Pyre, meanwhile, is a family man and member of the church, whose faith is tested by the grim nature of the crime and defensive response from local officials. His situation is balanced by his grizzled partner (Gil Birmingham), an outsider more than willing to play bad cop if that is what’s required.
Still, the central mystery provides a powerful hook, and the material is elevated by an inordinately good cast, with Sam Worthington, Wyatt Russell and Rory Culkin as Allen’s older siblings, with Allen chillingly saying, “I couldn’t hear the holy spirit in the same way my brothers could” after telling Pyre, “You might not be as good a Mormon as you think.”
“Under the Banner of Heaven” isn’t quite a great show, but it’s a solidly good one, which is more than can be said for “Shining Girls,” which mostly squanders a cast headlined by Elisabeth Moss, who doubles as its producer.
Jamie Bell co-stars as the mysterious time-traveler, while Phillipa Soo (“Hamilton”) is another potential victim. Yet the explanation for this science-fiction-style spin on a serial-killer story is left rather vague despite the obligatory flashbacks — it’s unclear what the rules are — not that those details make a whole lot of difference as the project kicks into thriller mode down the stretch.
Moss is obviously a draw, but even she can only do so much with thin and confusing material. While “Shining Girls” seems potentially intriguing at first glance, by the time one has watched to the end of its disappointing eight episodes its light is flickering, and for viewers, it’ll be too late to hit the reset button.
“Under the Banner of Heaven” premieres April 28 on Hulu.
“Shining Girls” premieres April 29 on Apple TV+. (Disclosure: My wife works for a division of Apple.)