'Truth Be Told' Review for Apple TV+: Compelling subject matter that flounders in too many unimportant details

Modern culture is obsessed with true crime. From podcasts like Serial, TV shows like Making a Murderer, and films like Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, we are obsessed with the macabre in a way that we have never been before. We also love an underdog story — so Truth Be Told should be a gold mine.

I say should because while the show has some fantastic performances from its cast members, the convoluted storylines that it crams into its first three episodes make the main plot slow to an absolute crawl, to the point where the show becomes boring.

Spoiler Warning: Beyond this point, I will provide some details of the show's first three episodes. Although I will attempt to avoid any significant spoilers as best as I can, there will be certain plot points and surprises that I talk about. Tread forward with that in mind.

The cast is amazing

Let's start with the best part of Truth Be Told, the cast. Octavia Spencer— who plays the lead character Poppy Parnell —is truly a delight in most of her scenes. She feels real and grounded regardless of how much the script tries to ruin that, and the show is only as good as it is because of performances like hers.

Aaron Paul, who plays Warren Cave, is also stellar. A presumably wrongfully convicted murderer who has since joined the Nazi group the Aryan Brotherhood to survive in prison. Prison has made him tough, but there are still glimpses of the scared child he was when he was convicted, and Aaron is perfect at bringing out that vulnerability.

"Octavia Spencer is truly a delight in most of her scenes."

The main characters are supported by a ton of secondary characters that are also a delight to watch. Lizzy Caplan plays twins Josie and Lanie quite adeptly, and Ron Cephas Jones is captivating as Poppy's father.

The fact that the cast is so good is the only thing that's keeping me interested in the show. The structure of the show across the first three episodes just stops anything interesting from happening.

Too many little details that don't matter

I'm not entirely sure where this show is going, and I'm not sure the showrunner, Nichelle Tramble Spellman (Justified, The Good Wife), is at this point in the series either. Let me explain.

The main plot has a great premise; Poppy wrote a series of articles that helped convict Warren Cave 20 years prior. She then comes across new evidence that seemingly proves his innocence, and now, by investigating and using her true-crime podcast, she plans to right her wrong. This lends itself to plenty of intrigue and mystery as it is, but the show seems more interested in exploring a ton of minute details that don't seem to matter to the plot.

In just one episode (the second episode), you find out Poppy's dad is getting sick, her ex-lover is still in love with her, her sisters don't talk to her a lot and that her marriage is rocky. Look, I'm not saying character depth isn't important, but the fact that most of the second and third episodes are bogged down by these little details that don't move the plot forward at all makes it a pretty forgettable show.

I wouldn't mind the super slow pace if it were building intrigue and mystery, but it seems to be more concerned with revealing information about Poppy's relationships. The biggest problem with this is that Poppy doesn't seem to react to any of this information like a normal person would. She's concerned for her dad, but as soon as her sister tells her not to worry, she stops. Her ex-lover assures her he's helping her for entirely altruistic reasons, and she quickly moves on. This is why this information seems so unimportant, because if the character doesn't care, why should I?

To give Truth Be Told the benefit of the doubt; it's possible all these details will become important as the show progresses. Still, it needs a better balance between moving the plot forward and getting caught up in the tiny details than it currently has.

Final thoughts on the first three episodes

Truth Be Told (Image credit: Apple)

Right now, Truth Be Told suffers from trying to cram too much information into the brains of the viewers without offering a ton of substance. The first episode gets off to a super promising start, as the plot starts to take root, but then the show just zigs and zags all over the place without feeling grounded.

The cast, however, is pretty amazing, and when the script allows them too, Octavia Spencer, Aaron Paul, and the supporting cast shine. Hopefully, as the show progress, the plot will progress with it. Until then, it's a little hard to be passionate about Truth Be Told.

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 

Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.