Truth Be Told goes deeper into our crime-fighter’s crusade [Apple TV+ recap]


Haneefah Wood, Octavia Spencer and Tracie Thoms in ★★★★☆
This case isn't getting any easier.
Photo: Apple TV+

TV+ ReviewThere’s a funeral this week on true-crime-inflected Apple TV+ show Truth Be Told. Drea is dead, and everyone’s guilty — whether they pulled the trigger or not.

The more Poppy, Eva and Markus pull up rocks looking for clues, the more insects they find running around in the darkness. “Her, Armed With Sorrow Sore” stands out as a strongly performed and nicely paced episode of the show about a podcaster’s crusade to help her city.

Truth Be Told recap: ”Her, Armed With Sorrow Sore’

Season 3, episode 2: Poppy (played by Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer), Desiree (Tracie Thoms) and Cydie (Haneefah Wood) are all at Drea Spivey’s (Nia Sondaya) funeral. Drea was killed after she called Poppy and told the podcaster to stop looking for her.

Eva (Gabrielle Union), Drea’s principal, didn’t get any such phone call and so was out looking for her the night of the murder. Poppy doesn’t buy that Eva got a tip about Drea’s whereabouts, even though Detective Aames (David Lyons) isn’t remotely convinced Eva did it. Poppy thus feels bad when, at the funeral, Eva comes to her defense after a stranger suggests she should have taken Drea’s case more seriously.

Then Eva finally comes clean. She knows a student whose family is in the country illegally — and that’s who gave her the tip about Drea being in the motel. She didn’t mention it earlier because she didn’t want the police to know about the family.

Eva takes more flak at work. The superintendent (Rif Hutton) says he doesn’t like the optics of her interrogating students, or of the school hosting a vigil for a “prostitute.” Eva’s heard enough. She’s going to do things her own way.

Searching for clues

Markus (Mekhi Phifer) and Poppy ask Drea’s mom Charisse (Erica Tazel) if they can search her daughter’s possessions for clues. They find a burner phone hidden among her things, but most of the messages and numbers have been deleted.

Then Poppy’s father Leander (Ron Cephas Jones) talks to another motorcycle club head (William Stanford Davis) about Drea’s death. Leander’s feeling more guilty than usual about the death of someone in the community. His idea to take a more active role in things, to prevent more black women going missing, falls on deaf ears, but he’s undeterred. So he goes with Markus and Poppy to the motel where Drea died to search it.

They don’t find anything, but they head to the diner across the street and talk to some working girls who confess they saw a guy with a vanity plate head to Drea’s room the night she died. That’s something.

Eva, Markus and Poppy find the guy, a doctor named Bruno Pascale (Chris McKenna), and interrogate him at his house. Turns out he’s been using his medical practice to bribe judges with money to clear up his daughter’s DUIs and other problems, so he has to confess. He says he didn’t do the murder, but he heard Drea plead with a guy named Trey in the bathroom. When Aames runs that name, he discovers a young man whose face Poppy knows. He was in the Japanese Tea Garden when Eva and Poppy were canvassing it the other day, just before Drea’s death.

… and shifting the focus

With Drea gone, the Oakland PD can now focus all of its attention on the case of the other missing young girl, Emily Mills (Jane Widdop). Her parents (Amy Sloan and Larry Sullivan) come to the station to talk to Aames after a clue shows up that points to something violent having happened, though it’s not conclusive.

Emily’s mother mentions one of her husband’s old business partners in the tech industry, something he failed to disclose to Aames himself. Tech industry, eh? Could that have anything to do with tech bigwig Lee Hackman’s (Xander Berkeley) sudden interest in the mayoral election?

Zarina (Merle Dandridge) and Markus are especially worried about Trini (Mychala Lee) as the cases ramp up. The more evidence of the harshness of the streets Markus takes in, the more concerned he is that his daughter will fall victim to it. The furtive glances Trini makes during dinner say that something is indeed up with her. Maybe it’s got something to do with Drea?

They head to Trey’s house and find one of the sex workers (Reign Edwards) from the diner, and she’s wearing one of Drea’s necklaces. She attacks Poppy and, while Aames is subduing her, they check out Trey’s hard drive. It’s full of footage of Trey’s other clients, and among them are Trini and her boyfriend (Donald Dash). Turns out Markus was right to be concerned.

Leander gets a call from mayoral candidate Andrew Finney (Peter Gallagher) to discuss Drea’s death. Leander thinks Finney wants to work with his motorcycle club the Capstones, but he’s telling him to know his place. Let the real authorities handle this stuff going forward. Leander doesn’t like that at all.

What the pharaoh said

Ron Cephas Jones, right, once agains steals the scene in his role as Leander in Apple TV+ drama "Truth Be Told."
Ron Cephas Jones, right, once agains steals the scene in his role as Leander.
Photo: Apple TV+

The highlight of the episode, not for the first time on Truth Be Told, is a Ronald Cephas-Jones performance note. When they go down to the motel where Drea died, he has to hurt the motel clerk to get him to give up the keys to the room. He tries extortion and, when that doesn’t work, Leander stabs him with a ticket puncher after delivering a badass biblical monologue.

Second might be the bit where Desiree tells Poppy and Cydie that she’s pregnant. It’s got nothing really to do with the main thread, beyond a kind of general concern for bringing children into this community at a time when young girls are dying. But it’s great character stuff from the actresses. Tracie Thoms’ ambiguity about her future is thoroughly relatable and she handles her confession with care.

This is all the stuff that Truth Be Told does best. Sure, the mysteries are all compelling enough. But this cast playing pick-up games is the meat. Mekhi Phifer and Merle Dandridge unwinding and talking seriously after their days at work is another such example.


Watch Truth Be Told on Apple TV+

New episodes of Truth Be Told season three arrive each Friday.

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 He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at


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