Poker Face: Season 1 Review


‘Poker Face’ | IMDB

Stephanie Frias

“Poker Face,” Peacock’s bright new show about a human polygraph released on Jan. 26, breathes air into the “who-dun-it” genre of fiction.

The writer and director of this comedy drama is the one and only Rian Johnson who is also responsible for directing well known mystery films such as “Knives Out” and its widely admired sequel movie “Glass Onion.” Each episode follows a different story with a new set of characters and motives. This makes each episode more riveting than the last as we follow Charlie Cane, our protagonist played by the iconic Natasha Lyonne, as she is put in the center of a whirlwind of problems.

Charlie, a former poker player who got blackballed, has the unique ability to tell when someone is lying. It should be noted that she isn’t a mentalist, but as she describes, she can just tell that “something is off.”

Her abilities aren’t supernatural which makes it even more satisfying when she eventually uses her shrewdness to sniff out the culprit of the murder that occurs at the beginning of each episode. Think Nancy Drew, but with cooler outfits and way more expletives.

In episode one, Charlie works in a casino as a cocktail waitress, living in her RV. Her life is bland but she genuinely enjoys it. When the new head of the casino Sterling Frost, played by Adrian Brody, finds out about Charlie’s extraordinary powers, he hires her to con one of the biggest poker players in the casino, so she can use tell when someone is bluffing.

After someone close to Charlie meets their untimely death, she is overcome with curiosity to solve their murder, using her wits to sniff out the truth. In time, she is forced to go on the run after subsequently bringing down the ring of corruption that was embedded in Sterling’s business.

For the rest of the series, she travels across America taking odd jobs, smoking cigarettes and solving murders. Death follows the protagonist wherever she goes, with a bad habit of befriending the deceased before they meet their end. She is able to bring justice to their murders through her virtue and her abilities, all while seeing the many faces of humanity — the most grotesque and the beautiful.

One of the most interesting things about Poker Face is its anachronous structure. Each episode begins with a murder, not always bloody but shocking, while also revealing the culprit. Then we cut to the middle of the episode, where Charlie is introduced to the scenario, usually with some strange connection being made with the victims.

This makes the episodes’ arrangement a bit underwhelming — the audience knows who the murderer is, but Charlie doesn’t. The only one out of the loop is our protagonist. This makes for less of a “who-dun-it” and more of a “when-will-she-solve-it.” However, Natasha Lyonne’s captivating presence on screen and the riveting performances from its guest stars — some including Chloë Sevigny, Adrien Brody, Hong Chau and Ron Perlman — create deliciously watchable stories.

The way time is broken up in the series allows for the audience to root for Charlie, watching as she connects the dots to solve murders in strange ways.

Her inability to turn the other cheek makes her incredibly charming. The show is fueled by its character-centered stories. The common pattern of the episodes show the decent characters get the boot while the malignant characters, always fueled by greed, somehow get what they want. It is Charlie’s job to serve as a balancer of the universe, bringing justice and tying their stories with a neat bow.

All episodes are now streaming on Peacock, so if you are interested in witty mystery-comedies and would like to see Natasha Lyonnes’ impeccable outfits, tune in!