There’s a reason why true crime is only enticing to a very specific demographic. However tremendous the making can be, the looming acknowledgment of actual people having faced the dread we’re watching on screen does take a certain toll on you. It’s even more tricky for the makers to play Switzerland and not take a side when creating a show about a victim and a perp—both of whom deserve some empathy from the viewers. Of course, there are sides to be taken in Olsen and Rabe’s Love And Death. And the challenge for you is to convince yourself that you are, in fact choosing the right side every time you find yourself feeling an ache for Candy Montgomery and the turn her life took.
Wish It Were Fiction
I was a tad taken aback last week when the 3rd episode of Love And Death took a sharp turn and went straight to the dawn of the fatal conflict. And I guess the show is not going to spend more time than it needs to establish the events leading up to the horrific death of Betty Gore. Opening right where the supremely tense circumstance Love And Death left us with, the 4th episode brings us to the point where one wrong move made all hell break loose. If there was ever a better exemplification of how consequential emotional triggers can be, I would very much want to see that because I’m convinced that it doesn’t quite get worse than what is about to go down at the Gore house. Betty’s biggest trigger is the fear of being alone. It is that fear that made her take a college student home and cheat on her husband. And it is now that very trigger that has made her pick up an ax and make up her mind about killing the woman who almost stole her husband.
As you see Candy doing her best to convince Betty that the affair is over and almost succeeding, you’re too aware of the reality to even hope that things could turn out okay. An abandoned ax, a mutual arrangement that Alisa will stay with Candy for the night, and a handful of peppermint bribes dropped in Candy’s purse–none of these are guarantees enough that things wouldn’t take the turn that they took all those years ago. A reassuring touch on her arm from Candy, and Betty possibly loses her mind over the realization that the same hand had touched her husband. She picks up the ax again, ready to eliminate any threat of ending up alone, and the first strike takes a chuck off Candy’s toe. We don’t get to see what precisely changes between the attacker and the attacked as of now, but as we see a miserable Candy walk out of the house with a cut on her forehead, we know that it was Betty who paid the ultimate price.
The Accidental Murderer
Candy’s predicament stands as proof that Grieff from ‘Inside Man’ was right. If the circumstances push a person hard enough, anyone can be a killer. Candy never thought in her wildest nightmares that she would kill a person, let alone a friend and that too with an ax. Elizabeth Olsen’s unimaginably expressive eyes scream out the dread of the monstrosity that she has just committed. The murder not being premeditated also means that Candy didn’t exactly plan to take care of the evidence that she’s left behind in Betty’s house. All she’s done is come up with an alibi that only she can vouch for. Not particularly a smart move at all. But then again, Candy isn’t a seasoned criminal. No amount of washing her clothes and showering to wash off the blood can help her get rid of the stench of the heinous crime she has just committed in self-defense. She even forgets to take her watch off before she hops into the shower, all rattled–something that will eventually work in her favor as she fabricates her alibi. The only thing that does help her muffle the loud trepidation is her experience with appearing fine even when she is not. So she lies to her husband, the people from her church, and little Alisa, who doesn’t even know that she’s been staying with her mom’s killer. But there’s only so much that a person like her can do to hide the fact that there’s been a life-altering event that will soon change everything for the people involved. Sure enough, Pat and Sherry, the only two people closest to Candy, can sense that something isn’t quite right with her.
Not being able to get in touch with Betty has unsurprisingly made Allan anxious. Candy’s heart jumps out of her chest when she gets a call from Allan asking if Betty was okay the last time she saw her. Allan can’t possibly put off knowing his wife and his toddler’s whereabouts until he can fly back home from his work trip. So he keeps calling his neighbors until enough of them form a group and enter his house to see the horrifying state of the room where Betty is lying dead. The neighbors let Allan know that Betty’s been shot to death. Before he can get a flight and come back, the cops have swarmed the place and have concluded that Betty was brutally struck with an ax until she was dead (41 times to be exact if we’re talking about the real Betty Gore). Their first insinuation is that it must’ve been a man who could be capable of such blood-curdling levels of brutality. But a quick sweep of the place lets them know that the footprints are too small to belong to a man. Being told to keep the news from Alisa doesn’t really increase Candy’s burden when all she’s been doing is holding back the macabre truth that will turn her life upside down.
