‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ Ending, Explained: Was Dianna Alive? Why Did Ron Want To Kill Dan?


In the grand finale of “Under the Banner of Heaven,” titled “Blood Atonement,” we see the detectives making their way out of the labyrinth and finally getting hold of the perpetrators who committed the horrendous act of killing an innocent Mormon girl named Brenda Wright and her 15-month-old daughter, Erica. Jeb Pyre, in the process of solving the mystery, finds his faith restored, only this time it resides in the mortal realm and not so much in the eternal. He learned that not everything is about the “heavenly father” and not everything he believes in is true. Neither the words of the so-called prophets nor the history written by the scholars could be relied on completely, as what they say and what they write is nothing but their perspective. You can believe in that perspective, find solace in it, and lead your life in accordance with it, but you cannot snatch the rights of another human being if he or she does not conform with it. Often while misunderstanding one’s belief for faith, we become so dictatorial in our approach that we do not leave any scope for reasoning and logic. 

History is written by those who survive, and what a man feels and how he perceives the world can be totally different from another. So blindly believing the perspective of the ones who survive will shut off the voices of those who didn’t, forever. This investigation was no less than a journey for detective Jeb Pyre, and maybe for the first time in his life, he exposed his subconscious and conscious mind to an alternative possibility. Credit for the same could be given to a man who belonged to the Paiute community named Bill Tada, who was also one of the deputies on the case. He was able to reason with Jeb and his sensibilities. He was able to make him look for logic and give room to a conflicting narrative. They both always had mutual respect for each other, but in the 7th episode of Under the Banner of Heaven, their character arcs intermingle with each other and give a gratifying closure to their quest. Jeb realizes that maybe in trying to achieve that eternal salvation, he was missing out on the actual moments of magic that he was creating with his family. He opened his eyes, broke the claustrophobic shackles of fanaticism, and embraced the endless possibilities. 

The series also makes a clear distinction between the so-called FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints) and LDS ideologies. As a part of the human race, we are quick to stereotype, but “Under the Banner of Heaven” makes sure that we treat each case independently and abstain from the vice of generalizing. If on one end there were Ron and Dan, soaked in fanaticism, there was Allen and Jeb Pyree too, who removed their blindfold and refused to be brainwashed. The series doesn’t spare anybody, be it a person who regards himself as “The One”, or be it Brigham Young himself. The beauty of the narrative lies in the fact that even after such gross events, it does not descend into extremities. Jeb Pyre still prays and believes in the Mormon philosophy but also, at the same time, understands that becoming a zealot is not the right path. As humans, we have an innate yearning to validate only those who are like us. Differences of opinion, of culture, of race, etc., are not entertained in a very hospitable manner. No two humans are alike, and only if we understood this simple fact, this world would be a better place to live in.

See More: ‘Under The Banner Of Heaven’ Episode 6: Recap & Ending, Explained – Was Onias Involved In Brenda’s Murder?

Revelations, Realizations, And The Truth!

Bill Tada had found Prophet Onias in the dream mine. Onias also reaches the scene, and the detectives get to know that he had understood that Ron was not getting any sort of revelation but was purely doing things that he wanted to. He had asked Robin to bet on horses as they needed to raise more money for the School of Prophets and, more importantly, to murder the people who were on the hit list. Onias tells them that, according to the list, Dianna’s name was above Brenda’s, and so, in all probability, if Brenda was killed, then Dianna would be dead too. Dan had broken into Brenda’s house and threatened her to abide by the rules that had been set by their leader, Ron Lafferty. They knew that Brenda had helped Dianna to escape, and warned her if she didn’t allow Allen to be a part of their group and Dianna to be reunited with Ron, she would meet her fateful end. Pyre and Tada come to know that the brothers might be hiding in the house in Wyoming, which belonged to two atheists, whose names had been revealed by Doreen in the last episode. Chip and Ricky had accompanied the brothers when they had gone to kill Brenda. Though Pyre does not find the Lafferty brothers in their house, he gets useful information from Chip and Ricky. They narrate the events of that horrible day when they decided to murder Brenda and her newborn. Ron was supposed to kill them, but he was unable to do it. Dan took the mantle, and Ron aided him, murdering the innocent lives in cold blood and, more significantly, in the name of God. The detectives came to know that the Lafferty brothers had gone to Reno, Nevada, to earn more money quickly. Jeb Pyre reviewed all the evidence and speculated that the chances of Dianna being alive were high as the brothers were not exactly going in chronology. Pyre was ready to do anything to save them, even if it meant standing against the Quorum of 70, which he eventually did. His wife, Rebecca, had informed the church officials about her husband somewhat losing his faith, and the Church always tried to intervene and stop Pyre from treading on the path of justice, as it meant that the image of the Church would be tarnished. Evidently, they cared more about the perception people held of the Church than they cared for the lives at stake. Such was the hypocrisy of those who apparently considered themselves the representatives of Joseph Smith himself.

