Rian Johnson, the mind behind the “Knives Out” films, has created Peacock’s newest hit. The incredibly human “Poker Face” stars Natasha Lyonne as Charlie Cale – a cocktail waitress in Vegas with a granulated voice, saturated fringe and chunky mascara – who has the innate ability to tell if someone is lying, and she is always right.
Lyonne as Charlie Cale is an example of when a character and actor serve each other so well that they meet in the middle as if they were one existing person. She makes acting look easy. Sure, anyone can do it, but no one can do it like her. She has a distinctive nonchalance, charisma and comedic timing that makes all her performances, but especially Charlie Cale, memorable.
Of course, this is all possible thanks to the work of great screenwriters and casting directors. Johnson is a credited writer in the five released episodes, and other credited writers include Alice Ju and Christine Boylan.
I was devastated when I finished the fourth episode, “Rest In Metal,” and discovered the series was not binge-able. “Poker Face” debuted on Jan. 26 with four episodes available to stream. Though I wanted to watch more, weekly Thursday episodes build anticipation, allow for curiosity and help preserve the show’s quality. What makes “Poker Face” worth binging – and waiting for – is the impeccable way the plot deviates from what is expected.
I’ve heard that “Poker Face” resembles the detective show “Columbo,” which aired in 1968. The former’s aesthetic is definitely rooted in the ‘70s, yet the show’s subjects are nuanced and relevant to our time. It makes reference to the political climate, especially in the South, in addition to true crime podcasts, the pandemic, the movie “Okja” and cotton candy vapes. It is an excellent show for everyone to watch, but especially for those who are storytellers themselves.
In each episode, the audience can observe why specific characters are drawn to impulsive, violent measures. The audience learns what motivates the characters, what their hopes and fears are and how they conspire together and against each other. These are the elements that create a fully formed character. Excellent guest actors, such as Dascha Polanco from “Orange is the New Black,” Lil Rel Howery from “Get Out” and Oscar winner Adrien Brody, appear in “Poker Face.”
The show is human yet campy, insightful and humorous. “Poker Face” is an excellent commentary on our time and a masterful ode to vintage detective shows. With a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, I’m sure many other watchers are eager for the second season. The trouble is, the show’s formula could get old.
In the first few episodes, Charlie Cale is shown to be an avid drinker – opening a can of Coors Light after waking up and sitting in the sun outside her trailer. As the episodes continue and Charlie encounters more characters and situations, she is shown to drink less. This could lead to the possible self-actualization of the character. As the show continues, the greatness will ultimately lie in Charlie Cale’s growth as a character.
Photo courtesy of Peabody Awards, Wikipedia