What is Love & Death about? HBO Max series explained

Elizabeth Olsen as Candy Montgomery in Love & Death on HBO MaxHBO Max

The premiere of Love & Death, a new crime drama series from HBO Max, is just around the corner – so, here’s what it’s about, who’s in the cast, and if it’s worth watching. 

We’ve been obsessing over true crime for years now, but in recent months the craze has turned to dramatizations. The proof is in the pudding: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, The Staircase, Inventing Anna, The Dropout, and A Friend of the Family are just a few of the titles that dropped last year. 

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Despite earning massive viewing figures, many of these shows have not been without their controversies, particularly those dealing with murder. Notably, concerns were raised about the impact new publicity could have on the victims’ loved ones. 

But so long as the series can delve into a case without gratuitous violence and drama, and offer a storyline that goes beyond the headlines to show us why people make the decisions they do, there are sure to be plenty of viewers tuning in. Will Love & Death starring Elizabeth Olsen fall into this category, and is it worth watching? Here’s what you need to know.

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What is Love & Death about?

Love & Death is a seven-episode Max Original limited series about the true crime case of Candace “Candy” Montgomery, the small-town Texan housewife who was accused of murdering her friend Betty Gore with an axe after having an affair with her husband, Allan Gore.

Check out the trailer below:

The synopsis reads: “This riveting drama, written by David E. Kelley and directed by Lesli Linka Glatter, tells the true story of Candy and Pat Montgomery and Betty and Allan Gore – two churchgoing couples enjoying their smalltown Texas life… until an extramarital affair leads somebody to pick up an axe.”

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Based on Jim Atkinson and John Bloom’s book Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs, this stranger than fiction story is based on a real-life crime case which unfolded on Friday, June 13, 1980 – you can read more about the true story behind Love & Death here

Rather than focusing just on the murder at the center of the scandal, the show deep dives into the run-up to the event, detailing Candy and Allan’s affair, her marriage and family life with her husband Pat, as well as the aftermath and the subsequent court case. 

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Love & Death is not the first TV adaptation of “The Friday the 13th Axe Killer” – just last year, Hulu delivered its own take on the case in a series titled Candy, starring Jessica Biel as the titular housewife. What we will say is HBO’s version examines the case and the people involved in far more depth, with stronger performances from its main cast. 

Love & Death cast: Who’s in it?

The Love & Death cast includes:

  • Elizabeth Olsen as Candy Montgomery
  • Jesse Plemons as Allan Gore
  • Patrick Fugit as Pat Montgomery
  • Lily Rabe as Betty Gore
  • Keir Gilchrist as Ron Adams
  • Elizabeth Marvel as Jackie Ponder
  • Tom Pelphrey as Don Crowder
  • Krysten Ritter as Sherry Cleckler

In a conversation with Screen Rant, Olsen, who is best known as the Scarlet Witch in the MCU, discussed what drew her to the role. “This show specifically was a tone that I really wanted to explore; small-town people meaning well under absurd circumstances,” she said. “There’s a lot of stories that I enjoy watching that can have a lot of humor in those kinds of stakes, as well as drama and a real grounded story. So, it was a fun tone to explore for us.” 

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Jesse Plemons and Lily Rabe as Allan and Betty Gore in Love & DeathHBO Max
Jesse Plemons and Lily Rabe as Allan and Betty Gore

Adding to this, Plemons of Breaking Bad and Fargo fame elaborated on the affair between Candy and Allan, and his character’s marriage to Betty. “I think Allan and Betty met when they were very young,” he explained. “I feel like, as it happens, sometimes their relationship slowly became this divide. 

“They kind of ceased being friends and ceased being honest with each other [about] the baggage that they were working through. I think, for Candy and Allan, it was just a friendship more than anything and a space to be honest.”

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Is Love & Death worth watching?

Although Love & Death currently has a 60% Tomatometer score on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s early days, with numerous preliminary reviews sharing high praise for HBO’s true crime adaptation. 

Much of the positive reaction owes to Olsen’s performance as Candy, which is nothing short of spectacular. The Marvel star gives it her all and perfectly delivers the nuances needed to tell a story of this magnitude. 

“Olsen alone provides a reason to watch,” wrote TV Guide, while Collider said: “Love & Death is a standout in part because it’s willing to wade into the emotional disarray, but it also rests chiefly on the shoulders of a leading actor capable of capturing all the complexities of David E. Kelley’s scripts and Lesli Linka Glatter’s direction.”

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Elsewhere, The Wrap said: “There’s just something about Elizabeth Olsen as a housewife with a dark side that is endlessly appealing.”

Not all the reviews have been positive, however, with Hulu’s former series appearing to have hindered the reception. Though The Daily Beast admired the cast’s performances, it wrote: “The sole thing missing from it, actually, is originality, given that audiences just received a dramatic retelling of this tale last year, courtesy of Jessica Biel’s five-part Hulu venture Candy.”

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Slant Magazine added: “The series seems content to recreate the events of the case rather than explore them in any deeper psychological or thematic fashion.”

Love & Death Episodes 1-3 will be available to stream on HBO Max from April 27, 2023, with new episodes dropping weekly thereafter. Check out our coverage on other HBO shows here

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