There’s always more lurking right underneath the surface — that facade of perfectionism — aching to break free. That’s the premise for Hulu’s new five-episode mini-series Candy. Starring Jessica Biel as the titular Candy, this is the story of a 1980s housewife who seems to have it all — a devoted husband, two lovely children and friends, and a community that loves her. But that’s not enough for Candy. She yearns for a more — more passion, more excitement — no longer does the “dream life” do it for her. And as that want starts to consume her and her pent-up frustrations bubble over, it will lead to deadly results.
From the outside, Candy seems to have it all. She’s the perfect Christian housewife singing in the choir, helping with children’s church, a friend to everyone, and a devoted wife. But does all of her bubbly perfectionism bely something else — something dark and unhappy? Then there’s Betty Gore (Melanie Lynskey) — she’s the exact opposite of Candy. She seems self-conscious, standoffish, and miserable at home while her husband is off providing for the family, and maybe she’s even dealing with a bit of postpartum depression with this newest baby and a little moral superiority complex. She has a hard time really fitting in with the other church wives, who all seem very close-knit — they gossip together and even share romance/erotic books and stories amongst the group to quelch their unfulfilled housewife desires. It’s this desire’s awakening that sends Candy on a deadly path. But Candy befriends the awkward Betty and tries to give her what she’s been yearning for, that social acceptance. But is it all a facade?
As those desires start to consume her, Candy sets out on a mission to have an affair, and she picks her fellow church volleyball teammate, Allan (Pablo Schreiber), Betty’s husband. At first, Allan is not on board for the trysts but eventually caves as he finds it harder to deal with his currently pregnant, unhappy, and clingy wife. Their number one rule is that no one catches feelings, and the moment they do, the affair is over — but we all know that doesn’t always work out well.
Candy tries to break it off at one point, but Allan begs her to continue saying that he needs her, showing that passion that she doesn’t get at home from her own husband (Timothy Simons). As the affair continues, Allan agrees to attend a couples’ support group to get their marriage back on track. The group is all about honesty and communication and telling your partner everything. As the secrets come out of the closet for the couple, they grow closer together and seem to be on the right path, so Allan suggests to Candy that they call it a quit. She seems okay with that, and they try to move on until one day, something terrible happens that will tear this community apart.
Candy is a story based on true events, and it’s a wild story. The way the story is visually told and unfolds draws in viewers in the beginning. Episode one, “Friday the 13th,” lays the foundation in 1980, and we can feel that something disturbing has happened. Then we flashback to 1978, where we see how we got to this point; then the series proceeds to jump back and forth through time, ending with Candy’s trial. After the first episode, I had really high hopes, but the rest kind of drags. The way the story is presented is interesting and would hold your attention all the way through, but it seems to lose some of its momentum after the first episode — the second, third, and fourth episodes are a little flat and drawn out, and you kinda lose interest. But overall, you gotta give the series props for bringing a good amount of tension and suspense.
Candy has excellent production value, and you really feel you’ve been transported back to the late 1970s early 1980s — from the production design to the wardrobe and hair and makeup. The story itself seems very familiar, definitely something you’ve probably seen on Dateline or 20/20, but what saves it is the stellar performances from the cast. The ensemble cast’s chemistry seems just right, and Biel gives this performance her all — there’s even a special little guest star that pops up. In the end, Candy reminds us not to be fooled by the illusion of perfection and really leaves us divided. You never really know someone — or the evil that may lurk within.