David E. Kelley is one of the most successful American television authors since the nineties, who was somehow mostly on the home field with court dramas such as “Practice”, “Boston Legal”, “Ally McBeal”, and later “Goliath”. This is not surprising because Kelley is a lawyer by profession, and after the first time he worked on “Big Little Lies” based on a literary template, he has now decided to adapt the book to the screen. But a true crime book, a book based on a real event that took place in the summer of 1980 in a quiet, conservative town in Texas. However, “Love and Death” begins as a somewhat bizarre black comedy, which will undergo a complete stylistic and tonal change somewhere exactly halfway and turn into a courtroom drama.
It stars the youngest and clearly the most talented of the Olsen sisters, Elizabeth, who plays a seemingly average resident of a small town named Wylie, Texas. Candy Montgomery is in a seemingly boring marriage to Pat (Patrick Fugit), and it’s a typical white community of the late seventies where the husbands work while the wives lounge and take care of the children. A lot of free time can lead to all kinds of ideas coming to a person’s mind, so Candy will enter into a relationship with Allan Gore (Jesse Plemons), the husband of her best friend Betty (Lily Rabe), more out of boredom than out of passion.
Why Allan, it’s hard to fathom because he’s neither attractive, nor charming, eloquent or witty, but the twisted guy will enter into a secret relationship with Candy that will last for some time. All this time they will play faithful spouses at home, they will also regularly visit the local church where they all sing in the choir, they will even socialize with their families, look after each other’s children. And Kelley brilliantly in those first episodes evokes that rather simple, conservative and boring world of people from small towns in the American interior, and in those moments both Candy and Allan seem almost borderline retarded. This whole adventure of theirs seems like something completely insane, stupid, something that even the stupidest of them could assume could not possibly remain a secret and that at some point they would have to find out about this relationship.
And when it is known, “Love and Death” will turn into a dark thriller and a court drama because one of the main characters will end up in the dock on charges of murder. And someone will, of course, end up killed. And while in the first part of the series, along with Candy, the main character is Allan, later another member of the church choir and mutual friend Don Crowder (also the excellent Tom Pelhpery, who we still remember best as the brother of Wendy Brde from Ozark) will turn from an episodic into the main protagonist ). This rather inexperienced lawyer, at least when it comes to such serious crimes, will take on the role of lawyer for a person accused of murder.
And exactly at the moments when this story turns from a bizarre romantic comedy into a dark courtroom thriller, the action will also move from those typical American suburban houses, churches and motels where Candy and Allan meet – to the courtroom. And as we know, it’s only here that Kelley is on his own turf and he has filmed another high-quality, dynamic and exciting series in which the actors for all the roles have once again been brilliantly cast. This especially applies to Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sister of the famous twins Mary-Kate and Ashley, who did not really become famous in their adult years. But that’s why Elizabeth is outstanding as the prudish Candy, a housewife who would fit so perfectly into the company of the “Desperate Housewives” series, and she is brilliantly supported by the rest of the team.