“Under the Banner of Heaven, FX’s true-crime drama based on Utah’s infamous Lafferty murders, will start streaming on Thursday, April 28, on Hulu. (FX and Hulu are both owned by Disney.)
The first two of seven episodes will stream on that date, and the remaining five installments will roll out one at a time on the next five Thursdays.
Based on Jon Krakauer’s 2003 book, also titled “Under the Banner of Heaven,” the series recounts one of Utah’s most sensational and infamous crimes — the brutal 1984 murders of Brenda Lafferty (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and her baby daughter. Brenda’s brothers-in-law, Ron (Sam Worthington) and Dan Lafferty (Wyatt Russell) — who left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to become polygamist, so-called fundamentalist Mormons — were convicted of beating and stabbing Brenda to death and slashing the throat of their 15-month-old niece, Erica.
Both Krakauer and executive producer/showrunner Dustin Lance Black, who won a screenwriting Oscar for “Milk,” are among the writers of the series.
Andrew Garfield stars as a fictionalized, Latter-day Saint police detective who investigates the crimes and “uncovers buried truths about the origins of the LDS religion and the violent consequences of unyielding faith,” causing him to question his own faith. Krakauer’s book alternated between recounting the Lafferty brothers’ crimes and investigating Latter-day Saint history, and the series will do the same — the cast of characters includes Brigham Young, Joseph Smith, Emma Smith, Porter Rockwell and John Taylor, who will appear in historical flashbacks.
On July 24, 1984, 24-year-old Brenda Lafferty and her 15-month-old daughter, Erica, were murdered in their American Fork home. Ron Lafferty, a self-professed prophet, and Dan Lafferty beat Brenda, wrapped a vacuum cord around her neck and slit her throat. Then, Dan slit the throat of their toddler niece.
The murders were believed to have been triggered by Ron Lafferty’s religious views, which has led to his excommunication from the LDS Church and prompted his wife to divorce him in early 1984. Ron Lafferty blamed the divorce on four people, including Brenda and Erica, “who he believed would grow up to be just as despicable as her mother,” according to court documents.
Ron claimed he received a revelation ordering him to murder his sister-in-law and niece, and he told his lawyer he believed he was convicted of the crime because of a conspiracy among the state, the LDS Church, and “unseen spiritual forces” that included the deceased father of the judge who presided at his trial.
Although he was sentenced to death, Ron Lafferty died of natural causes in Utah State Prison in 2019. Dan Lafferty remains in prison, serving a life sentence.