Truth Be Told explores murky world of men’s rights groups [Apple TV+ review]

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Truth Be Told review -
True-crime podcaster Poppy Parnell (played by Octavia Spencer, left) goes deeper into a murder investigation this week.
Photo: Apple TV+

Truth Be Told, the gripping Apple TV+ drama about a true-crime podcaster, wades into the murky waters of men’s rights groups this week. The plot thickens — and the mystery darkens.

Truth Be Told review: ‘Ghosts at the Feast’ (season 2, episode 2)

This episode starts with something of a roller-coaster ride. Podcaster Poppy Parnell (played by Octavia Spencer) starts the first episode of her new season about the murder of her friend Josh (Jason O’Mara), husband to childhood bestie Micah (Kate Hudson). I didn’t watch the first season of Truth Be Told for exactly the reason why this opening doesn’t quite work.

Poppy isn’t a very good writer. There’s some ham-fisted talk about truth being Josh’s god. Now don’t get me wrong. That’s realistic, as half of all true-crime podcasts are written by would-be Joan Didions without any grasp of what makes for useful language instead of the most language. I was extremely worried that a show about a true-crime podcaster would feature a lot of subpar podcasting — and we’ve finally run into it.

This is all a shame, because the rest of Truth Be Told’s second season so far is rather winning. It’s revealed this week that Josh spent a lot of time investigating a men’s rights activism group called the Sons of Ivar. The lead detective asks a police informant in the group if he knows anything about the murder, but he suspects no one in the group is *ahem* man enough to do such a thing.

I’m not usually a huge fan of weekly TV grabbing last week’s headlines and making hay out of them. (How many times did Law & Order absolutely botch the au courant case of the week because it wanted to strike while people still remembered who Terri Schiavo was?) But so far, Truth Be Told seems to possess an OK grip on the social mechanics of the topics it investigates.

On her own grief journey

Truth Be told review: As usual, Ron Cephas Jones delivers a strong performance in this Apple TV+ drama about a true-crime podcaster.
As usual, Ron Cephas Jones, left, delivers a strong performance.
Photo: Apple TV+

Josh’s funeral happens this week, and Micah is accosted by a rando who was “saved” by Micah’s teaching. It’s an important scene-setting red herring (probably) that shows Poppy just how thorny this investigation is going to be.  Men’s rights to the left of her, wellness zombies to the left, here she is …

She’s not even able to put all of her focus into the show. Her dad (Ron Cephas Jones) accidentally calls his young girlfriend his dead wife’s name. Plus, he must come clean with the family that doctors don’t like what condition he’s in. And if his cancer gets worse, he won’t seek treatment.

Jones is always incredible and this is no different. He plays Leander as a playboy hot-rodder running out of road. His pride comes out like a kind of folksy theatricality, and it’s very rewarding to see Poppy see through it. There’s a lot happening in the quiet scenes on this show; enough that they almost overshadow the crime.

Things will change

Micah, meanwhile, is starting to freak out. The investigation, and the revelations about her husband’s infidelity, make her feel entirely too vulnerable. She blows up at an event, making quite the spectacle of herself.

When she sends her assistant to collect evidence from their apartment, Poppy sees it happening and just knows that no matter how much Micah insists she’s willing to have everything aired on the podcast, their friendship isn’t going to be the same when the final episode runs. Poppy doesn’t even know about the network of people spying on her family and Micah’s acolytes.

There isn’t much style here, however. Things proceed in a very orderly, linear fashion on Truth Be Told. You have likely come to expect this from post-Netflix procedurals, but a solid hour of drama is a solid hour of drama.

I don’t think the show has quite aligned its humors, so to speak. Not all of this proves equally interesting. However, I’ve been entertained and engrossed enough to get excited for what comes next. Especially considering the turn of events on which this episode concludes.

Truth Be Told on Apple TV+

New episodes of Truth Be Told arrive on Apple TV+ on Fridays.

Rated: TV-MA

Watch on: Apple TV+

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the director of 25 feature films, and the author of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.