Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Based on the book “Evidence of Love” written by Jim Atkinson and John Bloom, the seven-episode true crime series, Love & Death, created by television’s legendary writer-director David E. Kelley, is set during the late 1970s in the small Texas town of Lucas. Most of the social lives of the Lucas’s revolve around a small Methodist church presided over by Pastor Jackie Ponder (Elizabeth Marvel) who confides in Candy Montgomery (Elizabeth Olsen) that she will be leaving because of her recent divorce from her philandering husband. For her part, Candy appears to be the all-American housewife with two young children but her husband Pat ( Patrick Fugit ) has long since ceased paying any attention to her.
During a church league volleyball game, Candy has a close encounter with Allan Gore (Jesse Plemons), husband of her good friend Betty (Lily Rabe) and feels strongly attracted to his “pheromones,” a sensation she describes to her best friend and confidante, the beauty salon owner Sherry (Krysten Ritter). Gradually, Candy approaches Allan about starting an affair which the pair eventually initate in clandestine motel room meetings that could have been titled “Sex and Catered Lunches in the Afternoon.” As the affair heats up, Betty begins to exhibit erratic behavior during her second pregnancy. Once the child is born, Allan senses that their marriage needs help and signs them up for a church-based “couples encounter” at a large Texas hotel. Allan’s affair with Candy comes to an end and the Gores seem to get back in stride. After Pat and Candy attend the same encounter sessions with mixed results, he discovers a love letter that Candy received from Allan. His worst fears are confirmed by Sherry but Candy assures her husband that the affair was a big mistake and ended “a long time ago.”
The fourth episode reveals a horrific event that provides the dramatic crux of this series. Candy visits Betty’s home to pick up her daughter’s swimsuit during her typical errand-filled day. Allan is out of town on business so it is just the two women alone in the house—an axe-wielding Betty who confronts Candy about the affair and Candy telling her it is over. A struggle ensues and we next see Candy in the shower, cleaning the blood off her face and body before she returns home to dispose of her bloody clothes and finish her errands before going to a church function. As she meets friends and acquaintances, Candy concocts an alibi that she lost track of time because her watch stopped. Allan makes numerous attempts to call Betty but getting no response and gets neighbors to stop by the house where they make the grisly discovery of his wife’s hacked-up body lying in a pool of blood. As the episode concludes, the police investigation expands and numerous members of this close-knit community, including Candy, are brought in for questioning. At least for the moment, the brutal nature of this murder makes Chief Royce Abbott (Brad Leland) suspect that it was done by a man but an anxious Candy hopes that the police won’t dig any deeper into her private life. But, if you have seen the earlier Hulu version of the same story, Candy, you know that this is just the beginning of Candy’s living nightmare.
Bolstered by a strong cast of principals led by Elizabeth Olsen, Jesse Plemons, and Lily Rabe, David E. Kelley’s carefully woven storyline gives his audience insights into how a family tragedy impacts a small town. The addition of a soundtrack of era-specific popular songs, cars and wardrobes makes these now distant events seem as immediate as if we were watching yesterday’s news broadcasts unfold before our eyes. The time-honored theme of infidelity and its consequences have received their due in this series and will give viewers insight into the mores and moral codes of the time period in which these true events actually happened. The Hulu five-episode miniseries had a strong cast as well, headlined by Jessica Biel. I would recommend seeing both and drawing your own conclusions but, personally, I preferred the newer series which delves deeper into its troubling subject matter. Highly recommended.
Love & Death is streaming now on Max
- Rating Certificate: TV-MA
- Show Creator: David E. Kelley
- Release Date: 27 April 2023
- Streaming Service: Max
- Ep. Run Time: 60 Mins.
- Num. Eps.: 7
- Studios & Distributors: Blossom Films | David E. Kelley Productions | Lionsgate Television | Texas Monthly