In this Amazon Prime mini-series of ten episodes, Tell Me Your Secrets has three plots: 1) The main plot involves a woman named Karen Miller (Lily Rabe), who was arrested seven years ago as a presumed accomplice to her boyfriend, Kit (Xavier Samuel) for the brutal murders of nine women. She claims not to remember anything, due to trauma. 2) Mary Barlow (Amy Brenneman), a wealthy woman who has established a foundation to help find missing children, believes her own daughter, Theresa, was kidnapped by Karen Miller and Kit and is still alive. 3) John Tyler, (Hamish Linklater), a serial rapist, is now on parole and claims to have suppressed his urges and wishes to atone for his past crimes. Additional missing teenage girls provide subplots, contributing to a complex mix of characters.
Karen Miller, now in witness protection as Emma Hall, has moved to a small town, St. James, Louisiana, hoping to leave her past in Minneapolis. Mary Barlow, a mother who adamantly refuses to grieve or acknowledge her daughter may be dead, becomes an avenger. John soon becomes intertwined with both Karen/Emma and Mary. All three have pasts which haunt them and each other. As their damaged psyches unravel their secrets to each other, more questions arise: Is Karen/Emma being truthful when she claims she doesn’t know about the murders? Is there a natural tendency to gaslight and condemn women whose lovers are criminals, guilty by association? Can a brutal serial killer actually be capable of redemption? And when does a mother’s obsessive quest for a missing child become pathological?
The cast is superb. Lily Rabe, as the traumatized Karen Miller hiding behind the identity of Emma Hall, emotes a believable amnesia, and also an openness to trusting others that seems at times naive. Her torment is palpable. Amy Brenneman, in one of her most substantial roles to date, is scheming, manipulative, and self-destructive to the point of madness. Hamish Linklater, as the unsettling, affectless serial rapist, goes beyond onscreen serial killers with a chilling brilliance to his understanding of his targeted victims’ core vulnerabilities (similar, in some respects, to Hannibal Lecter). His desperation and loneliness for a relationship not defined by his crimes is harrowing.
There are multiple plots with so many characters the viewer has to make an effort to keep them straight. Their relationships are intertwined but also independent, so that the few plot holes do not become confusing. Tell Me Your Secrets is packed with storylines, character arcs, and sometimes ghoulish intensity. A Season Two is planned, and some of the drama left hanging has been set up for resolution or expansion next year.
Note: This is definitely not for everyone. In some sense, it is cross-genre, a psychological thriller bordering on horror, analogous to the mini-series Bates Motel, or its precursor, the classic Hitchcock movie, Psycho. Violence is presented both visually and indirectly, but is not dwelled upon at length. Nonetheless, this potboiler is heart-pounding.
Availability: Amazon Prime