Betty Gore’s ax murder isn’t the only attack on women on Hulu Candy, an extremely sexist limited series that even the most avid true-crime fans can safely ignore. Created by Nick Antosca (The act) and Robin Veith (Mad Men), this five-part docudrama tackles the infamous case of Candy Montgomery, a Texas housewife who hacked her supposed best friend in the middle of a love triangle in the summer of 1980. With former The fisherman star Jessica Biel playing Montgomery and yellow jackets‘Melanie Lynskey as Gore, Candy has the cast, time frame and setting to thoughtfully examine how patriarchal pressures sometimes drive suburban women to violence. But instead, this oversized mess provides half a day of shame for the slut who does little more than impersonate anyone with a vagina.
Candy begins with the sensational crime in question, though we don’t get to see exactly how Gore ended up so… well, bloody until much later. Montgomery is introduced at the start of a busy day, flanked by her children (Aven Lotz and Dash McCloud) and Gore’s oldest daughter, Christina (Antonella Rose), who, yes, was really being babysat by the Montgomerys when her mother was killed. Biel’s saccharine Candy buzzes between phone calls with her oblivious husband Pat (Timothy Simons) and an endless cycle of errands. As a cheerful conductor perpetually on schedule, she’s hailed as an “overachiever” by fellow moms and exudes a cool efficiency that straddles the fun and the scary. Meanwhile, across town, Lynskey’s Gore is a hysterical wreck, visibly exhausted by a crying newborn baby and her absent spouse Allan (Pablo Schreiber).
When Montgomery arrives at the Gore home 20 minutes into the episode, the diametrically opposed housewives (one a single mom in need of support, the other a super-powered borderline girlfriend of Martha Stewart) feel ready. to confrontation. And yet a skipped cut to a shocked Montgomery, sitting in her car after the confrontation, delays CandyThe explanation of what, or who, brought these women to the beatings.
More why than whodunnit, the remaining 4 hours and 40 minutes reconstructs (and partially fictionalizes) the events surrounding Gore’s death, constantly traversing Candy’s obsession with Allan, his compulsive curiosity about his wife, and his eventual murder trial. Biel and Lynskey’s orbiting talents create an initially intriguing dynamic that positions the sinking as a barrel of household dynamite, and the couple’s inevitable showdown is a feminist double for the ages. But confusing narrative direction and utterly baffling character development seriously undermined the promise of that premise.
Said non-linearly, Candy switches awkwardly between before and after Gore’s death with minimal justification of why he does what when. Before the axe, it simultaneously follows Allan’s budding affair and the deterioration of the marriage, inexplicably failing to position him as responsible for either.
Biel, always excellent at conveying character motivation, portrays Montgomery as an undersexed mother turned missile in search of passion. Lynskey, superb at rendering nuanced portraits, channels Gore like a mouse Grilled green tomatoes-type about to go full “Towanda”. This couple of strongly gendered performances would be nice if Candy used them to critique the virgin/prostitute dichotomy. But as it stands, this series is a classic example of not writing about women, reinforcing stereotypes instead of challenging them.
After Gore’s death, Lynskey’s intelligent characterization is reduced to superficial victim status, and Montgomery is further vilified as a black-hearted Teflon whore. Sure, Candy apologists might argue that Biel anxiously walking around in a blonde Bob Ross wig is critical, above all, of a murderer. But given that this show goes out of its way to include dialogue commenting on the role of women in society and the sin of adultery that offends God, it’s as dishonest to call these two “friends.”