“Love and Death: The Compelling True Story of Candy Montgomery’s Murder Trial on HBO Max”

2023-05-20 01:39:26

It only takes Candy Montgomery’s lawyer to see her meditate in silence for several minutes, almost without moving an eyebrow, to realize that something strange is happening to her. What’s wrong with you?, he asks her. The mother of the family responds – true to her style – point blank: to maintain her composure at such a difficult moment (everyone seems to believe her guilty of having massacred her neighbor Betty Gore with a machete) she specifies of medicines.

Don Crowder, however, is blunt: the impression that Candy, the defendant Candy, must give in full court is one of absolute normality. She not passive, not sleepy, but as real as possible. That is why she calls her attention and warns him of the consequences of her decision. This, of course, will be key in the epilogue of the sixth and penultimate episode of “Love and Death”, the successful HBO Max miniseries based on the death of Betty Gore that occurred on June 13, 1980 in Texas.

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But the painkillers that the character played by Elizabeth Olsen takes are not the only ingredient in this episode 6 (only 45 minutes long). From the title, we are clear that in ‘small town, big hell’, therefore, where there should only be a defendant, lawyers and judge, a large cast of secondary appears, such as members of the jury, journalists, photographers, police officers and even gossipers . Everyone wants to ‘get their spoon’ into the case, although most likely few know the two involved.

Although there aren’t many banners or tomatoes flying over, the pressure on Candy Montgomery is very high. She is certain of the truth about her: she killed in self-defense. But for this thesis to be generalized in the courtroom requires the participation of a key element in the second part of this miniseries: the lawyer, neighbor and fellow Methodist church member Don Crowder. It is he who, showing unusual skill, places the right witnesses in the chair next to the judge and throws each of the appropriate questions in order to find Candy not guilty.

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Criminal specialists, investigative experts and other characters will be questioned on key issues: could a woman who planned a murder have made so many mistakes that she is exposed? Does the crime scene look like one planned well in advance? The answers fall by themselves and everything becomes much clearer when a reporter who covers from outside the courtroom, affirms that the attention is no longer on who killed but on the reason for his motivations.

But abstracting us from this technical detail, “Love and Death” presents us –perhaps in a somewhat light way– the other small worlds that are collapsing in the midst of this judicial circus. Pat himself, Candy’s husband, who has not been able to completely get over discovering that he was repeatedly unfaithful, feels handcuffed not only because neither his wife nor his neighbor Don tells him details of the judicial process. Worse still: they won’t let him into the room (which the judge changed to a bigger one to gain public notoriety). Thus, he gets frustrated and evidences it in several of the dialogues with his wife in the family dining room.

Candy arriving at the ‘circus’. (Photo: HBO Max)

In a second place appears the already very come to less widower Allan Gore. Defeated in all aspects, the character played by Jesse Plemons only manages to tell the truth in the stinging interrogation by Don Crowder. He admits the affair with the defendant, but has no qualms about saying that it was just something carnal, that is, that no greater feeling developed that could have generated in Candy the desire to kill her ‘rival’ Betty . Along these lines, each of the following responses generates two things: the impression (or perhaps confirmation) that the defendant did act in self-defense and, finally, the fury of her father-in-law, who does not hesitate to rebuke her attitude. before the jury. “Today you helped her,” he says.

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“I had no choice,” Allan seems to say, exhausted. In this sixth episode, not even his children appear. That loneliness, but mainly its causes, do not seem to be properly exploited by the HBO Max miniseries. Therefore, when we see him eating a sandwich outside the courtroom, he only laments that because of his sexual impulse he is now facing the worst moment of his life. As if that were not enough, his daughters will not have a mother by their side.

Tom Pelphrey, the great revelation of the second part of the series. He plays Don Crowder, Candy’s lawyer.

But not everything is punishment for Allan. There is also room for catharsis. At some point he admits that his marriage was not perfect. And that his wife had serious emotional problems. So many that he feared at some point she would commit suicide and, therefore, he did not stop calling her before each trip. This, surely, would end up in the minds of the members of the honorable jury.

There are also some secondary actors who suffer the consequences of their closeness. A great example would be Sherry Cleckler, Candy’s best friend, who is approached by strangers in public. Everyone seems to demand that she confess if she was an accessory to the “murder” of Betty Gore. The red-haired lady contains her frustration, but deep down she can’t hide her discomfort at the unfair harassment. “Enough nonsense, it’s serious”, she reacts.

Candy and her husband Pat chatting on a night before the court hearings. (HBO Max)

Returning to what happens in court, “Love and Death” shows us the permanent conflict between the controversial judge Tom Ryan (Bruce McGill) and Don, the defendant’s lawyer. The defender of our protagonist is convinced that this magistrate seeks notoriety. And he doesn’t waste an opportunity to rub it in, like when he tells her that he changed the venue of the trial to bring more “public”, or like when he rebukes her for having called a photo session with the press in his private office. . In itself, the HBO Max miniseries bares the morbidity of even the most unexpected characters.

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At this point, the prosecutor’s decision to end his shift creates an unexpected event for Don: he doesn’t want Candy to testify today under the influence of medicine. The judge, ready to “take revenge” on the daring lawyer, does not seem willing to give in.

One episode from the end of the series “Love and death”, it is time to rehearse some preliminary conclusions. We are facing a careful and at the same time very well documented recreation of the before, during and after the crime of Betty Gore. The reflectors are on the ‘guilty’, but in the course of the episodes we have been able to appreciate a series of secondary characters who paint what should have been a serious and solemn trial, like an exhibition of morbidity and flashes. That is the main virtue of this creation by David E. Kelley.


Creator: David E. Kelley

List: Elizabeth Olsen, Jesse Plemons, Patrick Fugit, Lily Rabe, Keir Gilchrist, Elizabeth Marvel, Tom Pelphrey, Krysten Ritter

Synopsis: The miniseries tells the stunning true story of Candy Montgomery (Elizabeth Olsen), an 1980s Texan housewife accused of murder. Although she had a loving family, a perfect home, and an active presence at church, Candy couldn’t get over the suburban monotony. After a heated encounter with Allan Gore (Jesse Plemons), her church partner, she Candy ignites the spark that was missing in her life. They enjoyed their cunningly planned love affair until their respective partners, Pat (Patrick Fugit) and Betty (Lily Rabe) discover the secret and one of them decides to crack it with an axe.

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