Recap: Love & Death (S1 Ep7) — A Droll Finale Makes a Belated, Weak Case for Candy’s Actions

“There has been an American tragedy played out in this courtroom,” lawyer Don Crowder (Tom Pelphrey) says in his closing argument to the jury of Candy Montgomery’s (Elizabeth Olsen) trial. Of course, he’s referring to the killing of Betty Gore (Lily Rabe) for which Candy is on trial, but he’s also referring to the way the killing turned Candy and the trial into a media sensation. Because when she is inevitably found not guilty, she and her family have to leave town because of how universally recognized she is as “the woman who killed Betty Gore”.

When I started watching Love & Death, I was hoping that it would be one of this shows that really grows into itself the further along it goes, but by the time “Ssssshh” ends with the typical “still images and expository text” that closes every damn true crime series these days, I couldn’t help but wonder if I made a bad choice. I was really hoping for the finale to elevate above boring court fanfare and really give us a broader portrait of Candy as a person, but perhaps this just isn’t the right show for that.

The majority of “Ssssshh” is spent in the courtroom (again) as the audience finally gets to look inside Candy’s head to see what drove her to kill Betty, and it’s…exactly what was covered in the series’ best episode, “The Arrest.” The only revelation that really adds to the mystery of why Betty was killed is that she shushed Cancy during their struggle, (we see Betty getting hacked to death in this episode, something we actually hadn’t seen in detail until now), which set off the childhood trauma we learned about in “The Arrest.”

Ultimately, “Ssssshh” is retreading ground that the series has already covered, and not in a way that encourages a look back on everything that’s happened and recontextualizing it. Almost all of why Candy killed Betty—panicked self-defense, trauma response, an underlying hatred for Betty that she bottled up like almost all of her feelings—have already been explained to us. Olsen again works above the episode’s quality here, pouring some deeply believable vulnerability and fear into her recounting of events, but her performance is buried under the episode’s sluggish pace. “Ssssshh” clocks in at just under an hour, but like most of Love & Death, the length doesn’t feel justified.

Like the previous episode, there should be more plot to describe, but all that’s important to know about the episode is that, through a combination of her testimony and that of the hypnotherapist from “The Arrest,” Candy is found not guilty and leaves Texas with her family. There’s at least one scene near the end that is worth mentioning: Candy goes to visit Betty’s widower Allan (Jesse Plemons), the man with whom she had an affair and the reason Betty attacked her, to apologize for starting this mess.

Plemons’s performance starts off solid, with his understated way of speaking playing into his Southern charm, but in the wake of his wife’s murder, it’s strange to see him so nonchalant about everything that comes his way. Candy’s characterization may have run its course, but I wish I could’ve gotten some insight into Allan that explains why he’s so calm about everything. He outright says in “The Big Top” that part of the reason he doesn’t care is because he and Betty were having martial issues, so to see him be a continuously blank slate is kind of frustrating to watch.

So he and Candy say their (kind of) goodbyes, and that’s a wrap on the series. Closing titles explain that Allan got remarried and subsequently divorced (he really didn’t like Betty, huh?), Crowder committed suicide near the end of the century after an unsuccessful governor bid, and Candy, after she and her husband split, went on to work as a family therapist in Georgia.

I wish I could tell you that Love & Death really turned itself around for its final act. Despite its overlong opening, there were some really good moments of writing and acting present, and I was optimistic about how it would handle the psychology behind a case that was regarded as extremely complex. I was hoping it would avoid the trappings of a typical courtroom drama, but that’s unfortunately exactly what we got. There was a really fascinating story to be told in Love & Death, but unfortunately, maybe this just wasn’t the right show for it.

All episodes of Love & Death are now available on 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.