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Sins of Our Mother review: A doting mother or a killer in disguise?

The docuseries directed by Skye Borgman dives deep into the life of Lori Vallow who is accused of killing her two children

Sins of Our Mother review: A doting mother or a killer in disguise?
  • Arya Harikumar

Last Updated: 06.14 AM, Sep 15, 2022


Story: In September 2019, Tylee Ryan and J. J. Vallow are reported missing by their relatives. A series of other deaths within the family cause the police to suspect the involvement of the children’s mother Lori Vallow and her husband Chad Daybell. Things take a further turn when the remains of Tylee and JJ are discovered at Chad's home in June 2020.

Review: Netflix’s latest offering to true-crime aficionados is the docuseries Sins Of Our Mother helmed by Skye Borgman, who is best known for directing the documentary films Abducted in Plain Sight and Girl in the Picture. The subject of the documentary is Lori Vallow, who now stands on trial for allegedly killing two of her three children. Now, most of the events depicted in the series take place in the last three-four years, and those who have been following the news would be already familiar with the facts related to the ongoing case. Borgman’s Sins Of Our Mother tries to go beyond the facts and offers an insight into Lori’s backstory, mostly through interviews with her eldest and surviving son, Colby Ryan, and examines what turned a seemingly doting, religious mother into a murderer.


The first episode titled, The 144,000, dives into Lori’s family background, her failed marriages, and how she became obsessed with apocalyptic and doomsday beliefs. She was raised in a Mormon Christian family that followed the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) church. Janis Cox, Lori’s mother who was interviewed for the docuseries, even mentions that Lori had taken to scriptures from a young age. But none of them could anticipate the tragedy that would unfold. As per Colby, things started taking a turn when Lori realised that her third husband and Colby’s stepdad, Joe Ryan, had sexually assaulted Colby when he was still a child. She even says in a podcast, “There’s a turning point in my life that turned me to the temple. I was married to someone who was very awful, who raped my children, and I was going to murder him.”


The first episode offers a great amount of detail into Lori’s past, and it seems unnecessary at first, but as we move on to the second and third episodes, we start to connect the dots. While being married to Charles Vallow, her fourth husband, Lori develops an acquaintance with Chad Daybell, who wrote books pertaining to apocalyptic literature, and claimed to have two near-death experiences that brought him closer to God. Lori believed that she was one among the 144,000 people who would be part of the post-apocalypse city called New Jerusalem, and this belief grew stronger when she met Daybell, who created a rating system assigning numbers to people as dark or light spirits. The second part, Dark Spirits, delves into all that Lori and Daybell planned and executed in the name of religion, which included the murders of Charles, and Daybell’s wife Tammy. Some of the disclosures are gut-wrenching and make for a disturbing watch, and the end of the second episode gives us a hint of what is coming in the next.


Now, what really happened to JJ and Tylee? Borgman gets into this in the final episode, A Mother Knows. But these are basically facts that are already out in the public domain, and those that are not disclosed, are not revealed in the documentary either. But what is shocking is the absolute lack of apathy and remorse in Lori and Daybell’s demeanour even as people around them seek answers to what happened to the children.

The series is slow-paced and takes its time to get you in the grip of it. Things start to take shape midway into the first episode, and after that, there is no stopping anyone from watching it till the very end. The interviews with Colby, Janis, Lori’s friends, and news reporters, along with archive footage, help in taking the story forward. Colby and Janis give a balanced account of what transpired in the seemingly normal family in the past three years. However, crisper editing would have elevated the series to a great level.


Verdict: In June, Netflix released another true-crime documentary Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey that delved deep into the exploits of polygamist cult leader Warren Jeffs who raped minor girls in the name of religion and salvation. Similarly, Sins Of Our Mother explores how one woman’s obsession with doomsday theories led to the deaths of her loved ones. This is not the best true-crime documentary out there but is definitely worth a watch.