Strong performances take Truth Be Told deeper into the dark past [Apple TV+ review]

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Truth Be Told review Apple TV+: Kate Hudson shiftlessly navigates another episode of Truth Be Told.
Kate Hudson shiftlessly navigates another episode of Truth Be Told.
Photo: Apple TV+

Apple TV+ drama Truth Be Told looks into a series of dark pasts this week — and finds a host of unsavory things. Can true-crime podcaster Poppy Parnell keep her life together long enough to help anyone else?

Truth Be Told review: Season 2, episode 3, ‘If Wishes Were Horses’

Poppy (played by Octavia Spencer) is being sued by the family of Warren Cave (Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul), the subject of Poppy’s previous podcast. People want to pin his suicide on her because she unearthed things about his life.

Poppy’s old flame, Ingram Rhoades (Michael Beach), tries to coach her through her upcoming deposition but they’re both worried about what the future holds for her. There are feelings between them, but Ingram is too cautious to act on them. After all, Poppy’s life is a revolving door of intrigue and secrets. Who’s to say she’s being honest with him?

Meanwhile, Poppy’s dad, Leander (Ron Cephas Jones), has started recording his life experiences because he knows his memory is going to start to leave him. Poppy starts thinking about her responsibility to her family in a bigger way, especially with her public profile about to potentially expand beyond her control due to the lawsuit.

Markus (Mekhi Phifer), the former cop who’s been moonlighting as widowed Micah’s (Kate Hudson) bodyguard, runs into an old acquaintance himself named Sharice from his days as a football player. She’s got her own mystery brewing, in the form of her missing daughter. So Markus takes it on himself to look into it with his old police connections.

That old junkyard dog won in the end

Truth Be Told review: Kate Hudson and Octavia Spencer get deeper in trouble.
Kate Hudson (left) and Octavia Spencer get deeper in trouble.

Micah’s assistant Ramon (Anthony Lee Medina) finally has the outburst we’ve been prepping for the whole season. Ramon hasn’t been much more than a kind of gnat-like presence Truth Be Told so far. He runs around doing Micah’s dirty work and hinting that there’s something more nefarious under the surface than even Micah’s outwardly troubling behavior lets on.

This week, he slips and hints too strongly that he’s also in pain about what happened with Micah’s husband, Josh, in a way beyond simple grief. Micah wrongly assumes he and Josh were having an affair but Ramon was actually seeing Josh’s secret son by an old colleague from The New York Times.

Poppy now thinks she’s got motive for Josh’s murder. Ramon thinks he’s got reason enough to discredit Micah. And goes about it in the most stupendous fashion he can imagine.

A powerful look at racism

Cephas Jones walks away with the episode this week in his filmed recollections of his time in the military and the obscene racist treatment he received at the hands of his commanding officer. His anger practically leaps off the screen.

This is a show that’s built on the very believable foundation of the discrimination and violence black people endured in this country. Scenes like this hammer home that every action in America has deep, deep roots. Nothing is ever as simple as one gesture, one fight, one word.

We also get a pretty excellent counterpoint to Cephas Jones’ scene when Micah, being interviewed by Poppy, has a freak out and wants out. She thinks she can just shut off the process she set in motion because, as a rich white woman, she’s used to getting her way and controlling every story.

More risks like this, please

Truth Be Told serves up nothing but strong performances for the most part, to the point where, for instance, Poppy’s sister Desiree (Tracie Thoms) — who really doesn’t serve much narrative purpose — is an essential component of the show. Having her around is just good value.

I wish more dramatic shows took risks like this. Truth Be Told frequently delivers great hanging-out scenes, and the chemistry between the three Scoville sisters (played by Thoms, Spencer and Haneefah Wood) is off the charts.

If the third season of this show was just the Scovilles hanging out in Poppy’s living room, you wouldn’t miss the drama. Truth Be Told doesn’t have the strongest dramatic backbone. It should lean even more heavily into these scenes of people vibing.

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.