Things are about to get ugly on Truth Be Told [Apple TV+ review]

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Truth Be Told review: Andre Royo makes a splash in this week's episode.
Andre Royo (center) makes a splash in this week's episode.
Photo: Apple TV+

This week on Truth Be Told, true-crime podcaster Poppy Parnell uncovers some shady truths and half-truths about the object of her big investigation. Micah Keith isn’t who she’s been claiming she is — and there’s gonna be hell to pay when Poppy Parnell finds out.

Halfway through its second season, the Apple TV+ drama cranks the heat up even higher with an intense confrontation and a standout performance.

Truth Be Told review: Season 2, episode 5, ‘If I Didn’t Laugh, You’d Cry’

Micah (played by Kate Hudson) is in hot water and she knows it. At the end of episode 4, Poppy (Octavia Spencer) caught Micah with Holt (Christopher Backus) at her house and called the police. Poppy thought she was witnessing a sexual assault. And then she was beaten over the head and came to hours later.

Upon reflection, Poppy comes to an altogether different conclusion. She’s helped along after Micah tries to convince Leander (Ron Cephas Jones) that Poppy hurt herself instead of having the blow inflicted upon her. Poppy realizes that Micah wouldn’t tell such a lie unless she was desperate. Poppy didn’t see a sexual assault, she saw a consensual sexual encounter between Micah and the man who killed Micah’s husband and her assistant.

Very curious, isn’t it?

Gaslighting Poppy Parnell

While she was being attacked and gaslit, Poppy’s estranged husband Ingram Rhoades (Michael Beach) took off in the middle of the night for New York, which doesn’t do much to endear him to the rest of Poppy’s family.

With help from Markus Killebrew (Mekhi Phifer), Micah entraps her business partner Lachlan (Hale Appleman), who’d been spying on her employees to blackmail them into silence while he stole from the company. When Detective Aames (David Lyons) shows up later to discuss the case, Micah all but incriminates herself and after speaking to Poppy about what happened the night before Aames now likes her for the murders. Of course, Micah has plenty of tricks up her sleeves.

Poppy (with help from her sisters) now faces the prospect of living without Ingram around. Ingram wasn’t just Poppy’s occasional partner, he was also her legal council. Sensing she might need help, Leander brings over his ambulance-chasing lawyer, Demetrius (Andre Royo), whom Poppy despises. He must work overtime to earn her sympathies. But when it becomes clear he knows what he’s doing, she lets down her guard.

Poppy starts reminiscing about her childhood friendship with Micah just in time to get some deadening news about her. The arc of Poppy’s podcast season is about to take a hard right turn — and she seems too angry to pump the brakes.

Never doesn’t exist

Truth Be Told review: Poppy (Octavia Spencer, left) and Micah (Kate Hudson) face off this week.
Poppy (Octavia Spencer, left) and Micah (Kate Hudson) face off this week.
Photo: Apple TV+

Prior to this episode, Andre Royo didn’t make a proper appearance in the season and holy Moses is it good to see him. Royo is one of those actors who acts the way Miles Davis used to play trumpet. He breaks the rules. He struts and pauses in his own dependable rhythm. His hair is nuts, and his wardrobe is even wilder.

He is, in short, electrifying. Perhaps best known for his work as Bubbles on The Wire, from which this show cribs the occasional note, he also showed up in Empire, Happyish, Heroes, Fringe and lately Blackout. Royo’s in the part of his career where he knows every scene is a gift and he will not let a second go to waste. It’s like a Motown tune suddenly hijacked by a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo.

Confrontation is good

If I Didn’t Laugh, You’d Cry” plays out far more slowly than last week’s episode, but it’s not short on incident and grace notes. The flashback to Poppy’s childhood is nicely understated; prestige dramas tend to go crazy with period detail when doing this sort of thing but this had a kind of simplicity, even an elegance to it.

Royo’s big scene is tough to top, but Spencer’s confrontation with Hudson is excellent, her facial expressions doing a cute little walk around what she knows. The two end on a blistering note of hostility that actually got me to laugh out loud.

The Truth Be Told creative team doesn’t always embrace the show’s soapier elements. But when they do, they juice ’em but good. Five episodes remain of this season, and they’re about to be dedicated to seeing these two childhood friends come for each other tooth and nail.

It’s about to get ugly, which is just beautiful.

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.