Courtesy Hulu

True crime is a popular guilty pleasure for viewers. Morbid curiosity, especially when it comes to the more sensational cases, naturally draws attention. Whether due to a need to understand the criminal or what have you, it can’t be denied that there’s plenty out there to sate our true crime needs. And, with plenty of adaptations coming out this year alone, true crime fans are going to be fed. But, with the bounty of true crime works available, it’s becoming easier to sift through what’s worth the time and what isn’t. In the case of Hulu’s upcoming limited series titled CANDY, it’s a difficult sell. With uneven pacing, questionable character direction and development, and its abrupt cut-off style ending, the series ends up floundering. But many will stay hooked as Jessica Biel knocks out another great performance here as the titular Candy.

The series does start off strong. The first episode is fraught with slow boil levels of tension and important character information. Through Biel’s first monologue in the series, you get a glimpse of the inner workings of Candy Montgomery’s mind. The story she tells paints early on is something to pay attention to as you watch the series unfold onscreen. She’s not the only one to shine, though, in the episode. Pablo Schreiber’s Allen Gore is steadily anxious. We feel the mounting anxiety the character feels as his phone calls to his wife go unanswered. While she gets less screentime in the opening episode, the presence of Melanie Lynskey’s Betty Gore can be felt. And, with the sound design and score from Ariel Marx, there’s a haunting feeling that isn’t easily shaken off.

Episodes 2 and 3 shift backward, focusing on the build-up leading up to the climactic event. Here we see the relationship building between Candy Montgomery, Allen Gore, and Betty Gore, but we also get further insight into how the two women in particular view their current status in life. Biel and Lynskey shine in these scenes, with Biel’s subtle microexpressions showcasing the calculated nature of Candy as she moves about the community. You can see when her mask slips, and it is in these moments that she is particularly chilling onscreen. Where things start to fall apart, though, is when we jump back to the murder investigation.

Betty Gore (Melanie Lynskey) and Candy Montgomery (Jessica Biel), shown. (Photo by: Tina Rowden/Hulu)

While Biel’s Candy captivates still in the final two episodes, all other major players fall to the sidelines. Schreiber’s Allen Gore almost fades away, joining his deceased wife in some ways with being erased from the narrative in some ways. Confusion resounds, in particular, with Timothy Simon’s Pat Montgomery. There’s not much depth to the character itself, and it’s difficult to say how much of it is the writing or the direction. He evolves a little beyond the surface level once the investigation into this wife begins but the change, much like the shifting tones in CANDY, reads as abrupt and unearned. This note can also be applied to the show’s finale as it speeds quickly through the court scenes. It moves so quickly you almost miss Raúl Esparza’s dramatic command of the court.

Would CANDY have benefited from an additional episode or two? Probably. This might have helped with the development of certain characters as well as fixing the tonal identity issue the series has. There’s a question as to what kind of tone the creators were trying to gun for in this upon the completion of the series’ final episode. A strong, consistent performance from the cast helps keep the viewer interested. The relevance of those performances dies out once the characters surrounding Candy Montgomery fade into view post-murder. This despite Biel still aptly commanding the screen. With the series clocking in at just five episodes, it’s still highly recommended given what the cast and below-the-line crew invest into the work audiences get to see. The lack of an identity, however, makes it difficult to remember much once the credits roll.

CANDY will debut with its first episode on Monday, May 9, on Hulu, followed by one new episode daily until the finale on Friday, May 13.

Sarah Musnicky
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