Review by Sean Boelman
Rian Johnson is one of the hottest names in Hollywood right now, with Glass Onion’s massive release last month on Netflix still having the internet abuzz. Thankfully, those clamoring for more Johnson content need not wait long, as his “inverted detective” series Poker Face is launching on Peacock and will become your next obsession.
The show follows a woman with an incredible ability to determine when someone is lying as she hits the road on the lam, only for trouble to follow close behind, as she uses her skills to solve a series of mysterious murders. Unlike the Knives Out films, which follow a whodunnit structure, Poker Face is a “howcatchem,” which creates suspense in a totally different, yet still effective way.
The great part about this show is how every episode presents a new mystery for the protagonist to solve. As such, we’re essentially brought into a new world with each episode. And the supporting characters we meet — some murderers, others victims, and some bystanders who get caught in the crosshairs — are thoroughly entertaining.
Additionally, the anthology-like structure of the series gives it an opportunity to change its style with each episode. The pilot, directed by Johnson himself, is set in Vegas and is perhaps one of the most exciting hours of television you will ever watch in your life. However, each episode has a murder sequence that is pulled off exceedingly entertainingly.
As the human lie detector, Charlie, Natasha Lyonne gives us what might be one of the greatest television heroines in the history of the medium. Lyonne’s comedic timing is spot-on — though we already knew that — and she balances the wry sarcasm of the character with an approachable and lovable quality necessary for us to get behind someone so flawed.
Of course, being that Poker Face is a project with Rian Johnson as the main creative force behind it, its ensemble is full of recognizable A-list stars. But what is special about this show is that it is so low stakes — these actors have never played these roles before and probably never will again — that they can go all-in on their turns and have the time of their lives. Highlights include Adrien Brody, Chloë Sevigny, Tim Meadows, and (recent Oscar-nominee) Hong Chau.
However, perhaps more impressive is that the characters manage to feel so fleshed-out and lived in despite us only having between thirty minutes and an hour to get to know each world being built. And while the insertion of Lyonne’s protagonist often feels convenient, viewers will be interested enough in the parties involved in the murder for it not to feel like a distraction.
Poker Face might be one of the most entertaining and well-crafted shows on the air right now, but considering the talent in front of and behind the camera, that should come as no surprise. Hopefully audiences will love this as much as they do Johnson’s whodunnits so we can get more adventures with our makeshift detective.
Poker Face streams on Peacock beginning January 26. Six out of ten episodes reviewed.