Warning: Major Spoilers for HBO Max Love & Death Episode 6
It’s time for the penultimate episode. Episode 6 of ‘Love & Death,’ titled ‘The Big Top,’ spends most of its scenes in the trial room and at the Montgomerys’ dining table, but not once does it allow your nerves some reprieve.
It’s October 1980, when amidst all the media chaos, the jury is being chosen. We do not actually see or get more context as to who was chosen, but that doesn’t even seem important in front of the fact that Don Crowder just revealed to the media that Candy DID kill Betty, but it was just an act of self-defense. It seems that even he is trying to hype up the climax of the story just the way this episode builds on all the anticipation of the finale.
Small but important details that tell you how everyone is adamant about making this case more of a media circus than it already is are sprinkled throughout the episode - Pat is not allowed in the courtroom, the judge moved the case to a bigger trial room for more audience and he even held a photoshoot. A fact that Don tries to use as a defense when during the next court date when he is fined for speaking to the media.
As the 3 days of trial progress, things start to look worse and worse for Candy. The first session goes like this - Allan is called as a witness and he, under his oath, answers each and every one of Don’s questions with the truth. The truth about whether Betty could’ve been depressed and agitated about the affair, whether he and Candy parted on bad terms, and even whether he thought Candy could’ve had any motive to kill Betty. His truth, not to the liking of Betty’s father, makes Candy’s theory about self-defense look genuine.
The second session, while we do not actually see or hear much of what is being talked about, still seems to be in Candy’s favor judging from Don’s reaction. However, there’s one concern. Candy has been taking some meds to calm her nerves, but they’re making her look unaffected, almost robotic every time - an image which is the total opposite of the mousy mother Don needed her to be. She is adamant to keep taking them though, because she doesn’t want to give the media the satisfaction of seeing her break down. And she’s concerned that if she breaks down once, she’ll never recover.
The third session is the worst because the persecution has saved the pathologist for the last. For there is no reason a juror would believe that a person would brutally whack the victim 40 times with an axe just in ‘self-defense.’ The whole debacle goes just as Don predicted, with the added horror of the flashes of images of all of Betty’s wounds. In the end, Don manages to salvage something positive when he makes the doctor admit that self-defense can’t be ruled out, but that’s not enough.
The episode closes as the persecution rests the case and immediately asks the defense to call their first witness. Don looks horrified, for he thought they would at least have a day before Candy is called to the stand, but they don’t. And she’s still under the effect of the meds. Even though most of us know the real story, the finale promises to be explosive for it’s Candy’s turn to tell the story. I never thought I would be anticipating the climax of a well-known story this much.
Overall, this episode was as perfect as a well-made penultimate episode could be. It has the tension, it had the pace and it had the moments which aptly prove that this is the calm before the storm.
All the dinner table scenes with the Montgomerys, where Candy tries her best to not talk about the trial, beautifully show how desperate she is not to relive her trauma even during the activities she sees as comforting - cooking and quiet moments with her family.
Furthermore, while the acting was brilliant (again) the writing was the star of the episode. I believe that it is very easy to mess up and make courtroom scenes boring, but all those scenes in this episode had snappy, crisp, and yet meaningful dialog that efficiently told the story while also keeping it interesting.
Ultimately, it may look like not much action took place in episode 6 of ‘Love & Death,’ but it did just what it needed to do - set up the stage for an epic finale.
Final Score - [8.5/10]
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