Facebook Watch’s latest bid to keep your attention for longer than it takes for a puppy to climb stairs is “Sacred Lies,” a dark and blunt adaptation of Stephanie Oakes’ YA novel, which in turn is based on a Grimm fairy tale. But just in case “fairy tale” makes it seem like a romp, “Sacred Lies” — created by “True Blood’s” Raelle Tucker and produced by Blumhouse TV — immediately reminds its audience that Grimm fairy tales are, well, grim.
The first episode opens with our heroine — or is she? — Minnow Bly (Elena Kampouris) standing above a bruised body, blinking at surrounding cops, and raising her hands in the air, only to reveal that she has no hands at all. (For reference and possible spoilers, the Grimm fairy tale in question is “The Handless Maiden.”)
From there, “Sacred Lies” essentially splits into two shows. One is a murder mystery that delves into Minnow’s childhood, which she spent in a cult run by “The Prophet” (“Halt and Catch Fire’s” Toby Huss). A smiling man in Terry Richardson cosplay, The Prophet found a rapt audience in Minnow and her frustrated trailer park neighbors — most especially her father (Ryan Robbins). But in Minnow’s bleak present, The Prophet has been mysteriously and gruesomely murdered, and FBI analyst Dr. Wilson (“The Leftovers'” Kevin Carroll) believes she knows more than she’s letting on.
The other show centers on the juvenile detention center where Dr. Wilson and Minnow conduct their meetings, which feels eerily like a teenage version of “Orange is the New Black.” Inmate Angel (Kiana Madeira) reluctantly gains sympathy for her new roommate and decides to teach her the ways of the yard before Minnow accidentally steps out of line thanks to her wide-eyed confusion about the harsh new world around her. (Kampouris does a decent job with a purposeful blank slate of a part, but “wide-eyed confusion” truly does describe the vast majority of Minnow’s stance.)
With episodes running at an economical half-hour, “Sacred Lies” maintains a solid enough balance between withholding answers and laying groundwork for the mysteries ahead. But it will also be enormously telling to see which strains of the story the show chooses to flesh out. One that deserves to be explored in more depth is how Minnow learns to adapt to her new disability. (“Sacred Lies” assures us that it hired physical disability consultants to help inform the storyline and Kampouris’ performance.)
Another eyebrow-raising thread is one that emerges when Minnow reveals part of why she’s so out of her depth in juvie. She’s never been around “so many different kinds of people before,” she tells Angel with those wide eyes, because the Prophet always insisted that “mingling” with anyone non-white was a nonstarter. Taken seriously, the Prophet as a preacher preying on “economic anxiety” while affirming latent racism could be a fascinating story for the show to dive into — but the point could prove tricky to land if it’s not given enough time and consideration in this already crowded mystery.
Drama series (2 episodes out of 10 watched for review).
Crew: Executive producers: Raelle Tucker, Scott Winant, Jason Blum, Marci Wiseman, and Jeremy Gold.
Cast: Elena Kampouris, Kevin Carroll, Toby Huss, Kiana Madeira, Ryan Robbins.