Based on Jon Krakauer’s eponymous true-crime book, FX on Hulu’s crime series ‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ follows the investigation of Brenda Lafferty and her daughter Erica Lafferty’s murders. While investigating the double murder, lead detective Jeb Pyre comes across several significant details that influence him to question his faith and religious beliefs. The series also offers a brief history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, founded by Joseph Smith. The period show commendably depicts a significant period in American history, especially with regard to religious fundamentalism. If you are curious to know more about the same, let us be your ally! SPOILERS AHEAD.
When is Under the Banner of Heaven Set?
The principal storyline — the investigation of Brenda Lafferty and her daughter Erica Lafferty’s murders — is set in 1984. In reality, the murders happened on July 24, 1984. The 1980s was a pivotal period regarding growing religious fundamentalism. There was a trend to voice against matters like abortion, the women’s rights movement, and the gay rights movement. In the show, the Lafferty family represents a conservative Mormon family of the era, who practiced the faith strictly. Brenda’s ambition to become a television news presenter, which can be paralleled to the aftermath of women’s rights movements, doesn’t get accepted by the conservative Laffertys.
The show depicts Brenda’s life before her death in vignettes set in the early 1980s. In a parallel storyline, the period series also follows the life of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, set in the first half of the 19th century, especially in the 1830s. The years between 1831 and 1837, as the show depicts, witnessed the evolution of Joseph’s faith despite the challenges he had to face from the non-Mormons.
Where is Under the Banner of Heaven Set?
‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ is principally set in Utah. In the show, Brenda and Erica’s murders happen in East Rockwell, a fictionalized version of American Fork, where Allen, Brenda, and Erica lived in reality. The fictitious main setting helps the show to distance itself from reality to incorporate the fictional protagonist, Detective Jeb Pyre, the lead investigator of the murders in the series. Like American Fork of the early 1980s, East Rockwell is also a calm and sleepy Utah town.
The scenes that feature Brenda’s family are set in Idaho. In reality, Brenda grew up in Kimberly, a city in Twin Falls County, in the state of Idaho. In the show, Brenda moves from Idaho to Utah to attend college and become a television news presenter. The storyline of Joseph Smith is primarily set in Ohio, where Joseph lived between 1831 and 1837. In 1837, he fled from Ohio after the failure of the Kirtland Safety Society, a Church-owned financial establishment.