“Under the Banner of Heaven,” Episode 2 titled “Rightful Place”, takes us deeper inside the mindset of the Laffertys. Robin Lafferty was taken into custody, and he was being interrogated simultaneously with Allen. Jeb Pyre was trying to find a breakthrough that they hadn’t got till then. He wanted to appeal to the conscience of the suspected men, but he started to realize that he was entangled in a cobweb of fanaticism, and the men he was dealing with were brainwashed and extremely rigid in their approach. So let’s find out what revelations were made in the second episode of “Under the Banner of Heaven” and whether Jeb Pyre and Bill Tada find themselves any closer to the truth.
The Battle Of Narrative
Robin Lafferty was in custody, and though there was still no incriminating evidence against him, Jeb had reason to believe that he was involved in the sinister happenings that had shaken the whole of Utah. Jeb, a devout Mormon, was shocked beyond any measure, and the incident had made him question his faith and the very people who had proclaimed to be the flag bearers of Mormonism. Jeb was taking it personally, no matter how pragmatic he wanted to be in his approach. He had children, he had a wife, and he knew it could have happened to his family too. He is empathetic towards Allen, who had lost everything. Did he, his wife or his little daughter commit such a grave offense, in the eyes of the Almighty, so as to be subjected to such brutality, or was it an offense only in the eyes of those who believed that they were the voice of God in this world? It was a clear battle of narrative. There are two kinds of religious people in this world. One, who believes in their ideology but keeps it open for others to make their own interpretations, and have room for conflicting ideologies in their landscape. The second type comprises people who not only believe in something, but consider their beliefs to be the one universal truth, without any scope for doubt or conflict. For them, religion is not a private affair, as it should be, but a matter of public concern, and that’s where all the problems begin. They want everybody to validate their beliefs, often moral policing them and forcing it down their gut, and in case if they still have a different opinion then they find themselves in an unfortunate situation like Brenda Wright Lafferty and her 15-month-old daughter, Erica.
Jeb tells his daughter the meaning of the abbreviation engraved on her ring. He tells his daughter to always choose the right thing, no matter how tough the situation gets. But more than his daughter, he needed to remind himself of it. He was standing at a crossroads, and his ideologies and beliefs were subjected to a great deal of scrutiny by a conscience that had been embedded somewhere beneath all the things he believed to be true because of his religion, without reasoning.
The followers of Joseph Smith had always believed that somewhere in the transition, the original teachings of Jesus Christ were lost, and their one true Prophet was trying to restore them in an unadulterated form. In “Under the Banner of Heaven,” Episode 2, we see the snippets of a time when Joseph Smith came to Kirtland, Ohio with his followers and the conflict he faced with the U.S. government.
Allen and Robin were kept in different rooms so that they are unaware of each other’s presence. Jeb starts interrogating Robin, while Bill Tada informs the forest services to look out for three bearded men, who were the prime suspects in the case. Once again, Jeb wants to use religion as a tool to discover the truth. He calls Robin “brother” for a reason. He wants to make him feel that he belongs to the same community as him, and so he has no vendetta against him. But that doesn’t help too much. Because he was interrogating a man who was brainwashed to another level. He was talking about the commandments of the Almighty, as if God actually came down and had a conversation with him, one-on-one. That is the problem with every fanatic. They talk as if only they know what their God wants, and believe themselves to be responsible for carrying out His wishes. But what they don’t realize is that God never spoke to them; an individual did, who interpreted the teachings in a manner that was convenient for him. In this case, it was Ammon Lafferty, Allen’s father, who had taught his family to blindly follow everything he says, and the privilege of questioning him was rather considered a sin in the family.
What Does Robin Tell Jeb Pyre?
Robin says that he was a good LDS man and had no reason to be doubted by Jeb. He ran when he saw the police coming to his house. Jeb knew there and then that he had something to hide. But Robin gives a totally different explanation for it, that had nothing to do with Brenda’s murder, but still said a lot about him as a person. Robin was part of a tax evasion group, though saving taxes was not its end goal. They saw the government as their enemy. He says he ran because he wanted to avoid persecution at the hands of the law agencies, which he considered not only wrongful but also opposed to God-given freedom. So basically, he was calling the law unholy and considered inciting people against the unjust regime not seditious but a religious duty.
