With so many entertainment platforms vying for our fractured and short attention these days, one unfortunate side effect is that good TV can all too often fall between the cracks. Did you know Facebook Watch is more than just a home for cute animal videos and actually airs TV shows? Maybe this is news to me because I live in a hole, but they do. Their list may be small, but it is definitely a case of quality over quantity, with titles including Limetown (Jessica Biel, Stanley Tucci), Sorry For Your Loss (Elizabeth Olsen), and most notably, from Blumhouse Television, SACRED LIES.
SACRED LIES is an anthology TV Series, not so much in the tradition of The Twilight Zone, where each episode featured a self-contained story, but more where each season can stand alone and be watched in isolation with no real knowledge of what occurred in previous seasons – think American Horror Story, Fargo or True Detective. SACRED LIES definitely has a lot in common with the latter two, in terms of its accomplished style, rural setting, and dark, true crime themes.
Season One saw teenager Minnow Bly (Elena Kampouris) emerge from the woods after 12 years in the bizarre “Kevinian” cult… missing both of her hands and with a lot of explaining to do. Based on the young adult novel, The Sacred Lies of Minnon Bly by Stephanie Oakes, it was developed for TV by Raelle Tucker (True Blood, The Returned). A YA Orange is the New Black meets The Path with more than a sprinkling of Cinderella, we followed Minnow as she adjusted to a life outside of the cult, a life without hands, a scary new life in juvenile detention. Minnow unraveled her fascinating story to Dr. Alan Wilson (Kevin Carroll, The Leftovers) in each 30-minute episode, revealing surprising, and often gruesome, pieces that came together in a truly intriguing and horrifying binge-worthy puzzle.
Season Two, The Singing Bones, premiering 20th February on Facebook Watch, tells the story of Elsie (Jordan Alexander), a troubled teenager in the foster care system, as she attempts to track down the truth about her mysterious heritage. Aided by armchair detective Harper (Juliette Lewis, Natural Born Killers, From Dusk Till Dawn, Ma), who has her own agenda in attempting to solve neglected Jane Doe cases, their paths entwine with that of Elsie’s father, Peter (Ryan Kwanten, True Blood), who may be guilty of more than the child abandonment charge that sees him incarcerated.
Returning after Season One, Executive Producer and Showrunner Raelle Tucker clearly has a talent for mashing up classic fairy-tales with the horrors of modern-day life, this time taking inspiration from The Brothers Grimm tale “Der singende Knochen” (The Singing Bone) as well as contemporary real-life murder cases. It is this combination that makes SACRED LIES both timeless and current, building on the trend of true crime podcasts and fascination with serial killers and solving cold cases, and pairing it with an ageless tale that speaks right to the dark heart of human nature.
As in fairy-tales, setting plays a huge part with the dark woods housing dark secrets and hiding dark deeds. A blood-red river, an isolated cabin, a man who is a wolf in both nature and name – SACRED LIES successfully draws in a whole host of mystical elements, without detracting from the gritty reality. With plenty of beautifully shot scenes, we are transported through a variety of different locations. The home that isn’t as perfect as it appears, a failing telemarketer’s scattered apartment, a homeless encampment that provides a moment of calm – all are as complexly layered as the people that we find there, and make us question our first impressions.
SACRED LIES also excels in its casting, especially of its young talent. Season One was jam-packed, not just in its lead, Elena Kampouris, but with Kiana Madeira, who played Minnow’s feisty bunkmate Angel, and Hannah Zirke, who gave an impressively desperate performance as Minnow’s younger sister Constance. In The Singing Bones, Jordan Alexander is pitted against the formidable talent of Juliette Lewis, yet holds her own. It’s a tall order to deliver a character who is lovable despite putting up the very necessary walls that have enabled Elsie to survive the system, but Alexander achieves this with ease. She is both tough, yet fragile, making the viewer root for her happy ever after.
Lewis shines as the endearingly awkward Harper, which further cements this reviewer’s girl crush that began with Natural Born Killers and continued through her days as the frontwoman of the band Juliette and the Licks. Lewis brings a physicality to the role that highlights Harper’s heart-breaking past and present, her obsessional disposition, her tortured soul, and mirrors Elsie’s troubled nature and search for truth, explaining why the two are drawn together. There is an unspoken understanding of each other’s defense mechanisms and vulnerability that makes their relationship so impactful.
Also worthy of honorable mentions are Kimiko Glenn (Orange is the New Black), as the adorable and confused renegade forensic technician Lily, aka “Sneakers”, Elsie’s formidable foster mother Shannon (Kristin Bauer van Straten, True Blood, Once Upon a Time) who is a fairy godmother and wicked stepmother all rolled up into one, and the haunting nameless sisters, “The Cherry Falls Jane Does”, played by Emily Alyn Lind (Doctor Sleep) and Siobhan Williams (UnREAL).
SACRED LIES is a powerhouse of female talent, in both its cast and crew. It will come as no surprise then that SACRED LIES has the ReFrame stamp distinction, which recognizes standout gender-balanced film and TV projects, and is awarded to television programs that hire female-identifying people in at least four out of the eight key areas of their production: writer, director, producer, lead, co-lead, speaking parts, department heads, and crew. This leads to a fiercely empowering production, representing a range of strong, yet tender, identifiable personalities, and telling a story that refuses to let women be seen as mere victims.
SACRED LIES: The Singing Bones is a dark, twisted tale that has pulled me into its world and has kept me captive. For every answer it gives, more questions arise. Six episodes in and I have so many questions that I am left wondering how they can all be resolved with only four episodes to go. I often find myself humming the sisters’ musical refrain like the most morbid of earworms, and channeling Harper as I talk to anyone who will listen about the case as it unfolds, desperately waiting for the truth… that may never be revealed in its entirety.
SACRED LIES: The Singing Bones premieres with the first three episodes on Thursday, February 20th at 12pm PT/3pm ET on Facebook Watch, followed by a new episode every Thursday on the SACRED LIES Facebook page. There are ten episodes in the season with the finale debuting on Thursday, April 9. Catch up on Season One now by typing “SACRED LIES Show” into the Facebook search bar.