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Apple TV+'s Truth Be Told Season 1 Review

Can you handle the truth?

by Casimir Harlow

Truth Be Told Season 1 Review

Apple TV+'s latest addition is a John Grisham-flavoured legal drama with Octavia Spencer's investigative reporter looking into an old case involving Aaron Paul's convicted murderer.

The relative fledgeling streaming service - albeit backed by one of the most powerful companies on the planet - may have started off slowly, with only a clutch of original productions for their streaming service, but they have picked the selection carefully and the results speak for themselves. Unlike Netflix, or even Amazon, Apple clearly want every single show to speak to their quality of programming, and their flagship vehicles, including the likes of For All Mankind, See and The Morning Show, have borne that out, with the second wave - which includes Servant and now this - proving just as intriguing.

 Unlike Netflix or even Amazon, Apple clearly want every single show to speak to their quality of programming

Journalist Poppy Parnell gets a rude awakening one day when she realises that the case that made her famous may have been a complete miscarriage of justice. Almost two decades earlier she'd used her early true crime podcasts to help stoke the flames that would eventually burn a teenage boy - Warren Cave - suspected of stabbing to death a teacher in cold blood, in his home, where his young twin daughters found him. Knowing that she helped ensure that the boy was tried as an adult, almost twenty years later Poppy struggles with the fact that he may have actually been innocent, and starts trying to make efforts to get to the truth, only now nobody - from the twin daughters grown up, to Cave's own parents, and even Cave himself, now a prison-hardened neo-Nazi - appears to actually want her to.
Truth Be Told
Truth Be Told takes a seemingly airtight conviction, adds a dash of modern internet-based guilty-until-proven-innocent 'public' trial sentiments to the conviction; some contemporary podcast/blogging; a now-damaged 'antagonist', battle-hardened either by his own doing, or by a miscarriage of justice; and an earnest protagonist who wants the truth, and rolls it up into one big 2019 John Grisham-style effort.

The 10x45 minute episode run gets off to a solid start, pretty-much hooking you from the first episode, and using the next couple to further draw you into this tangled web. Octavia Spencer's earnest protagonist is just what the show needs, doggedly determined but also thankfully quite endearing, persistently working her way through a list of old contacts and old favours - taking her loyal husband (Aquaman's Michael Beach) along for the ride against his will, drawing in an old flame to do some shady PI work (ER's Mekhi Phifer), ignoring the counsel of her critical elder sister (Netflix's Love's Tracey Thoms), and dealing with a potentially dementia-laden dad (Mr. Robot's Ron Cephas Jones) - as she looks into the family of the convicted murderer: his dying mother (Weeds' Elizabeth Perkins) and police officer father (Joker's Brett Cullen), who is clearly covering up some juicy secrets about the murder, and looks into the young twin daughters of the victim, both played by Lizzy Caplan (Das Boot), who are also covering up their own scars. Then there's Aaron Paul's Warren Cave, enjoying his post-El Camino glory with this flip-side to a similar criminal coin, albeit potentially with more innocence on his side this time around.

  This one is probably best served as a binge meal.

Shot gorgeously, but also occasionally quite softly, Truth Be Told also maintains Apple TV+'s standard for quality Dolby Vision-enhanced 4K programming, although it's perhaps that little bit darker than you might have hoped for (it's the first of their DV productions which looks dark enough to be a Netflix original - the early courtroom scene is ridiculous; why would the courtroom possibly be that dark?). Nonetheless, it largely looks rich and refined and mostly suits the legal mystery drama.

The 20-years-in-the-past gimmick doesn't always suit the logic of the narrative well, stretching credulity for the sake of the setup, and making you wonder just why it took Poppy so long to process the innocence she clearly suspected at the time. Nonetheless, it's not long before you get swept up in the unravelling mystery, watching as the twin daughters behave increasingly strangely as their past gets dredged up (the sudden death of a relative certainly shows that one appears comfortably oblivious to any kind of remorse - echoed in the reasons why the second twin has mysteriously disappeared), and as the potential of Cave's innocence actually puts him at risk from behind bars, leaving you pretty gripped by the end of the second episode and wondering just what the hell happened all that time back which so many people went together to reframe. In the 90s, this would have all been rounded off and dealt with in a 2 hour movie - as Grisham proved during his successful run of adaptations - but it makes for a strong enough single-story arc too, making you only wish Apple TV+ would drop their weekly release format in favour of more Netflix/Amazon Original style season-dumps. This one is probably best served as a binge meal. Worth checking out. 

Scores

Verdict

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7
7
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