Once I Had a Love
Episode 1 of Tell Me Your Secrets begins in the past, deep in the heart of Texas. An inmate sporting a black eye called Karen is sat in front of a woman asking about her daughter. She mentions a private investigator and shows her a picture of a tattoo artist who happens to be a serial killer. She pleads with Karen to tell the truth, but instead she walks away.
We then cut to the very same prison in the present, as Karen gets dressed up to become Emma. She’s being released as part of the witness protection program, complete with contact lenses and a baseball cap.
Once again we jump, this time to Louisiana, as Karen adopts her persona of Emma and prepares for her new life. She’s given strict instructions to be careful by her liaison officer Peter, with specific instruction to stay away from young women. To begin with, Karen is told to write down three things about Emma Hall. Kind, brave and safe are the words she chooses.
Karen, now fully embracing the persona of Emma, heads out to get something to eat but notices two girls bullying another in a diner bathroom. Having heard enough, Emma gets involved and smashes the girl’s face into a mirror. Breathing heavily, she tells the girl being bullied, Jess, not to be afraid as it’ll only make things worse.
Emma heads home and reminisces over a letter she wrote to Kit Parker, telling him she needs to move on and start a new life. In the morning, she heads out with Jess into the swamp. She tries to control her urges, as Jess calls her a true friend, wrapping her arms around the woman.
It’s been 7 years since Mary’s daughter Theresa went missing. While her family believes she’s passed away, Mary senses she’s still alive and clings to her Mother’s intuition. So much so in fact, that she starts to see her ghostly spirit by her side.
Mary listens to audio tapes of Parker, the serial killer who’s requested a meeting with Mary. Instead, she meets with John Tyler, an ex-convict who has a history of abusing women. He volunteers for her foundation, offering support. Instead though, Mary stares daggers through him and demands he talk about how he picked his victims. John Tyler remains quiet.
Mary eventually heads into prison, seething with anger. Only, Kit Parker winds up dead with a slit throat in his cell. When Mary finds out she breaks down crying.
This death sends ripples across the country as Emma finds out about Parker’s death too. She sobs uncontrollably, trying to make sense of what’s happened, as she heads outside for some air.
At the Carlton Lodge Motel, Jess works as a cleaner. One of the women there claims the necklace she had gives protection, but now that she’s given it away to Emma, it’s a bad omen. Jess rocks up at Emma’s house though, sobbing and pleading for help. Emma refuses to answer though, prompting Jess to run away.
Mary shows up at John’s house and asks him if people can really change or not. John believes they can but Mary is not so sure. She recruits John to help find Emma, asking him to “do something right.” She gives him four weeks to find his daughter or she’ll tell everyone about what he’s done in the past. Handing over the file, she leaves a conflicted John to mull over her words.
Emma eventually heads off in search of Jess but finds her a bloody mess in the cabin, killed by someone lurking in the shadows. She hurries off into the woods and makes it back to her apartment, staving off the constant banging on her door as someone appears to be stalking her.
As the episode closes out, we flash back to the hairdressers where Theresa showed up asking for a cut. Her hairdresser? None other than Emma herself.
The Episode Review
Tell Me Your Secrets is an unnecessarily convoluted thriller with several intertwined stories playing out simultaneously against flashbacks.
The editing in particular is needlessly contrived and the addition of flashbacks doesn’t help either. This could be intentional though, because when you break this one down to its simplest form, the storyline is pretty nonsensical.
You’ve got Mary, the grieving Mother who refuses to give up on her daughter but enlists the help of an ex-convict to track down a woman in witness protection… who is adopting a different persona.
Recovering Emma is that person but has a hard time with young girls, as we soon see why during the flashback sequences. The acting is a little hit or miss at times but the overall storyline has just enough about it to keep you watching to find out what happens next.
It’ not a bad show per-se, at least not based on this first episode, but this is a show that feels in desperate need of some editing. Still, we march on and it’ll be interesting to see what direction this show takes next.