Love & Death, the latest star-studded dramatization of the 1980 murder of Texas housewife Betty Gore, premieres on HBO Max today and you really don’t have to bother watching it. There are no insights in the case that can’t be found in Texas Monthly‘s landmark reporting or various true crime forums. Elizabeth Olsen is very good as acquitted axe murderess Candy Montgomery, but she’s very good in everything. Love & Death isn’t even the best limited series take on the murder released in recent memory! (That would be Hulu’s Candy.)
Love & Death is a slow-moving, poorly written, shockingly cruel show that seems more interested in canonizing a killer than interrogating our own ghoulish preoccupation with this case. You don’t have to watch it, really! As your friendly neighborhood TV critic, I’m begging you to just move along and find something better to fill seven hours of your one precious life.
Love & Death follows the strange case of Candy Montgomery (Elizabeth Olsen), a chipper Texas mother and housewife whose life takes a turn when she decides to embark on an extramarital affair. After colliding with family friend Allen Gore (Jesse Plemons) at an intramural church volleyball game, Candy obsesses over what it would be like to sleep with the married man. Finally, she straight up asks Allen if he’d like to have an affair and they begin a bizarre courtship that includes, rules, to-do lists, and picnic lunches Candy prepares.
About eight months after Candy and Allen call it quits, Candy finds herself alone in the Gore house with Allen’s wife Betty (Lily Rabe). We only know Candy’s side of the story — which claims Betty produced the axe and threatened/hit Candy first — but Betty’s mangled corpse was discovered later that night. The men who discovered her thought she had taken a gunshot to the face. In fact, Candy struck her 41 times with the axe.
Besides being the latest tepid installment in a sub-genre I call “Big Little Lies-core,” Love & Death bizarrely turns Betty into a hyper-annoying shrew. A fascinating choice, sure, but one that doesn’t work when the rest of the project is so lazily put together.
When I originally sat down to write this, I thought, “Oh, I should just tell people to watch Candy instead of Love & Death.” The truth is I’m not even sure it’s worth watching any version of this sordid story. You want stylistic gore? You’ve got Prime Video’s Dead Ringers. Taut true crime dramatizations? American Crime Story and Mindhunter are the tops, there. Heck, you could even watch a 20+ minute YouTube review of the upcoming Nintendo Switch game The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, complete with early game footage, and be much better served.
The bottom line is you don’t have to watch Love & Death. Take it from someone who already watched it for you and desperately wants those hours of her life back.