Love & Death (2023) Mini Series Review
DAVID E. KELLEY has built himself a television legacy since the early 90's, creating memorable shows such as The Practice and Ally McBeal. His legacy is ever-growing even today with the acclaimed Big Little Lies with his most recent endeavour set to light up the world. Unfortunately, Love & Death doesn't exude the same tension nor charm the same way his past projects have.
Based on true events, Love & Death follows the mundane life of housewife Candy Montgomery (Elizabeth Olsen) in 1980s Texas. Her struggles to maintain a steady routine continually fail, leading her to have a non-marital affair with Allan Gore (Jesse Plemons) -- husband of dear church friend Betty Gore (Lily Rabe). Suspicions inevitably arise on both sides, leading to heated confrontations and unspoken arguments that end in the unforeseen murder of Betty, with everybody labelling Allan and Candy as prime suspects.
Basing your story on horrific events mean you have to take liberties with certain plot elements such as character motivations and interactions. However, this doesn't mean you have to stretch out your story. Love & Death suffers greatly from its core format as it attempts to squeeze every ounce of information into an over-6 hour mini series. They certainly achieved this feat, all at the expense of a well-paced first halve to the series. The first four episodes feel groggy and disjointed, and while Elizabeth Olsen and Jesse Plemons have interesting interactions in the first two episodes, the two to follow feel arbitrary and exist only to meet the series' runtime. Credit where credit is due though -- episode four will intrigue your interest like none prior and was a much needed change of pace for the show that would dictate the grisly, bloody pace to follow.
If episode four was a changing point for the show, the final three demonstrate what the series should have been -- a HBO exclusive film. Love & Death caps off its savagery with a courtroom drama that, ironically, features the most cruel scenes in the entire show, leaning into its emotional potential by portraying townsfolks reactions to their former friend being on trial as well as the parents of Betty being in utter disbelief throughout the trial. Much of this phenomenal drama comes down to the performance given by Tom Pelphrey as he blends so naturally into his southern lawyer persona, simultaneously defending and berating Candy throughout the trial in order to save her a lifetime in prison. While it was great to see Pelphrey shine in the final trio of episodes, there was a signifcant part of me that hoped they would focus more on Jesse Plemons and what he would be going through. Allan Gore felt like a serious afterthought following the death of his wife despite him being a major reason she died in the first place.
The realisation of Plemons' absence truly did sum-up my feelings towards the show as a whole -- wasted potential. Despite Elizabeth Olsen embodying the character of Candy and her internal struggle throughout the series, Love & Death was ultimately hurt by its slow pacing and meaningless side plots. Numerous narratives such as the introduction of a new church pastor are established in the beginning, but never become necessary to the plot to follow. Moments like this really do make you reconsider why you're watching the show in the first place, but if you can hold out for episode four, Love & Death will hook you in with its ever-evolving drama and in-depth analysis into psychological trauma and the effect both parties suffer from it.