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After six parts, Love & Death came to an end with a bloody and violent series finale that also closed out the true-crime saga about accused axe murderer Candy Montgomery and the death of friend Betty Gore with an unexpected emotional touch. In an interview with ET, director and executive producer Lesli Linka Glatter breaks down the stunning episode and reflects on Elizabeth Olsen's award-worthy performance as Candy.
Adapted from the book, Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs, and a collection of Texas Monthly articles by executive producer David E. Kelley, the limited Max series recounted the unbelievably true story about the infamous housewife and her neighbor who was left dead after the two got into an altercation over the fact that Candy had an affair with Betty's husband, Allan.
In addition to Olsen, the star-studded cast includes Lily Rabe as Betty, Jesse Plemons as Allan and Patrick Fugit as Candy's husband, Pat.
In the finale, audiences saw Candy take the stand after being arrested and tried for Betty's grisly death. There, she offered the only known account of what happened on June 13, 1980 at Betty's home in the small town of Wylie, Texas.
The trial scenes, which included over 20 pages of dialogue, were filmed in just two takes. "She was amazing in both of them," Glatter says of Olsen. "Lizzie's performance is staggering. She is an extraordinary actress. She's fearless and generous and lets you go deep inside."
As a result, Glatter says, "Just listening to her tell it, it was almost as visceral as seeing it."
Already filmed at that point in the production of the series, the testimony was then intercut with a violent depiction of Candy and Betty's bloody struggle that resulted in the latter being struck with an axe 41 times.
Choreographed and storyboarded ahead of time, the actors and stunt doubles knew everything that was going to happen, beat by beat. "As a director, I feel like my job is to keep the actors safe. So, we did everything to do that," Glatter says. "There was nothing left to surprise anyone in terms of that physical production part of it."
Not only that, but "Lily Rabe was pregnant," Glatter adds. "Obviously, we did this with stunt doubles, but those two actresses did a lot. And we were constantly saying, 'Lily, just be careful.'"
For her part, Rabe tells ET, "I had two heartbeats for the whole show, and it was quite amazing because [Betty] is pregnant and gives birth in the show. And then, at the time of her death, she believes she's pregnant. So, there was all sorts of overlap happening there."
Comfortable with filming while pregnant, Rabe didn't hold back. And neither did Olsen. "Both of them fully inhabited those roles, and they felt like they owed it to the story to do that," Glatter says.
"It was the emotional part that was so astounding," the director continues, crediting everyone for getting through it.
When it comes to the final cut of the episode, Glatter says the shock of the way it unfolds onscreen was intentional. "It was because this was a horrible crime," she explains. "The intention was not to vilify it or glorify it. This was not an action scene. This was something that was down and dirty and horrible. And I think to not do that, would not be to tell the story."
The rest of the episode then plays out like a courtroom drama inspired by the 1976 Watergate thriller, All the President’s Men, before the jury reaches a verdict in the case.
In the end, Candy is found not guilty of Betty's murder. And in that moment, viewers see the previously stoic suspect get emotional as she learns her fate. And over her shoulder, they can also see how Allan and Pat react, as they all process so many layered emotions over what just happened and what they all have been through.
"Well, needless to say, that was very intentional," Glatter says of that shot, explaining "that's how her life spun."
Before the finale ends, Candy, Pat and their kids are then seen leaving Wylie for a new life in Georgia. On their way out of town, Candy stops by Allan's house to say goodbye in person. It's a surprisingly emotional moment as they two wish each other "a good life," especially given their affair is ultimately what led them down this unexpected journey and saw their lives changed forever.
"I think that Candy thought, naively, that if she was found not guilty, she could go on with her life. She would be seen as innocent," Glatter says. "But she will never be innocent. She could only, at best, be found not guilty. And she will never have a normal life and had to leave this town that they had grown to love."
"And I think Candy felt like she couldn't leave without, again, actually talking to Allan, or saying something to him because I really believe she never went over there with the intention to kill Betty," Glatter continues, explaining that "it's not a long scene. They don't say a lot [out loud] to each other, but they say a lot underneath."
And while there's nothing to say or do that could ever close the book on what happened between them, the director says the moment "was essential in being able to move forward at all."
"To even just say those simple words like, 'I'm sorry,' it was incredibly moving," Glatter says, noting that "things don't play out in any way that you expect."
All seven episodes of Love & Death are now streaming on Max.
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