Recap: Love & Death (S1, Ep4) — The Aftermath of Candy’s Crime Makes for a Mild Thrill

From the moment Betty Gore (Lily Rabe) picked up the axe at the end of last week’s Love & Death, she was going to die. When stories about real deaths are made into pieces of art, that’s the expectation that is immediately set regarding the dead: anyone with knowledge of the event—or in possession of functioning internet service—knows who’s going to die and what the aftermath will be. So really, when Betty approached her neighbor Candy (Elizabeth Olsen), it wasn’t meant to scare or surprise us. It was meant to be the moment where the audience collectively waited for her to no longer be on screen in the next episode.

With that in mind, I was more optimistic about this episode of Love & Death than I maybe should have been. I wasn’t super taken with what was shown in the first three episodes, but considering they were about setting up the death of Betty Gore—the incident that the entire series is centered around—they were allowed to be a little slow. (Didn’t need to take three episodes to do it though, could’ve been done in two or maybe even one.) I was ready to see what the series would do with Candy after she committed the act that would change her life forever, and as much I hate to say it…not much interesting is made of it.

“Do No Evil” is not as overrun with unsubtle moments as the series premiere (for the most part) was, but it does feel as though it’s telling a part of Candy Montgomery’s story that could be told in less time. There are shows that take advantage of the tension that comes with one party waiting to find out another has masterfully committed a crime, but this isn’t it. Throughout the episode, I found myself hoping that we would get something more out of Candy waiting for her crime to be discovered than people around insisting that whoever killed Betty must be a very sick person indeed, but it’s just not there.

The scene where Betty actually dies is easily the highlight of the episode. (Unfortunately, it’s also how the episode opens, so it all winds down from there.) Lily Rabe gives us the best bit of acting in the series so far as she clutches onto the ax that will be used to kill her, demanding that Candy stop seeing her husband Allan (Jesse Plemons). Her movements and words are shaky, and she seems like she’s constantly on the verge of tears as she murmurs things like “I have to kill you.” The women’s struggle is jerky and uncoordinated, and the ax whistles by Candy’s face at one point, nearly splitting her head open. It’s tense, it’s scary, and it’s effective.

Beyond that and the creepy sequence where Candy leaves, drives home and fixes herself up as though nothing is wrong, the episode’s fine. Maybe a bit of a drag, even. It would be nice to get any sort of indication as to how Candy feels, whether that be through the filmmaking or Olsen’s performance, that goes beyond “oh, she’s just choosing not to think about it and is staring off into space when not talking to someone,” but we don’t really get that. Plemmons isn’t super present in this episode, but he does good work with the material he’s given, especially the scene where he has to try and explain to his daughter that her mother is dead.

I do also like the scene where Betty’s neighbors discover her—I hope her baby didn’t have to be stuck in her crib with her mother’s body in the next room, that was an effectively disturbing little bit. But “Do No Evil” is dragged down by all these scenes where people around Candy murmur about how evil Betty’s murderer must be, how deranged, when, gasp, there she is! She’s right there! There’s no anxiety or worry of being found out present. Some sentiment kind of surfaces in the last ten minutes of the episode when she’s being interviewed as the last person to see Betty alive, but it feels like Love & Death is forcing us to see this, cutting to the same shot of her nervous hands in her lap throughout the scene. It doesn’t feel like something the audience is rewarded for noticing, it feels like something they have to notice.

This episode of Love & Death is better in some ways, not so much in others. On one hand, it feels like we get less of a sense of what Candy’s thinking, and that works a little better here; but on the other, the show doesn’t do much with its tension. It never feels like the investigation is getting anywhere until the very last scene of the episode, where Allan admits that he and Candy had an affair. But not enough is done with Candy to make it feel interesting. It’s again well-made and all around well acted, but there’s not a lot there to prop it up and make it more than fifty minutes of a nervous woman that could really be cut down to thirty.

This episode of Love & Death is now available on HBO Max.

Sam Layton
Sam Layton

Sam Layton is a Chicago suburb native that's trying his best to make a career out of his (probably unhealthy) habit of watching too much television. When he's not working as the Third Coast Review's current sole TV reviewer, he's making his way through college or, shockingly, watching too much television.