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Telling Lies

FBT is searching for the truth amongst the lies. And the boredom.

I loved Her Story, so this ‘spiritual sequel’ went straight on my Sales wish-list. If watching one person talk for hours can get me that excited, four talking heads has to be awesome…

Karen (Karen?) sets about reviewing recordings related to David Smith, a deep-cover FBI agent to understand what happened after he infiltrated an environmental terrorist group.

While in Her Story we’d watch a lone woman’s statement to eke out clues and keywords to pin down what happened, in TL we only see one side of a conversation, meaning a whole lot of just nodding and ‘uh-huh’. You can find files of the other end of the conversation, but it means a lot of nothing to trawl through. It’s basically like watching me on the phone with my mum.

As David joins the terror group’s public front, a social media pressure group, he gets in with Ava, an idealistic environmentalist and develops feelings for her, compromising both his marriage and the mission. Struggling with his dual-life, David starts using a camgirl, ‘Max’, to confess, while secrets start to surface as he cracks under the pressure.

That makes it sound complex and compelling, but it isn’t. It’s largely watching him chatting, then tracking down wife Emma, Ava or Max’s reaction, which is usually them getting annoyed with him. The deep cover operative blurs the lines plot is already overused and this takes it nowhere new, so it struggles to keep your interest – and we’re supposed to be piecing it together. Twice.

I quickly run out of things to search for, bored of another argument with the wife, a clip of him convincing the group he’s legit, Ava getting needy, Max clearly scamming him. We're just watching him blur lines, get into trouble with various women, pout and brood while getting told off for not being home. Whereas Her Story’s approach worked because it was focused and you had to concentrate to pick up the subtleties, here I’m not drawn in so I don’t know how to reach the inevitable ending, and start searching for phrases from undercover cop films. Some of which work.

This feels worryingly close to those great/terrible FMV of the 90s, we're one step away from Night Trap.

Another unfocused element is Karen’s intentions. Is she trying to prove David innocent, track down someone who knows what really happened, learn a covered-up truth? We’re not told what Karen is after, so we don’t have any direction. Karen only has until 5am before the FBI shuts down the connection, and it winds down in semi-real time. There’s actually few lies to uncover, what we’re really doing is deconstructing David’s deluded ‘knight in shining armour’ self-belief.