Church and State
Episode 4 of Under the Banner of Heaven begins with Jeb and Bill going to the Lowes’ house after Robin tipped them off to potential danger. No one answers the door, so they break in. There’s broken glass everywhere, books thrown on the ground.
They confirm that the Stowes are safe, but they haven’t heard from the Lowes for a week. Jeb finds a letter at the Lowes’ from Dianna, asking help dealing with the Lafferty brothers. He informs Bill that it’s extreme for an LDS wife to go against her own family. He then realizes Dianna could be in danger.
Jeb later discovers that Dianna originally sent the letter to the prophet, Stake President Kimball. He directed the matter to Bishop Lowe and Leconte Bascom.
At Jeb’s home, Rebecca admits she’s having trouble calming Josie down. She can’t help her like Jeb can, but he can’t be at home much. She asks if they can at least try the medications. Jeb is resistant, but he allows her to call and ask about side effects.
Jeb then meets with Bascom to ask him about Dianna’s letter. He says that Ron came to him looking to get a loan, but he denied his request. He told him the church received a letter to intervene in his brothers’ anti-tax schemes, and that Dianna wrote the letter. When Jeb asks, Bascom insists Ron wasn’t mad at Dianna, only Dan.
Jeb next questions Robin, who recalls how Dan was popular during his run for sheriff. But their father did not approve.
At a July 4th parade, Ammon berated Dan for committing adultery. He said that, though he claimed to hear God’s voice, he was only hearing the devil’s. He then prays over him, while Ron watches from afar and nods along.
Robin says Dan listened to Ammon’s words, but he remained fascinated by the early prophets. He spent days in BYU’s library researching them and the early Mormon texts. He even drove Robin to Colorado city to seek out the Fundamentalist Mormons there.
Dan asked an FLDS man about polygamy, which they did practice. They were able to justify marrying young girls by Joseph Smith’s words. If “man’s law” conflicts with that of their prophet, he said, the faithful would be “arranged under the banner of heaven against them.” He pointed Dan toward an early text by Joseph Smith, called ‘The Peace Maker.’ Robin was uncomfortable with the entire conversation.
Jeb tells Robin how serious this is. The LDS church could excommunicate him for affiliating with the FLDS, who enslave young girls into marriage.
The detectives discover that the Lowes charged a bill to the sporting goods store for fly-fishing gear. Jeb sends an officer to the mountain to look for them there..
In a box of evidence regarding Dan’s past arrest, Jeb finds a statement from Matilda. Dan told her about ‘The Peace Maker’ and how it sanctioned polygamy. Matilda protested, thinking the idea perverted.
Dan, impassioned about his cause, didn’t pay attention while driving. Cops pull him over, but he refused to step outside his car. He drove away and started a car chase. He only eventually got out to yell for others to “witness the tyrants.” The police then arrested him.
Allen says that Dan discussed ‘The Peace Maker’ with his brothers when they visited him in jail. He told them they needed to assert absolute control in their marriage and that multiple wives were mandatory.
Ron said that was going too far. He confessed he was going to lose everything if they didn’t stop their illegal acts.
But Dan didn’t listen. He told Ron it was his turn to shoulder the responsibility for them. He was their true leader. Looking around to his other brothers for approval, Ron accepted the responsibility.
Dan asked Allen to consider his words and to pray on ‘The Peace Maker.’ But Allen tells Jeb he couldn’t hear the Holy Spirit like his brothers. He tried to love Dan regardless of his views. After all, Joseph Smith took several wives. A flashback shows Joseph speaking in a revelation that God would destroy his wife Emma if she did not comply with his command for Joseph to take multiple wives.
Robin makes a call from his cell. Later, Stake President Orton Ballard arrives to try and convince Jeb to release all three Lafferty brothers. Jeb refuses, and Ballard says there will be repercussions if he puts other things before his faith. Jeb tries not to throw up afterward, sick of how his job and his faith keep conflicting with each other.
He soon finds out that a green station wagon (Ron’s car) was spotted at the Lowes’ house on the day of Brenda’s murder.
Robin sheds more light on Ron’s involvement in Dan’s schemes. He recalls how Dan convinced Ron to take his side. It was before he gave Ron leadership. And it was before Dianna sent her letter to the prophet.
This information causes Jeb to call Bascom, who lied to him previously. Ron was mad at Dianna after he found out about the letter. Bascom saw him hit her in their car.
The chief of police gets back from his vacation. He denies the detectives’ request to put out an APB on Ron. He doesn’t want anything to taint the community’s image of the church. They will have a press conference, but release as little information as possible. Jeb disregards his orders, however. He admits on live TV that he suspects fundamentalist Mormonism to be at the core of this case. Later, Jeb and Rebecca are shunned and shamed at church for speaking out against Mormonism.
The episode ends with an officer stumbling upon Bishop Lowe at the mountain. The bishop stands in the lake, calmly fly-fishing.
The Episode Review
In perhaps its most intriguing reveal yet, Under the Banner of Heaven unveils the unlikely involvement of yet another Lafferty brother in Dan’s antigovernmental schemes.
This casts not only Ron, but also Allen in a more suspicious light. It seems Allen was wrong about Ron, so it also stands to reason that some of his other claims may not hold up under closer inspection. Now Dianna is in danger as well–and it may be too late to save her.
This episode does well to further depict how dangerous Dan’s religious extremism is to this community. Wyatt Russell masterfully portrays Dan’s spiral into fundamentalism. Like a charismatic cult leader, he’s able to manipulate his brothers into following his dangerous path.
We’re now more than halfway through the limited series, and there’s still much to uncover. For one thing, what is the deal with Bishop Lowe calmly fishing on the mountain? Is it a coincidence that his wife and family weren’t with him?