In these scary and uncertain times, many of us are finding ourselves with an unprecedented amount of free time on our hands, searching for that next binge-watch worthy series. With the big hitters, Netflix and Prime, in particular, reacting to demand with new releases, Raelle Tucker’s SACRED LIES may get lost in the unmined caves of Facebook Watch. Complex, nuanced, and thoroughly absorbing, SACRED LIES is a dark and heady mix of true crime and fairy tales that will pull you into its world at a time when a distraction from our current reality is most needed.
Please note, this deep dive into the themes of episode 8 contains spoilers. So, if you haven’t already, it goes without saying that I recommend watching the first 7 episodes of SACRED LIES: The Singing Bones, now available on Facebook Watch. Episode 8 premieres March 26 at 12pm PT/3pm ET, is written by Tony Saltzman (Goliath), and directed by executive producer, Scott Winant (True Blood).
Last week, episode 7 of SACRED LIES: The Singing Bones, “The Hunt”, saw Harper (Juliette Lewis), Elsie (Jordan Alexander), and Peter (Ryan Kwanten) taking us not only on a revelation fuelled detour to Kingston, but also on an exploration of tradition, justice, and gender. Episode 8, “Dark Nights”, pulls us back on track, and, fortified by the background knowledge of Harper and Peter’s respective upbringings, the pieces of this complex jigsaw begin to slowly slot together, allowing us a glimpse at the bigger picture. “Dark Nights” takes a look at contradictions and second chances – pushing us beyond the simplicity of fairy tale justice and into the multi-faceted concepts of free will and redemption.
As discussed in my review of the previous episode, justice in the fairy tale world is swift and brutal, which is easy when you live in a world of absolutes – black and white, good and bad. But bringing a fairy tale to life in our reality means introducing a scale of grey, and with that, the option of second chances, of forgiveness and moving forward. In episode 8, we see our key players both asking for and offering not only second chances but third, fourth… and discovering that the number of chances we can be given may be finite. While Harper gets lucky (in more ways than one) when Lily gives her another shot at their fledgling romance, Elsie is told, in no uncertain terms, that her chances in the foster care system have run out. Maybe it is the reality of having no other choice that results in her being pulled back into Peter’s orbit, but does being refused another chance make us more or less likely to offer that option to someone else?
The major breakthrough in this episode is that we have reached the point in the flashbacks of the past where Elsie and her mother enter Peter’s life. We finally move beyond the hazy and incomplete glimpses of her mother that reside in Elsie’s memory and are presented with the fully formed woman of Peter’s experience. Elsie’s mother, Wendy, played by Antonique Smith (Notorious, Luke Cage), is a previously troubled musician, living her own second chance – 8 months sober and making a life for herself and her daughter (Little Elsie played by Hayven Oladapo, a delightful little treasure whose only previous acting credit is in an episode of the AppleTV series, See).
While in the dive bar, Dark Knights Tavern, Wendy talks to Peter about how when you’re brought to your knees, “God or the universe or whatever you believe in” will give you a second chance. In the world of fairy tales, there is an absence of a mystical higher power – justice is generally the preserve of man and so this absence may go some way to explaining the lack of second chances offered to those who do “bad things”. The only religious people we have encountered in The Singing Bones have been the small-minded and unforgiving people of Kingston. So herein lies our first contradiction – God is forgiving, but those who follow him are not. Or, maybe more accurately, choose not to be, using tradition as their excuse. Ah, that pesky free will. Here, SACRED LIES gives us, as always, cause to ponder on our own choices. To offer a person another chance is an almost holy act, whether you are religious or not, yet it is understandable that such a choice is difficult if you haven’t been afforded that opportunity yourself. Harper finds it hard to let people in as her past has made her akin to a cactus seeking a hug from a balloon. Elsie faces rejection at every turn. Yet they both choose to give those seeking a connection with them a chance because they know what it is like to need that chance themselves. Was Wendy that second chance for Peter after the Cherry Falls Jane Does? Only time will tell…
Finally, it is also worth considering the character of Peter Wolf/Hunter Kingston in more depth. Although the episode seems to be about Wendy, the title “Dark Nights” is a play on the name of the tavern, “Dark Knights”. And who is the Dark Knight of our story? Peter. And that is who this episode is really about. A knight is a person often of noble birth, as Peter/Hunter was essentially the prince of Kingston, “bound to chivalrous conduct”. Chivalrous conduct implies being on the side of good, meaning Dark Knight is an oxymoron, a seemingly self-contradictory phrase. Our second contradiction which appears to reflect the conflict in Peter’s nature.
Peter has killed several people that we know of. Definitely a bad guy then. Yet he also vanquishes the beast in “The Hunt”, saving Elsie from the wild boar that he himself set free. He acts kindly, chivalrously, towards the young women he encounters… up unto a point. He seems to want to be good, to move away from his dark past. Is he then a victim of circumstance? A poor decision maker? He is a character beyond any found in fairy tales – he cannot be judged by their standards, because he is a shade of grey. A real-life villain, with all the inherent contradictions and complexities; neither truly good nor bad. And as such, will he ultimately receive the redemption he appears to seek?
What does justice look like in the world of SACRED LIES? You’ll just have to stay tuned to find out. Join us next week as my exploration of episode 9 takes us into the realms of family and identity.
Episodes 1-8 of SACRED LIES: The Singing Bones are available on Facebook Watch now, with episode 9, “Bloodline”, premiering April 2 at 12pm PT/3pm ET, and the season finale available April 9.