If you have to watch one Hulu show this May, stream this one

Jeb looks at Robin Lafferty in Under the Banner of Heaven.
Michelle Faye / FX on Hulu

While it doesn’t boast a subscriber count in the hundreds of millions like some of its competitors, Hulu remains one of the premier streaming services for quality television. The Handmaid’s Tale became the first TV show from a streaming service to win the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series. The Bear and Only Murders in the Building have also been critical darlings and audience favorites. While these three shows are excellent, you should add another show, Under the Banner of Heaven, to your watchlist in May.

Created by Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black, Under the Banner of Heaven stars Andrew Garfield as Jeb Pyre, a Utah detective tasked with investigating the murder of Brenda Wright Lafferty (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and her baby daughter. The mysterious circumstances surrounding the murders may involve prominent members of the Mormon Church. The series is based on Jon Krakauer’s 2003 nonfiction book.

Released in 2022, Under the Banner of Heaven is a fascinating true crime thriller about a harrowing event that could make even the most religious person question their faith. Here’s why you need to watch it this month.

Andrew Garfield leads a stellar ensemble

Gil Birmingham and Andrew Garfield walk toward crime scene tape in Under the Banner of Heaven.
Michelle Faye / FX on Hulu

One of the biggest benefits of airing a prestige drama on a streaming service is the ability to attract exceptional actors and actresses. While many of these roles are awards plays, there are significantly fewer restrictions — profanity, violence, and subject matter — on streaming than on network television. That’s probably why an Academy Award-nominated actor like Garfield would take a chance on a show like Under the Banner of Heaven.

From the opening moments, Under the Banner of Heaven becomes a great showcase for Garfield. While most cops in true crime series are typically weathered drunks with shady pasts, Garfield’s Pyre is a gentle, baby-faced detective who loves his family and faith. Pyre’s quiet and stoic presence perfectly counter the rigidity and no-nonsense personality of his partner, Detective Bill Taba (Gil Birmingham). As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Pyre is utterly shocked to learn that the Mormon community could be involved in this horrific murder. The event presents a crisis of faith for Pyre, who reevaluates everything he’s ever known about the Mormon faith.

Besides Garfield, Under the Banner of Heaven features an excellent ensemble, including Edgar-Jones as Brenda Wright Lafferty, the tragic figure whose liberal views challenge the LDS community; Wyatt Russell as Dan Lafferty, the opinionated fundamentalist who quickly travels down a sinister path; and Avatar 3 star Sam Worthington as Ron Lafferty, the oldest son of Ammon Lafferty (Christopher Heyerdahl), who emits a chilling, monstrous presence.

The terrific pilot immediately grabs your attention

Daisy Edgar-Jones stands with a hand on her hip in Under the Banner of Heaven.
Michelle Faye / FX on Hulu

In the first nine minutes of the pilot, Under the Banner of Heaven establishes everything you need to know about Pyre and how this specific case will change his life. The opening moments depict Pyre as a family man who loves his wife (Adelaide Clemens), children, and mother (Sandra Seacat). After receiving the call about the murder, Pyre still prioritizes family and faith by leading a group prayer before leaving for work.

At the crime scene, Pyre cautiously examines every inch of the house. Pyre slowly walks around the room, exploring the blood-soaked floors and walls. Pyre fights back tears as he contemplates who, in their right mind, would murder a young wife and a newborn. Pyre’s empathy and sincerity are something you don’t typically see from a cop in a true crime thriller.

The final image in the opening moments features a visibly shaken Allen Lafferty (Billy Howle) with his hands up, turning himself over to Pyre and the authorities. These nine minutes are tense, eerie, and harrowing. These two scenes put a stranglehold on the audience, sucking them into this crime-fueled world and setting the tone for what’s to come in subsequent episodes.

True Detective fans will appreciate the Hulu drama

Under the Banner of Heaven | Official Series Trailer | FX

Under the Banner of Heaven shares similar qualities with True Detective, the award-winning crime anthology series from HBO. Both shows feature conflicted detectives investigating gut-wrenching crimes by enigmatic villains. Under the Banner of Heaven’s emphasis on religion and higher powers is similar to True Detective’s focus on the supernatural.

Under the Banner of Heaven is not on par with True Detective season 1. Then again, the Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson-led series is in the running for the best TV season of the 21st century. However, Under the Banner of Heaven is arguably better than True Detective seasons 2-4. If you recently finished True Detective: Night Country, fill the crime drama void in your life with Under the Banner of Heaven.

Stream Under the Banner of Heaven on Hulu.

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