After Dan was given control of the family, he was having a hard time coping with all the responsibilities. Robin was his right hand. He saw the income tax officer threatening to seize their property due to the non-payment of taxes. Bills piled up, and the number of patients who came to his chiropractic clinic dwindled. But instead of looking into what was wrong reasonably, Dan put the blame on the unjust and discriminatory laws of the country, while Robin supported him, and bizarrely, they were able to draw a comparison between their situation to that of Joseph Smith. The Prophet was met with a lot of hostility in his early days in Kirtland, Ohio. Law and religion overlapped, and here was a man who was propagating a different religion, and that is why he was considered a threat by the law enforcers.
Jeb is worried about his colleague Bill Tada, who had gone looking for bearded men in the forest. Robin says that if anything happened to any police officer, then they would have only themselves to blame. He says the law enforcers came after them and not the other way round. There is not even an iota of remorse in Robin’s eye for whatever he did. For Robin, the conflict is very simple: the righteous people i.e. the fundamentalist faction versus the Wicked state. He believes that they have reached the culmination of an age-old conflict, and the people had to make a decision on whose side they were.
‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ Episode 2, Ending Explained – Why Did The Lafferty Brothers Despise Brenda?
Brenda came from a very different family as compared to the Laffertys. The fact is established when Allen goes to meet her father for the very first time. Her father held progressive views and questioned the patriarchal set up of the Lafferty family and society in general. He questioned why women were not allowed to lead their lives the way they wished to, why weren’t they given the opportunity to work and put their education to good use, and why couldn’t they meddle in the day-to-day family affairs, if they were capable enough to do so, rather than just giving birth and cooking food for their husbands. It was clear that women were not given equal status, and if they accepted to play the discriminatory and oppressive roles without questioning then it was seen as a sign of their good character. Brenda talked about the recession. She questioned Ron about his strategies, meddled with affairs of Dan, and gave her point of view on matters that were only reserved for the Mormon males. Ron, Dan, and Robin didn’t appreciate it and asked Allen to put a leash on her unholy activities.
Brenda asks her boss why she can’t read the news, and he gives her a very valuable insight, which makes it clear how patriarchal Mormon society was. He says that people want to hear from somebody whom they consider to be in a position of authority. Society didn’t look at females, as somebody who wielded that influence. They were supposed to play the role of second fiddle and agree to whatever their male counterpart said. They were not considered to be worthy enough to be voicing their opinions, and Brenda challenged that facet. Brenda was a religious person. She was not doing anything that was opposed to her religion, and was just asking to get something that she believed to be rightfully hers. At the end of “Under the Banner of Heaven,” Episode 2, it is established that Brenda was seen as a threat by the Lafferty brothers. She was too invasive and ambitious for them, and Allen was scared that she would be killed just like Ron’s dog, that was killed by their father, who wanted to set an example and make a statement that anyone who comes in between them and their duty would meet a similar end.
Bill Tada goes into the forest in search of the bearded men. He found a spot in the forest from where a lot of gunshots were heard by the local officer. He spots some people and follows them. He falls in a pit and injures himself, but that doesn’t stop the man. He wanted to know if there were people hiding. He finds a cabin in the woods and we see him peeping inside it from a hole, while a gun points at him from the inside of the cabin. The screen fades to black and leaves us on a cliffhanger. We don’t know whether Bill Tada was taken into captivity or shot to death. Meanwhile, Jeb Pyre asks his colleagues to send a rescue mission, as Bill had told him to send for help if he doesn’t hear from him till 12:30.
Subsequent episodes will shed more light on the secret motives of the Lafferty brothers and whether the testimony of Allen would lead to a change in the ideologies of a righteous Jeb Pyre.