It was 1980 when a suburban, frumpy, and closet psychopath named Candace “Candy” Montgomery was charged for the brutal slaying of her friend, Betty Gore–41 chops with an ax, 28 of those focused on her head. Irony aside about her last name, the nation is learning what happened in a sleepy bedroom community in North Texas.
In one of the most disturbing crimes in Texas history, it took 42 years to get to TV. And now, you’re left wondering was it real at all.
When the Hulu five-part series begins, we meet Candy Montgomery (played convincingly by an unrecognizable Jessica Biel), reciting a story about a chopped-down tree to make the Cross for Christ. Yes, the foreshadowing should not escape you. It’s almost established as one of the many scrambled Easter Eggs in the series. She seems like a typical Southern Belle with her bubbly attitude and Pollyanna demeanor with her husband Pat (Timothy Simons).
Conversely, this tale of two star-crossed women also features Betty Gore (Melanie Lynskey), a frumpy housewife who seems a few fries short of a Happy Meal but emotionally shredded with a crying baby who may have Colic. Meanwhile, her working-class engineer husband (Pablo Schrieber) is always on a business trip leaving his wife to do it all alone.
Like any suburban family in a TV series, things are nowhere near what they seem, and things–and sometimes, people–go bump in the night.
Candy’s Story is Real but Seems So Fake
If you didn’t know the story about the scorned neighbor from hell, the thought of Candy Montgomery swinging an ax 41 times into the pinata of her lover’s pregnant wife seems highly improbable. The fact that Candy seems like June Cleaver’s evil sister doesn’t help. No one can keep that angelic, soppy as buttermilk biscuits act for long, right? Something’s going to break. It was done in a macabre fashion.
She is a God-fearing, church-attending, always-smiling housewife in Wylie, Texas (due east of Plano), who one day visited her friend to pick up a swimsuit. Something happened to cause Candy Montgomery to look like a stunt double for Stephen King’s Carrie. The crime is not a hidden treat in the series. It sets the stage for the five-part journey. In some eerie and cringy flashbacks and flash-forwards, we learn Candy has desires and wants some more fun in life.
People covet what they see, and Biel’s titular character sees her target in the church volleyball team. His sweaty muscles and shirt clinging to his dusky-hued body was too much for her to handle. She lets Mr. Gore know that she has the hots for him and wouldn’t mind if he wanted to cheat on his wife. Getting past a surreal proposition scene, including a “Why and Why Not” columns for the affair, the two meet at some seedy motel in Dallas for some flagrante delicto.
And around the same time, Candy decides to befriend the mentally frayed Mrs. Gore would be a great idea. From playing games to praying together, watching their daughters become best friends, and even throwing Betty a baby shower, the delusional Candy Montgomery becomes the walking pressure cooker. When does she do it? That’s where the sinister plan falls apart and all over the laundry room floor?
Can I Ax You Something?
Biel, who also serves as executive producer, is hypnotic in this role. It’s easy to forget who she is (or her husband, who incidentally plays the Collin County Sheriff Steve Deffibaugh) by her presence in the church, around her friends, with her family, and eventually, in the courtroom. The architecture of this series single-handedly keeps you binging.
Created by Robin Veith (Mad Men) and Nick Antosca (The Act), they don’t mess around with the series’ premise. However, to learn the what, how, and why is the glue to your chair to follow the serpentine timeline of Candy Montgomery and how she abuses and deceives everyone around her. She was bored, and so that happened.
It seems too easy to explain away. Yes, her bread isn’t baked, but Candy has everyone fooled. In the fifth episode, Veith and Antosca connect all the dots leaving people to fill in the blanks and pick up their jaws. No spoilers here, but damn! And, if you feel like you want to slap the taste out of Pat Montgomery’s mouth for being completely clueless, join the club. That may have been laid on a little thick, but to know that it took that dude four extra years to divorce his wife lets you know the other thickness is the crap between his ears.
There is a fatal collision course in the series between the two homemakers. You know it’s coming. You hear the noise and see the calamity. But, when it happens, you’re still stuck to the TV like it’s a home movie for the kids–only without the amateur horror movie vibes. One wife chooses to add to her family to fix her marriage. The other becomes a malevolent skank to ruin hers. Nothing is typical in this vista of two families, which leaves the viewer refreshed and feeling like they need to bathe.
You have a real story, an unbelievable ending, and four solid performances. Candy isn’t sweet at all, but there is no sour aftertaste for another Hulu hit!
You have a real story, an unbelievable ending, and four solid performances. Candy isn't sweet at all, but there is no sour aftertaste for another Hulu hit!
Since he saw ‘Dune’ in the $1 movie theater as a kid, this guy has been a lover of geek culture. It wasn’t until he became a professional copywriter, ghostwriter, and speechwriter that he began to write about it (a lot).
From the gravitas of the Sith, the genius of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, or the gluttony of today’s comic fan, SPW digs intelligent debate about entertainment. He’s also addicted to listicles, storytelling, useless trivia, and the Oxford comma. And, he prefers his puns intended.