Oh, what’s good, John-O?
— Charlie Cale, ‘Poker Face’
Those were the first words spoken by the lead character, Charlie Cale, as she stumbles out of a falling apart trailer to grab a beer in the first episode (‘Dead Man’s Hand’) of the new show Poker Face. The actress who plays Charlie, Natasha Lyonne, comes direct from New York City, so the raspy sound coming off of her lips is more like Jan-Oh than John-O— at least, to my Canadian ears.
Poker Face is a new series by Rian Johnson, best known lately for his Knives Out films on Netflix, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Series is not quite the right word to use when describing this show as it doesn’t need to be watched in order to be understood, except for the first episode. Each of the episodes that have been available (four upon the show’s release last week) are little morsels of goodness that can be enjoyed on their own without feeling anxious about what will occur next.
The structure of the shows will remind a lot of people within my generation or older of the police procedural shows from the past, especially Columbo and Murder She Wrote. Those shows generally allowed the audience to bear witness to the murders and watched the investigator unravel the mystery. Poker Face is like that as well, with a key difference: Charlie ain’t no cop, and she makes that very clear to everyone she meets. But she can smell bullshit.
The title of the show comes from Charlie’s previous life as a poker player, hustling from coast to coast, and causing troubles along the way. Her ability to sniff out the lies people tell her is how she ends up feeling compelled to hang around and solve the murders. If the audience pays attention, the clues are laid out earlier in the episodes in how she will solve the mystery. The real mystery with this show is how will Charlie end up discovering the clues and connecting the dots? Each episode adds an extra twist on the end which is a welcomed surprise.
This is a brisk and fun show that I have thoroughly enjoyed watching. Each episode has some cameos from some larger stars who play roles that you definitely wouldn’t imagine them playing. Adrien Brody (The Pianist, numerous other films) is the head of a casino; Chloë Sevigny (Big Love, American Horror Story) is the lead singer of a failing rock band; Hong Chau (most recently in The Menu) is a truck driver looking for a hookup; Stephanie Hsu (Everything Everywhere All at Once), John Hodgman, Nick Nolte, Ron Perlman, and others are to appear later in the season.
The four episodes that I have watched have been full of wit and some humorous situations that happen out of bad luck. The only annoying thing about the show is it is on yet another streaming service. In Canada, it’s on City+ which is a separate channel on Amazon Prime Video.In the United States, it’s on Peacock TV.
The effort to watch this show is worth it though. Highly recommended.
For more reading about the show, check out: