Octavia Spencer stuns as things spiral out of control in Truth Be Told [Apple TV+ review]

By

Truth Be Told review: Octavia Spencer will remind you just how good she is this week.
Octavia Spencer will remind you just how good she is this week.
Photo: Apple TV+

The Apple TV+ series about a true crime podcaster and her circle of friends is closing in on the truth, but will it be too late for it to matter? In this week’s episode of Truth Be Told, Poppy Parnell is reaping what she’s sown. But her one-time friend Micah Keith is right behind her.

Neither will be the same when this case is closed.

Truth Be Told review: ‘The Untold Story’

Poppy (played by Octavia Spencer) tracked down Rose Gill, but that wound up with two people shot and Poppy ostracized. The mystery woman had just confessed that Micah Keith (Kate Hudson) had stolen and repackaged Rose’s life story as her own — and that Micah built her wellness empire on the lies — when Holt Rollins (Christopher Backus) entered her room at a homeless shelter and shot her.

Now Rose fights for her life in the ICU just a few rooms down from where Markus (Mekhi Phifer) recovers from his own gunshot wound, incurred when the police rolled up on the crime scene and mistook him for the shooter instead of Holt.

After he recovers, Markus goes to Micah’s office to clear out his desk and almost finally explodes at Micah, a whole season of biting his tongue having long since gotten to him. Meanwhile, Detective Aames (David Lyons) has more bad news for Poppy: Police are charging Rose, still in surgery, for Josh Keith’s murder. (She threatened him by email when he wouldn’t do anything about his wife’s duplicitous actions.)

A blast from the past

Poppy hears this about a minute before the family of Warren Cave (Aaron Paul), the focus Truth Be Told’s first season, bring her to trial, with a high-powered and very expensive lawyer no less. That, it turns out, is one more twist of the knife from Micah, who will do anything to stop Poppy from getting her story out to the world.

Needing guidance, Poppy approaches her dad (Ron Cephas Jones), who gives her the pep talk of a lifetime. Another scorcher from Jones, and the show is right back on track.

Poppy interviews Rose one last time, and learns what happened the night of Josh’s murder. Micah shows up at the tail end of her confession and knows she’s doomed. She visits Holt in jail and his last words to her are not encouraging.

Micah knows something bad is going to happen, even if her plan to blackmail Poppy for a crime they both committed in their youth is still locked and loaded. That is, unless Poppy has some kind of a plan to take matters into her own hands so Micah can’t use it against her after all.

Restoring faith in an institution

Mekhi Phifer gets another showstopper this week as he addresses the press about his wrongful shooting by the police. The Truth Be Told writers fumble this, in my opinion. I get that when you’re making a show about the machinery of crime and crime-stopping, you must include cops. But I’ve always felt like Markus using his former police credentials as a way into rooms he might not otherwise have received entry was sort of a put on.

This week, he stands in front of cameras and says he wants to restore his daughter’s faith in the institution of law enforcement. Kind of a damp squib, if you ask me. A bolder move would have been to condemn the force, then say he regretted joining the force. But I guess you can’t do that, even on internet TV.

Spencer’s greatness is sort of the bedrock of this show, so it’s easy to take for granted how good she is. But this episode, she doesn’t let you forget it. Her teary confession of the foundational trauma of her youth proves quite stunning. It should remind everyone who’s used to seeing her show up in lightweight fare that she’s the real deal.

Truth Be Told is Spencer’s show, after all. And it’s good to get a hefty reminder why the showrunners trusted her with this character to begin with.

Watch 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.