I think that SECRETS AND LIES (2015-?) had very low expectations going in. I certainly wasn't sure about it. Thankfully, my reservations were alleviated almost immediately! Ironically, my main reservation going into ended up being completely unfounded and that was the casting of Ryan Phillippe in the lead, central role of Ben Crawford. Never one of my favorite actors, I was pleasantly surprised at Phillippe's exceptional, gripping performance in Season 1 of this series! I dare say that it was Phillipe's persuasive portrayal of Ben that kept me tuning in each week.
In counter to Phillippe, I was ironically not as engaged by Juliette Lewis as Det. Andrea Cornell, at least not until the end of Season 1 when she was less one-dimensional and the writers gave shades of humanity to her character. In retrospect Lewis was really playing a cold, relentless, emotionless person, and she certainly pulled it off. My only issue was that why for so long into the season did she think that Ben was the ONLY reasonable suspect!
'Secrets and Lies' tells the tale of Ben Crawford (a superb Phillippe), who is the prime suspect in the murder of 5-year old Tom Murphy, the son of Ben's neighbor Jess Murphy (alluring Natalie Martinez). In the opening scene of the series, Ben finds Tom's dead body in the woods during his morning run. Immediately contacting the police, the lead detective on the case is Det. Andrea Cornell (an incredibly stoic Lewis). Cornell pretty much sizes Ben up within minutes and figures him for the killer. Most of the series involves Ben trying to clear his name to counter Cornell continuing to gather mounting evidence against him.
Other key characters include Ben's wife Christy (excellently played by Kadee Strickland), Ben's 2 daughters Natalie and Abby (very well played by Indiana Evans and Belle Shouse), and Ben's best friend Dave (played in scene-stealing comic fashion by Dan Fogler). It's really Ben's part of the story that kept me engaged, especially his tumultuous relationship with Christy and his funny BFF relationship with Dave. Also Ben's relationships with his respective daughters was involving, with the older Natalie being more rebellious and the younger Abby clinging to Ben as "Daddy's little girl".
Each episode involved Ben, who has no memory of the events of the night of the murder, trying to piece together clues that could simultaneously jog his memory and clear him of Tom's murder. Subplots involve the various neighbors of Ben, including Jess, all who have their own "secrets and lies" and how they could be suspects since they all live in the same neighborhood as Ben.
Juliette Lewis' contribution shouldn't go ignored either. Like I said, I just wish we had more shades of her character earlier rather than later, but when the writers really dug into her character's past, that's when I think Cornell became very interesting. And it looks like Season 2 will focus more on Cornell and her personal life, which I'm definitely looking forward to! Again, Phillippe's performance is the real surprise in all of this. He really made me root for Ben and hope that he wasn't the killer in the end. He did a great job of carrying Season 1. This is easily my favorite thing he's ever done and, in my opinion, the best performance of his career. Highly recommended!
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