Love and Death is the latest true crime adaptation to grace our screens, and it’s bound to shock even the most seasoned armchair detectives. HBO emerged as a dominant force in the drama categories at this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards. The network garnered four nominations for Best Drama Series, with Succession, The White Lotus, The Last of Us, and House of the Dragon, and secured a majority of the spots in the drama acting races. HBO’s reputation for delivering exceptional drama shows was once again validated by Emmy voters.
However, their endeavors to make an impact in the limited series category did not yield the same results. New contenders such as White House Plumbers, Reality, The Rehearsal, and Irma Vep failed to secure nominations in the top categories. Nevertheless, the most surprising snub came in the form of the true crime series Love and Death.
While the series as a whole may not have deserved a place among the highly selective Best Limited Series nominees (limited to just five), the exclusion of Elizabeth Olsen from the Best Actress race is undeniably shocking.
Elizabeth Olsen’s Captivating Portrayal of Candy Montgomery
Love and Death, based on a notorious true story, delves into the life of Candy Montgomery (portrayed by Elizabeth Olsen), a housewife from Wylie, Texas. Feeling dissatisfied with her marriage to Pat (Patrick Fugit), Candy, at the age of 30, finds herself drawn to her neighbor Allan Gore (Jesse Plemons). Their affair remains a secret from Allan’s wife, Betty (Lily Rabe), but complications arise when Betty is found brutally murdered. While the series explores the involvement of various individuals connected to the case, its primary focus is on Candy’s emotional state as she faces accusations and stands trial in a small, judgmental community.
Love and Death shares similarities with other crime miniseries on HBO, though it may not achieve the status of a genre classic. As the story was recently adapted into the Hulu series Candy and has been the subject of nonfiction works, the inherent shock value of the case itself may be diminished. However, what stands out is Elizabeth Olsen’s portrayal of Candy and her ability to delve into the motivations of an infamous criminal who has intrigued the public for years.
The initial surprise surrounding the case stemmed from the fact that Candy did not appear capable of such a heinous crime. Nevertheless, Olsen convincingly demonstrates how years of frustration and boredom drove the tormented housewife to rebel against what she saw as an obstacle to her happiness.
While the series’ writers avoid committing to a single interpretation of the story, Olsen brings nuance to the narrative. Given the limited number of episodes in a true crime series, it is crucial to captivate the audience quickly. Love and Death takes its time, initially focusing on Candy’s daily life and the challenges she faces in a small-minded community. Olsen illustrates Candy’s weariness of being judged based on appearances and her irritation with the aggressive dynamics within Wylie’s social women’s groups. While these factors alone do not justify murder, they help explain Candy’s agitated state. Olsen’s performance allows for a degree of understanding, even if empathy for her character is difficult to muster.
Elizabeth Olsen’s Outstanding Performance in Love and Death
The competition for the Primetime Emmy Award for Best Actress in a Limited Series was exceptionally strong in 2023, with outstanding performances by Riley Keough in the music series Daisy Jones & The Six and Ali Wong in the Netflix dark comedy Beef. What sets Elizabeth Olsen apart from her competitors is that even without the exceptional work by Keough and Wong, shows like Daisy Jones & The Six and Beef were remarkable on their own merits. Olsen faced the challenge of working with relatively average material, but she managed to elevate what could have been a run-of-the-mill Lifetime special into a complex exploration of character.
Olsen’s monologues during Candy’s testimony in the Collin County Courthouse in McKinney, Texas are the kind of dramatic acting moments that are tailor-made for Emmy showcase reels. Throughout the trial, Candy appears contradictory, with her convictions seemingly changing at a moment’s notice. While the true events of the case may seem sensational, Olsen portrays Candy’s mental state as unstable. She convincingly depicts Candy’s attempt to justify her actions while becoming so immersed in playing a specific character in court that she begins to lose touch with reality.
Additionally, Olsen demonstrates her ability to enhance the performances of her co-stars. Her chemistry with Jesse Plemons, in particular, is powerful, as Candy and Allan have distinct ways of grappling with their guilt. Allan tends to avoid discussing specifics out of fear and quickly falls into self-doubt when remorse for betraying his loyal wife sets in. In contrast, Olsen portrays Candy’s unwavering conviction that the affair was significant, convincing herself that being denied the pleasure of pursuing someone she’s attracted to would be the true crime. Their dynamic together is truly electrifying, making it even more perplexing why Plemons received a nomination while Olsen did not.
While Love and Death may not attain the status of HBO’s greatest miniseries, such as Band of Brothers, Angels in America, or Watchmen, it is undeniable that Olsen’s performance stands out within her own career. She has successfully shed her previous persona as Scarlet Witch in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to take on more intricate roles, and it is thrilling to witness her radical transformation for Love and Death. The Emmy snub is unfortunate for Olsen, but it does not diminish the significant achievement of her work.