LOVE & DEATH (2023)
Limited Series [Premiere]
Aired On: MAX
Release Date: 04/27/23 [SXSW 2023]
Biography. Crime. Drama.
"Two churchgoing couples enjoy small town family life in Texas - until somebody picks up an axe."
Assessing an entire TV series based on just one episode can be challenging, but it's a common approach taken by viewers. Typically, viewers will watch the first episode to gauge the tone and decide whether to invest their time in the series. In the era of streaming, this is even more critical as studios want to hook viewers because the money has already been spent.
Love & Death, now streaming on MAX, has a promising premise, a star-studded cast, and is from the creators of gripping crime/drama shows like Big Little Lies and The Undoing. However, Love & Death fails to captivate the audience in the same way as its predecessors and doesn't provide a compelling reason to continue watching.
The show's first few minutes are attention-grabbing, complete with a shot of where the lead will take us, followed by a flashback of how we got there. The introduction of characters played by Elizabeth Olsen, Jesse Plemons, and Lily Rabe was enough to keep me engaged. However, beyond that, the show fails to deliver. The characters' lives are mundane, and it takes a while for the plot to kick in. By the time the plot does become interesting, more than halfway through the 55-minute episode, I had lost interest. It's hard to pinpoint what went wrong, especially since we know from the first scene (and the series description) that someone will die in the end. Overall, the show needs to work harder to keep the audience engaged.
The series presents itself as a factual retelling of real-life events, which is a common claim made by many shows. However, the way this claim is phrased can significantly impact how the show is viewed. Instead of being presented as "based on real events," the series takes the approach of "this is a true story." While the difference may seem small, the former implies a creative interpretation of a real-life story, while the latter implies a factual presentation of what actually happened, almost as if it were a documentary. This small difference in phrasing can be overlooked, but it can also be misleading to viewers.
Elizabeth Olsen, in the lead role, is one of the main attractions for viewers to watch the show. It's always fascinating to see her in roles outside of her impressive and surprisingly nuanced performance as Wanda Maximoff in the MCU, and we already know how talented she is. Jesse Plemons, who consistently delivers top-tier performances and received a recent Oscar nomination, and Lily Rabe, a criminally underrated actress who has appeared in major series like American Horror Story and Mare of Easttown, also star in the show. Unfortunately, their talents are not fully utilized, and even their performances are not enough to keep an average viewer interested in the monotonous story. Although I wanted to be more invested in the story, I don't think I'll be giving the show a chance to see if it picks up from its slow start.