The second season of Apple TV+’s first crime series ends with a series of reveals, reversals, betrayals and murders. Truth Be Told fully hit its stride this time out, and it’s been a pleasure spending time with podcaster Poppy Parnell’s family, real and adopted.
The season finale mostly satisfies — and leaves me hoping for more.
Truth Be Told review: ‘Last Exit … Oakland’
In the episode, titled “Last Exit … Oakland,” Aames (played by David Lyons), Demetrius (Andre Royo) and Markus (Mekhi Phifer) all meet Poppy (Octavia Spencer) down at the precinct to help Leander (Ron Cephas Jones). Police took Leander into custody when they found his fingerprints on a knife stuck in the dead body of murder suspect Martin Haywood (Michael Muhney). Martin had come to threaten Poppy if not kill her.
The police hold Leander for 48 hours on probable cause. And that sends Poppy into a frenzy to close every open door of the myriad cases in which she’s embroiled. Markus and Aames keep looking for proof that puts the murder weapon in the right hand.
The best moment of the episode might be when Aames gets a call from Markus at the precinct and notices everyone staring because he’s talking to the guy who embarrassed the police department after his shooting. “What the fuck are you lookin’ at?!?” he says to his peers, who then follow him into the men’s room to beat him half to death for his allegiance. Aames followed a low-key very satisfying arc this season, and Lyons played the part magnificently. The show still loves its cop characters too much but I’ll take complicated over outright hagiographic.
Poppy goes to visit her father in jail, only to run into Micah (Kate Hudson) coming out from having just done the same. Micah maintains that she doesn’t know who killed Josh, which Poppy doesn’t believe. Leander suggests letting Micah onto the podcast to let her tell her story.
Poppy hates to hear it, but her father makes a good point. If she doesn’t overturn every last stone, this too will haunt her. So against her better judgment, Poppy invites Micah over for one last recording session.
I wanna hear her own it
The season’s final reveal ultimately isn’t all that satisfying given all the clues we’ve been gathering with Poppy and Co. along the way. But Truth Be Told’s grammar proves gripping enough that it feels like second-hand David Fincher (and I mean that as a compliment) when the show unspools the events of the night of the first murder.
It still plays but I confess I would have liked a slightly more satisfying explanation for the murders, even if thematically I suppose the writers did lay the groundwork for this. (A scene an episode ago where the women in Micah’s group pledge fealty to her even after everything now works as foreshadowing of a different kind.)
However, the character who winds up taking the fall isn’t someone to whom we have a profound enough attachment. And this is only in such sharp relief because of how well-drawn everyone else is on the show. To spend so long in such esteemed company and have the call come from outside the house is something of a let down and makes Micah’s behavior seem crazier than perhaps it’s meant to.
Weakness and ‘authenticity’
In fact, part of the reason Truth Be Told sort of fails to quite take off every time it threatens to is that the very idea of Micah Keith and her followers is that they are people with empty cores and easily changed faces. So Micah herself can’t really become a character we trust or believe, even from a moment-to-moment basis. The whole point of her is that she became famous through duplicity.
This is meant obviously to be a counterpoint to the “authenticity” of Poppy and her family, colleagues and connections. This is not “authenticity” of the blandly representational kind, but rather people unafraid of their own flaws and shortcomings, or anyway people willing to admit when they’ve been caught in a lie.
Micah isn’t one of them, so she sort of had no business on this show. Now of course the plan all along was to ferret her and her kind of person, empty men and women all, out of the world of the show. But it is unquestionably a peculiar strategy. It obviously paid rich dividends (every supporting performance on this show is a gift) but I was taken aback looking at the season as a whole.
Count me very curious indeed to see what lies in store for everyone next season. This show has one of the great casts on television and the sense to let them work unimpeded. I’m down for the continuing adventures of Poppy Parnell, but more than that, I want to spend more time in her community.
Truth Be Told on Apple TV+
You can stream the first two seasons of Truth Be Told on Apple TV+.
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.