‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ flies high, while ‘Shining Girls’ doesn’t

Playing like a cross between “True Detective” and “Big Love,” “Under the Banner of Heaven” begins with the gruesome murder of a woman (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and her son, exposing the kind of dark secrets that little girls hide. communities. to true crime status they invariably seem to contain.
Adapted from Jon Krakauer’s book by Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”), the seven-episode series stars Andrew Garfield, coming off “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and his Oscar nomination for “Tick, Tick. .. Boom!” — as Jeb Pyre, the detective who takes on the case, leaving widowed husband Allen Lafferty (Billy Howle) as the prime suspect. But the investigation finds more insidious roots that hint at a larger conspiracy, one involving the Lafferty family’s espousal of fundamentalist principles and the sordid practices associated with them.

Meanwhile, Pyre is a family man and church member, whose faith is tested by the shady nature of the crime and the defensive response of local officials. His situation is balanced by his grizzled partner (Gil Birmingham), an outsider more than willing to play bad cop if that’s what it takes.

The framing is a bit loose, as flashbacks show how the outspoken woman could have become an assassination target. It also doesn’t help that the narrative goes back to the story of church founder Joseph Smith and those origins, an element of the book that, as presented in this format, somehow distracts from the more contemporary plot, as if the story would have taken an abrupt detour into a History Channel docudrama.

Still, the central mystery provides a powerful hook, and the material is elevated by an extraordinarily good cast, with Sam Worthington, Wyatt Russell and Rory Culkin as Allen’s older brothers, with Allen chillingly saying, “I couldn’t hear the holy ghost.” in the same way my brothers might” after telling Pyre, “You may not be as good a Mormon as you think you are.”

“Under the Banner of Heaven” isn’t much of a show, but it’s solidly good, which is more than can be said for “Shining Girls,” which mostly wastes a cast headed by Elisabeth Moss, who is also its producer. . .

Elisabeth Moss and Wagner Moura at 'Shining Girls' Premiere on Apple TV+.
Based on the novel by Lauren Beukes, the project stars Moss as Kirby, a newspaper filing cabinet who survived a brutal attack but finds her own reality keeps shifting, as if the playing field is being reset. Her search for answers leads her to team up with a reporter (“Narcos” star Wagner Moura, an underemployed), who seeks to somehow connect a trail of victims scattered over decades.

Jamie Bell co-stars as the mysterious time traveler, while Phillipa Soo (“Hamilton”) is another potential victim. However, the explanation for this sci-fi-style twist on a serial killer’s story is fairly vague despite the obligatory flashbacks (it’s unclear what the rules are), though those details don’t make much of a difference as you go. that the project begins. Suspense mode in the final stretch.

Moss is obviously a hottie, but even she can only do so much with thin, messy material. While “Shining Girls” looks potentially intriguing at first glance, by the time one has seen the end of its disappointing eight episodes, its light is flickering and for viewers, it will be too late to hit the reset button.

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

“Shining Girls” premieres April 29 on Apple TV+. (Disclosure: My wife works for a division of Apple.)


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