel 11 News so they could first have babies.
Allen now realizes that this was ridiculous. He didn’t see that he was building a prison around Brenda.
Jeb and Bill then talk to Sam, who speaks mostly in scripture quotes. He speaks of a list of those who must die. Brenda and Erica were on it, but he won’t say who else is.
Robin then yells for Jeb. Having overheard from the other room, he asks if it’s true that Brenda and Erica are dead. Jeb shows him pictures from the crime scene, and Robin starts to cry and panic. He claims he had no part in this.
Jeb asks Robin who else would be on the list Sam spoke of. He says there would be many more, but particularly the Lows and the Stowes: their bishop, stake president, and their wives. He says Sam was angry with them because they tried to intervene in their brothers’ research into original LDS teachings. Jeb gets officers to their homes immediately.
Allen recalls that, when Brenda became pregnant, “her heart changed shape.” The end of the episode shows Brenda calling Dianna to say the Holy Spirit wants them to bring the family together and take them off their wicked path.
The Episode Review
Episode 3 introduces another Lafferty brother as a prominent player in the investigation, as well as many other questions. Are Allen and Robin as innocent as they claim to be? Who is the man who ran from Sam’s cabin? And have the men who killed Brenda also hurt others?
Even while slowly exploring this case, Under the Banner of Heaven maintains a high level of suspense with an influx of new characters and their chilling religious ideals.
Additionally, this episode starts to tie in Jeb’s own personal theology and doubts into the main storyline. It’s clear he doesn’t perceive the ways in which he, in Allen’s words, has built a prison around his wife.
Under the Banner of Heaven looks to be preparing for Jeb’s reckoning with his own oppressive ideology–a subject equally as controversial as it is intriguing.