A Rattled Peaceful Town
The quiet town of Wylie, Texas, hasn’t seen a crime in the last 25 years. And unfortunately for the town and its people, the crime that does break the streak of peace is unimaginably heinous. With the police continuing their investigation, which she is a possible suspect in, and the town buzzing like a swarm of traumatized bees, there’s no place for Candy to hide. It gets increasingly difficult for you to keep an open mind when you see how Candy’s involvement and her very presence in everything after Betty’s death is a direct insult to the tragedy that has stolen her life. But it isn’t necessarily easy for Candy to not break out in tears when the pastor condemns the monster that took Betty’s life and the mother who has lost her daughter meets eyes with the murderer dressed as a mere mourner. Ticking the possibilities off the list that any boilerplate murder investigation calls for has left the cops wondering if it was a crime of passion. They’ve concluded with confidence that the disarray the crime scene was left in proves that the murder wasn’t premeditated. The shocking amount of brutality does make them wonder if the crime was personal. The universe’s vengeful design has placed Candy right at the scene of the crime as the grieving husband breaks the wretched news to the little girl who will never see her mother again. Candy can’t escape the suffocating guilt of leaving two kids without their mother and with the scarring knowledge of how she was killed.
How Does Candy Become A Suspect?
Love And Death being completely stripped of any inner monologues or soliloquies has made it quite a task to know how Candy could’ve ever hoped that she would not be caught. For someone as smart as her, it’s only predictable that Candy would know that she was doomed. When the cops ruled out any involvement of anyone from the cult-like Marriage Encounter, the first person they wanted to rule out or reel in was the husband. Allan’s alibi is strong. So when that’s been established, the cops are more curious about how the marriage was between the deceased and her husband. The very ironic guilt of not being there when his wife needed him the most has already begun crumbling Allan from within. Autophobic Betty lived in absolute dread every time Allan was away for work. The shell of a person that he is, Allan only hides his affair from the cops to save Candy the trouble and not necessarily to make himself look like a goody-two-shoes. Or maybe that’s just what I would like to hope. He does come clean about the fact that his marriage with Betty was, in fact, struggling, and also the truth that Betty did once cheat on him. Love And Death, having Candy as its primary focus, does slack a little bit in the true-crime arena as Allan seems to get off the hook a bit too easily.
Now that it’s Candy’s time to give her statement to the cops, she is dressed in her finest outfit, wearing her most endearing smile. She’s aware that having Pat there would only make it harder for her to lie her way out of it. So she denies his offer to accompany her and drives to the station completely out of breath, only to sit down and lie through her teeth. If only she had been mindful of all the evidence she left behind, she might have even succeeded in convincing the cops that she had nothing to do with Betty’s death. But that she couldn’t do. All that she can do to make up for it is concoct a believable lie. And she’s had time to practice since she’s been repeating it like a parrot to everyone who did and didn’t ask her where she had been after she saw Betty.
Candy hides her tell under the table and flicks her fingers as she delineates the fable of walking out of Betty’s house and going to the supermarket to pick up a Father’s Day card for her husband. She also uses her water-jammed watch as proof that she had miscalculated the time and had gotten back so late that she had even missed the puppet show. That may be fine and all in her mind. But what strikes me as a tell she was clearly unaware of and probably even gave the cops some suspicions about her was how exact she was about every single stop she made and the timings of those. It was way too exact for someone who has nothing to hide. Another mistake that Candy makes is appearing disturbingly chirpy when what she is probably aiming for is a demeanor that doesn’t exude guilt.
It’s all a bit of a mess for Candy at this point. What scares her out of her wits is the mention of the shoes she was wearing that the cops need her to bring in to match against the footprints they’ve discovered at the crime scene. She’s quick to lie about what sort of shoes she was wearing when she went over to see Betty. She comes back home and cuts up the real sandals with a pair of scissors. Could she have gotten away with it? Perhaps. But it’s Allan’s sleep-depriving guilt in the ending scene of Love And Death episode 4 that nails Candy and every effort she has made so far to appear innocent. In the middle of the night, Allan calls the chief to come clean about his affair with Candy. It wasn’t necessarily because he believed that Candy could’ve had anything to do with Betty’s murder. It was just the remorse that had been eating him away from within and the instinct to do right by his deceased wife, who didn’t deserve such an awful death, that made Allan choose the path of complete truth and unknowingly bring light to the identity of the murderer.