FX on Hulu’s crime series ‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ depicts the true story of Brenda Lafferty and her daughter Erica Lafferty’s murders. In the show, detectives Jeb Pyre and Bill Taba investigate the double murder case, unraveling the astounding presence of religious fundamentalism in the murders. The series progresses as a police procedural, depicting the conflicts that arise between the pious Mormon Pyre and the non-Mormon Bill while proceeding with the investigation. Since the show is based on a harrowing real crime, the viewers must be wondering whether the two police officers are based on real-life detectives as well. Let us share the answer!
Is Jeb Pyre a Real Detective?
No, Jeb Pyre is not a real detective. The fictional character is conceived by creator Dustin Lance Black to portray the impact of Brenda and Erica’s murders in a pious Mormon. In an interview given to Vanity Fair, Black describes Pyre as “a very good man, a mainstream Mormon man, who may be just hasn’t asked some of the tough questions yet.” Through the character, the creator raises several questions concerning Mormonism to portray how fundamentalist beliefs do not align with the life and religious values of a typical Mormon man. Pyre, through his fictional existence, shows the difference between religious fanatics and general believers.
We may see Black, a Mormon himself, in Pyre. The creator, while growing up, raised doubts and questions regarding the practices of his faith. “As Mormons, we’re taught to doubt our doubts, to put your questions on a shelf. I wasn’t going to stop asking questions,” he told Vanity Fair in the same interview. “I just did them in the most Mormon, polite manner I knew how, and boy, I speak that language. I’m good at it,” he added. Pyre does the same, against the backdrop of Brenda and Erica’s murders.
Pyre’s character goes through a transformation while the investigation of the double murder progresses. He understands the dangers that are entwined with his faith and the severity of its influence on the believers. Black, as a believer, had also transformed after getting to know more about his faith. “That’s the experience of being Mormon […] As you learn more, the narrative [concerning Mormonism] starts to really shift and change,” he added.
Rather than in a real detective, Pyre’s roots seemingly are in the creator of the character. Black succeeds in exploring a terrifying dimension of faith through Pyre’s doubts and concerns, making use of the character’s fictionality. As per reports, Brenda and Erica’s double homicide was primarily investigated by Terry Fox, former American Fork Police Department Chief. Rather than creating Pyre based on Fox, Black conceived a fictional protagonist for the sake of his narrative ambitions.
Is Bill Taba a Real Detective?
No, Bill Taba is not a real detective. Like Pyre, the fictional character is conceived by Black for the narrative of his show. The character brings a non-Marmon perspective to the table during the investigation of the murders. He relies on objectivity to solve the case while Pyre approaches the suspects to interrogate them individually, “Mormon to Mormon.” Bill is a pivotal part of the objective procedural aspect of the show, especially when Pyre is invested in the case emotionally as a Mormon.
Through Bill, Black portrays how an outsider has been treated in a Mormon community or any rigid religious community for that matter. As a Native American from the Las Vegas police force, Bill doesn’t get accepted by the townsfolk. Even Pyre, Bill’s partner, believes that he cannot outrightly understand the dynamics of the case since he is a non-Mormon. Through the experiences of the fictional Bill, Black shows how unbending religion-based communities alienate someone who doesn’t belong to them.