From the beginning, it is no secret that the brand new collection Poker Face is a throwback to an earlier period of tv — to Columbo, particularly. The opening titles even recall the yellow Columbo font. And whereas it won’t be immediately apparent that Natasha Lyonne is the Peter Falk of her technology, by the tip of a few episodes, you’ll imagine.
Poker Face was created by Rian Johnson, the author and director of Knives Out and Glass Onion, who directed and wrote some, although not all, of the episodes. His sense of construction — the concept that you do not withhold every little thing till the tip, even in one thing that is executed within the fashion of a thriller — recalled Columbo to start with. (Each episode of Columbo, for individuals who might not be followers, began with the viewer seeing what really occurred, and the remaining was watching Columbo determine it out.) So it is smart that he is created a present right here that, in a similar way, exhibits the crime itself on the high, then tells the longer story of the way it got here to occur and the way it unravels. However as a substitute of a detective, these tales intersect with the lifetime of Charlie Cale, performed by Lyonne, whom we first meet as a on line casino employee prized for her capacity to inform when persons are mendacity.
The primary episode sees Charlie get twisted up in a large number that includes her boss (Adrien Brody) and his henchman (Benjamin Bratt). That thriller, in flip, places her at risk and sends her on the run. Subsequent episodes discover her in varied elements of the nation, scratching collectively money in odd jobs.
One benefit of this format is that it permits Charlie to cross paths with a formidable lineup of visitor stars. There’s trucker performed by (new Oscar nominee for The Whale) Hong Chau, feuding actors performed by Ellen Barkin and Tim Meadows, a barbecue entrepreneur performed by Lil Rel Howery, retirement neighborhood residents performed by Judith Mild and Regulation & Order legend S. Epatha Merkerson, and musicians performed by Chloe Sevigny and The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle. All these tales are self-contained, as a result of whilst she tries to flee her personal perilous scenario, Charlie stumbles into against the law in each city.
Naturally, Charlie’s story is partly a travelogue. Poker Face takes her to quite a lot of totally different places, however Johnson’s love of the dusty landscapes he shot in a few nice episodes of Breaking Dangerous is echoed in Charlie’s preliminary Vegas residence (there is a terrific shot of her sitting in a folding chair exterior her trailer) and in a few of the desolate roads she finally ends up on later. However these standalone episodes (critics have gotten to see six out of what is going to finally be 10) take the collection into a wonderful number of totally different worlds.
And on the middle of the present and its enchantment is Natasha Lyonne. On the one hand, she is an actor who’s all the time herself — she does not typically disappear into roles in a means that can make you say, “Oh wow, that is Natasha Lyonne?” However on the identical time, there are shadings to her work right here which might be totally different from, as an example, her extremely regarded function in Netflix’s Russian Doll. She’s extra relaxed and beneath management on this half, nonetheless humorous and nonetheless totally distinctive, but additionally cautious and deliberate. Charlie is an effective bit happier, too, even when she’s in hassle.
Lyonne’s have an effect on is sort of all the time one in all world-weariness, of getting seen loads, which makes her a pure as a girl like Charlie, whose amassed experiences make her skeptical, fast on her toes and sympathetic. If Columbo was all the time getting tied up in mysteries as a result of he is a detective and it is his job, Charlie retains getting tied up in them as a result of she does not like liars and it bugs her when unfair issues — whether or not violence or false accusations — occur to individuals she meets and likes.
And the main target stays on the characters, as a result of thankfully, Poker Face makes sparing use of Charlie’s particular expertise for realizing when persons are mendacity. As she explains it, so long as an individual is mendacity deliberately — that’s, they know what they’re saying is not true, versus being fallacious — she will be able to all the time inform. This might simply turn out to be an lazy shortcut, the place she all the time immediately solves the entire case based mostly on her magical skills. However her particular radar is deployed not often, to the purpose the place you may neglect she even can do that till it comes up. And it is not often a couple of massive and central lie (like “I did not kill him!”), however a couple of small and seemingly insignificant lie (like “I had fish for dinner”) that sends her on the lookout for a proof.
The drop schedule for Poker Face truthfully is a bit baffling; a pure candidate for a week-to-week launch, it is as a substitute getting 4 episodes dropped on Peacock on January 26, after which the remaining will likely be one per week. However no matter pacing you select, it is a terrific present, humorous and sensible, that accomplishes precisely the mix of homage and experimentation that it guarantees.