“Under Heaven’s Banner” Recap: Episode 7 “Blood Atonement”
In the series finale of Under the banner of heaven, Jeb’s internal crisis comes to a head when the truth about what happened the day Brenda was murdered is revealed. Andrew Garfield delivers his best performance yet as Jeb must choose between his new spiritual awakening and his family. Read on to find out what happened in “Blood Atonement.”
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In Onias’ trailer, Jeb and Taba get more information about what led to his breakup with the Lafferty brothers. Turns out Ron knew Dianna and their kids were in Florida, which doesn’t bode well for her considering she was ahead of Brenda on the Blood Atonement list. Ron was also under financial pressure after Robin received a revelation from “God” and lost all of the family’s money betting on a horse race. Pyre talks to Allen, who confirms that Dianna’s plan to go to Florida and complete her nursing education was almost certainly encouraged by Brenda, with words if not outright financial support.
Preparing to testify
Jeb continues to deal with the stress of his upcoming testimony at church. He knows that if he does not find (or fake) the necessary devotion, his wife will leave him. As Jeb finishes his conversation with Allen, a church higher up walks in to talk to them both. He makes veiled threats to Jeb and his family. The Lafferty case becomes a bit of a public relations nightmare for Mormon leaders, and he seeks out Jeb to help put it down. But Jeb, who increasingly questions his faith, refuses to play with what the church wants. Taba in particular questions the elderly man’s version of events given his Paiute heritage.
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When Jeb and Allen are alone again, Allen offers his own advice. After going through a similar crisis of faith and finally leaving Mormonism, he tells Jeb that he has found his purpose with Brenda and Erica: “My family has become my faith.” It tells the story of an incident where Brenda thought he was sneaking around with his brothers, and he could see that his actions and the violent rhetoric against women thrown around by his family hurt her. He tells Jeb that that day he swore to be a better man and husband to her. He urges Jeb to find Dianna and her children and finish what Brenda started, begging that his huge loss and Brenda’s final appeal will not be in vain.
With the return address providing Dianna’s last known location, Jeb tracks the family to Florida. While Dianna is gone by the time the police arrive, they are able to confirm based on security footage that they may still be alive. Meanwhile, Jacob Lafferty brings Ron’s diary to detectives when he learns that “his” Brenda has been murdered. The journal is as unbalanced as you might expect, but contains new details. Dan threatened Brenda before she died. We see Dan breaking into Brenda and Allen’s house, giving what he considers fair warning of what’s to come. He tells her that she must help bring Diana back to him and fix everything. This scares Brenda enough to call Diana and their church leader to warn them. The timing proves that Diana could still be alive.
Jeb has a tense fight with Becca as he tries to share his worries about his faith. But Becca tells her that her father is coming to get her and the girls. She can’t let them be subject to her doubt. She gives him an ultimatum: he comes back to church and his family stays with him, or he leaves and they leave him.
Jeb and Taba confirm that the other two “prophets” with Dan and Ron on the day Brenda was murdered were Chip and Ricky. Both are stoners, not devout Mormons, and they quickly fold when questioned. They weren’t the two who killed Brenda and Erica, but they witnessed most of the day’s events. What follows is the murder scene, which is disturbing and difficult to watch. Daisy Edgar-Jones is excellent throughout, keeping the audience’s attention on Brenda. Afterwards, Dan, Ron, Chip and Ricky go their separate ways, with the brothers continuing on to Reno when two of their other potential victims are unsuccessful. We see flashes of Brenda’s last letter to Dianna and how she left as soon as her children were safely in custody. The letter inspired Dianna to find Matilda when she realizes the brothers are capable of killing and clearly go after the Lafferty women.
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Jeb and Taba head to the state line and find a message in some knives for detectives, which puts the spotlight on an already nervous Jeb. He rants about the hidden message the brothers have for him, but Taba is fed up with people treating the two as true prophets. Taba shares the true story of what happened with the Paiute tribe, depicting a horrific historic Mormon massacre long blamed on the tribe. Taba finds the murder weapon nearby as Chip and Ricky said, and the two continue to Reno. Taba sees how exhausted Jeb is from the case and his spiritual crisis, urging him to go to bed. But he has a nightmare where Dan Lafferty slits his throat, which is the opposite of relaxing. The nightmare isn’t entirely unproductive, however.
When Jeb and Taba try to decide whether to return to Utah in hopes of finding Dianna (who has gone missing and is trying to find Matilda) or stay in Reno to potentially catch Dan and Ron, Jeb wonders out loud how he is supposed to do his job without his “compass” guiding him. Taba gives him some love for Mormonism, considering how useful this particular compass has been so far. He forces Jeb out of the car and into the desert to be quiet in the desert, telling him, “Just take a moment. Look for. I don’t know why people need to call such things a sign from God. Why not just enjoy it? If there is no God, isn’t the world all the more miraculous? Jeb flashes back to the nightmare, realizing that Ron will kill Dan to prove he is God’s “only one”. Both brothers won’t leave Reno alive, so if one is dead, they’ll have to return to Utah to find Dianna. If they’re both alive, there’s a chance they’ll be found in Reno.
In Utah, Dianna successfully finds Matilda and escapes as Samuel chases them to a gas station. Facing a group of cowardly Mormon men who refuse to help them, Dianna sees Brenda and earns her courage. She stands up to the men for Matilda, forcing Samuel to back down and let them go. Jeb and Taba find the brothers as Ron attacks Dan, stopping this murder just in time. As they prepare to return home, Taba offers Jeb support and even blesses him in his own way. He shares a religious song that means little to him lyrically, but has emotional significance to him because of his parents: “Reminds me of home. We all need a place to call home, Jeb. So I think it’s good to sing it once in a while, even though I think it has no more power.
Jeb arrives home and his family is still there. While he still has doubts, he prays with them, and it seems he has found a version of faith that works for him. The last shot in the series shows Jeb and his mother gazing at a beautiful landscape.
Under the banner of heaven is now available on Hulu.