Was Dianna Alive? 

Pyre and Tada found footage of Dianna visiting a general store in Florida. Pyre informed the local police to search for them. But Dianna was constantly on the move and changing her residence as she feared that her own husband would find her and her children. Such were the unfounded beliefs of Ron and Dan that they were ready to kill their own wife and children. They were clearly suffering from some kind of mental ailment because otherwise, it becomes hard to believe that any individual, even if he was a hardened criminal, would be able to do something like this. The Florida police eventually found Dianna and her children and informed Pyre about the same. Dianna didn’t know till then that Brenda had been brutally murdered. She breaks down when she hears the news for the first time. It was her own husband who was involved in the conspiracy. A husband who she had loved dearly once and shared her life with. But she knew that there was no time to lament over what had already been done. From the ashes of Brenda and Erica rose a phoenix, ready to shed off her subdued demeanor and fight for her life and the lives of all those innocent people who were still stuck there. Dianna knew she was not somebody who would go down without a fight. With rage in her eyes and a fury boiling within, Dianna sets out on a mission to avenge the death of her beloved soul sister. She left for Utah to save Matilda and the other Lafferty wives, as she knew that they wouldn’t be able to do so themselves. She goes to Doreen’s house, where Matilda had been staying.

Doreen tries to stop them, but they escape successfully. On her way back, she is stopped by Sam Lafferty, who pulls Matilda out of her car. Diana shouts and screams for help, but nobody cares, and it was at that moment she was made privy to an actual revelation: nobody will defend you unless you do it yourself. She shouts at Sam and tells him how weak and incapable he is, contrary to his beliefs. The words she spoke were like a frenzied attack, and it made Sam shudder in his bones. He left Matilda and quietly sat in his car and went back to Utah. Dianna crossed the Utah border with Matilda and escaped the tyranny she had been subjected to by the Lafferty brothers.

Why Did Ron Want To Kill Dan? 

Chip and Rick had told the detectives that the Lafferty brothers could be hiding in a casino in Reno, Nevada. Looking at the security footage of the casino, they spotted Ron and Dan, who had come there a few days back and had met a waitress named Sandy. Pyre knew about Sandy as her existence was hinted in a cryptic manner in Dan’s journal, which he had got through Jacob Lafferty, who had himself turned up at the police station and handed them all the documents.

After winning a considerable amount of money, both the brothers sat down on their knees and prayed. Dan, at that moment, had turned to the camera and made a gesture. Pyre knew that it was meant for him. That gesture was a part of the sacred temple oath that the Mormons used to take and it signified that rather than opting to reveal their covenants, they would have their throats cut. Tada asked a valid question: if the brothers had got the money they wanted, then why would they be still in Reno? Tada wanted Pyre to use every bit of his LDS knowledge, as he knew that the whereabouts of the brothers could be ascertained from there only. Pyre thinks hard and tells Tada about his dream. In his dream, he saw Dan, who split open the former’s throat and told him that he was the one. In the earlier times, the Mormons had to camouflage their activities and practice polygamy in private as they didn’t want to be persecuted by the American government. So it was believed that one day the chosen “One” would arrive and set things in order. So Pyre speculated that if Dan and Ron believed in the philosophies of Brigham Young, they wouldn’t leave Reno together. There could not be two people who claim to be the “One.” One of them needed to die, and only then the other could go on his killing spree. Tada and Pyre come back to the casino and once again start observing Sandy. She was, again and again, making an exit towards the restrooms and was handing over food to an unknown person. Pyre knew that the brothers were hiding in the casino itself, in one of the logistics rooms. The FBI arrives at the scene, and together they seal the casino and start a search.

Ron had gotten a revelation that revealed to him that Dan was a false prophet and that he needed to die. Ron had almost strangled Dan to death when Pyre found them and intervened. Dan survived, and so did his ideology. While being taken towards the police car, he kept shouting that he had done no wrong and was only following God’s commands.

There was not an iota of remorse in the eyes of Dan Lafferty. Ron did doubt his actions for a moment, but then, looking at the horrifying fervor of his younger brother, he cast out all his indecisiveness and found sense in the ridiculousness of their goals. It was saddening to see that even after a mother and a 15-month-old kid lost their lives, the Church was more concerned about negating the fact that FLDS had anything to do with the crime. Pyre remained a devout Mormon but, thanks to Bill Tada, he was now not scared to ask the correct questions and evolve with time.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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