Rian Johnson’s new murder mystery comedy series is aflush with intrigue, great storytelling, and a constellation of knockout guest stars.
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In any given week of American television, there are no fewer than 15 crime shows trying to satisfy the public’s craving for murder mysteries with potent doses of copaganda fashioned into tales “ripped from the headlines.” At first, it almost seems as if Poker Face — Peacock’s new comedy drama from Rian Johnson — is merely trying to riff on that style of storytelling with its slightly offbeat premise and consistently superb cinematography. But rather than scratching our collective whodunit itch with overwrought stories about how cops are the only people really fighting for justice, Poker Face calls bullshit on the entire idea and focuses instead on being a series of fascinating character-driven puzzles.
Poker Face chronicles the adventures of Charlie Cale (Natasha Lyonne), an industrious former poker player who is definitely not a cop and doesn’t think all that much about her unique ability to tell when people are lying as the series first opens. While Charlie can’t always intuit exactly how people are being willfully deceptive, she knows when they’re being honest with her and how to think on her feet — the ideal skills for a woman looking to avoid too much trouble with the shady gambling types she once ran with.
After Charlie’s lie-detecting power turns her into a blacklisted pariah in poker-playing circles, she’s more than happy to spend her days waiting tables at a local casino run by Sterling Frost Jr. (Adrien Brody) and steering clear of the shady characters that seem to gravitate toward her boss. But when a good friend and co-worker of Charlie’s mysteriously turns up dead one day in a way that sets her sixth sense ringing, she finds herself becoming pulled into the world of amateur detective work and pushed to flee town in order to save her own life.