Note: This is a profile of the first six episodes of “Poker Face”
Writer and director Rian Johnson has solidified his place in the “whodunit” category of neo-noir filmmaking. Taking pages out of the careers of Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock, Johnson continues to make popular movies like “Knives Out” and “Glass Onion” that keep audiences guessing until the very end. A significant part of today’s entertainment landscape, Johnson is known for employing A-list actors in many of his well-funded films.
His latest entry into the episodic television format is no different.
“Poker Face” is Peacock’s newest original series that stars Natasha Lyonne as casino cocktail server Charlie Cale. Introduced as a no-nonsense “human lie detector,” Charlie has a knack for getting involved in sticky situations while attempting to solve a mystery in the process. She also has a sordid history of being a card shark, a skill that allows her to cut through the bullshit in any given situation.
Created by Rian Johnson, “Poker Face” is a case-of-the-week inverted detective dramedy where the crux of the crime occurs at the beginning of each episode. Charlie goes on the run after the first episode, where she finds herself in deep shit after a blackmailing scheme of her casino boss (Adrien Brody) goes wrong. While on the run, chased by the casino’s head of security (Benjamin Bratt) for much of the series, Charlie drives a forced tour of Route 66 to discover new cases everywhere she stops.
Along the way, Charlie encounters a multitude of characters played by a whos who of popular performers: Hong Chau, Lil Rel Howry, Stephanie Hsu, Chloë Sevigny, Jameela Jamil, Danielle Macdonald, Simon Helberg, Nick Nolte, Judith Light, Ron Perlman, Colton Ryan, Clea DuVall, Luis Guzmán, Cherry Jones, Tim Blake Nelson, Ellen Barkin, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Natasha Lyonne is utter perfection as the haphazard Coors Light imbibing Charlie Cale. With her signature gravelly voice straight out of a 1940s journalist flick, Lyonne can be counted on to stick the landing of comedy while Charlie is tasked to “see through the cards” throughout her journeys.
Every new episode of “Poker Face” brings complex vignettes of the great American road trip, complete with new environments every time (Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas, to name a few). Within each episode and town Charlie stops in, a new case emerges for her to solve. No, she isn’t an actual detective, but Charlie inserts her natural investigative skills into sketchy situations that might need another pair of eyes. It’s effortlessly effective in how Lyonne approaches the character, believable in its execution despite the absurd nature of the premise.
This is a mystery series devoted to the genre not seen in television shows for a while.
The first four episodes of “Poker Face” will be available to stream on Peacock on January 26, with new episodes dropping each week after that.