Poker Face FAQ
What’s it called?
Rian Johnson, who wrote and directed the acclaimed motion pictures “The Last Jedi,” “Glass Onion,” “Knives Out,” “Looper” and “Brick,” created the series and serves as showrunner. He also wrote and directed the first episode.
What’s it about?
Natasha Lyonne (“Orange Is The New Black,” “Russian Doll") plays Charlie Cale, a Nevada cocktail waitress who possesses an unfailing, almost supernatural ability to discern when someone is or isn’t lying. When she runs afoul of a vengeful, murderous casino owner, she flees east. Coincidentally, somebody gets murdered in every town she stops in and she ends up using her uncanny superpower to identify the killers.
Natasha Lyonne? Is “Poker Face” anywhere near as good as the Emmy-nominated “Russian Doll”?
It’s better. Way better. The pragmatic, foul-mouthed amateur detective amuses greatly and makes better use of Lyonne than anything else I’ve seen her in.* Charlie’s typically hilarious dialogue makes her a worthy successor to both Jim Rockford and Lieutenant Columbo. I realize this is high praise, but that praise is earned.
(*Though she’s rarely been cast as a project’s lead character, the 43-year-old actress has worked A TON since since Woody Allen cast a 16-year-old Lyonne in his 1996 comedy-musical “Everybody Says I Love You.”)
The big news?
While Charlie’s earthy, unpretentious nature will remind many of Columbo, the “Poker Face” format will remind many of “Columbo.” In each episode a) we learn early who the murderer is, as the murder is committed and b) the series lead does not appear onscreen until the murderer is done with murdering.
So this is basically R-rated “Columbo”?
One strange but agreeable difference: After each murder, we flash back and learn that Charlie recently met both the murderer and murderee before the murder. She never witnesses the murder, but it’s revealed she’s always *just* offscreen when it happens.
Also? I’ve coincidentally been watching a lot of old “Columbo” episodes of late and can tell you that, while Peter Falk was never less than spectacular in his most famous role, some of those mystery movies were far better than others. There’s not a clanker among the first six “Poker Face” episodes made available to critics.
What else is great?
Charlie is by no means the only entertaining character and Johnson has assembled a stellar roster of guest actors to bring the stories to life. Hong Chao, Stephanie Hsu, Megan Siri, Simon Helberg, Chloe Sevigny, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Adrian Brody, Ellen Barkin, Nick Nolte, Tim Blake Nelson, Cherry Jones, Tim Meadows, Clea Duvall, Jameela Jamil, Benjamin Bratt, Lil Rel Howery, John Ratzenberger, Rhea Perlman, Ron Perlman, Tim Russ and Luis Guzman are among the most familiar faces, but less familiar thespians like Audrey Corsa turn in nifty work as well.
I warn you not to defy me!
I am – Hercules!!