Truth Be Told uncorks another stellar showstopper [Apple TV+ review]

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Ron Cephas Jones & Haneefah Wood in Truth Be Told
Ron Cephas Jones and Haneefah Wood deliver the goods in this solid drama.
Photo: Apple TV+

Truth Be Told hurtles headlong toward a crash this week as true-crime podcaster Poppy Parnell and her childhood friend Micah Keith realize they both could represent their mutual destruction.

And once again, a stellar outburst by a supporting character steals the spotlight on this rock-solid Apple TV+ drama.

Truth Be Told review: Season 2, episode 6: ‘All These Women’

In this week’s episode, titled “All These Women, the many lies told by Micah (played by Kate Hudson) about her relationship to murder suspect Holt Rollins (Christopher Backus) have landed her in trouble she can’t yet see a way out from under. She tries to bribe Markus Killebrew (Mekhi Phifer) to get him to stop helping Poppy (Octavia Spencer) investigate her, but by now everyone’s too far in to stop.

Even appealing to the jealousy of Markus’ wife’s (Merle Dandridge) over Poppy’s long-dead relationship with him doesn’t quite do the trick, though it quite obviously gets Markus in hot water when next he comes home. Her suspicions interrupt a lovely little scene between the husband and wife as they agree on a plan to take their daughter’s cellphone.

As Holt hides out in an abandoned house nearby, his paranoia starts to compromise his safety every bit as much as the police contingent looking for him. He’s hiding with Rose, an old friend of Micah’s. Holt and Rose are at their wits end and seem in danger of turning on each other.

Don’t cross Poppy Parnell

Meanwhile, Poppy’s podcast episode about feeling betrayed and tricked by Micah’s lies and half-truths causes Micah’s empire to unravel. She loses sponsorships and opportunities, and decides to lash out instead of righting the ship like her board of directors want her to. She goes on network news and thrashes Poppy.

Poppy’s sister, Cydie (Haneefah Wood), rides up to Micah’s office and threatens to beat her in front of camera crews, which is an awesome sight. It won’t fix anything but it makes great television.

Poppy tries to investigate her childhood as an orphan by asking her father and sisters about their experiences after their mother died. She’s been feeling mistrustful of her memories of childhood lately, partly because Micah factors into so many of them.

Poppy’s trying to figure out just how much she owes her childhood friend as her guilt grows in Poppy’s mind. She’s also trying to figure out how much of her own memories she trusts. And what percent of what she knows about herself she wants to believe anymore.

When Micah threatens to bring Poppy down, it makes Poppy wonder what Micah could remember about her childhood that she herself might be forgetting. It’s an interesting thread to follow in a show ultimately about how we frame narratives and life stories to make them consumable to the most amount of people.

You chose wrong then, you chose wrong now

If there hasn’t been much talk in these Truth Be Told recaps about the actual craft of each episode — the photography, the sound design, etc. — it’s partly because it’s unemphatically solid and partly because they’ve chosen a delivery system that doesn’t get in the way of the character development or the plot.

Ordinarily, I’d be a little miffed about this. But it’s refreshing to see something shot for streaming that doesn’t look flat and rely on neon and dark blues like every third Netflix show seems to. Truth Be Told looks more like a network TV show from about 10 years ago, which I’ll take over the alternative: most shows made now.

Haneefah Wood has been a silent pillar this whole season (as has Tracie Thoms as Poppy’s other sister, Desiree). So it was really amazing to see the showrunners let Wood off the leash. She steals the episode with her amazing outburst.

The profanity, the brilliantly colored outfit, the motorcycle helmet … it’s such a blazing pageant. It’s the kind of showstopper Truth Be Told has started to make itself known for over the course of fairly sedate (though of course not to say uninteresting) episodes of dramatic tension.

Wood gets a great button a few scenes later when she sees herself blowing up on social media. “Oh shit,” she says. “I’m trendin’.”

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.