Poker Face: A Review by Warren Bull
Peacock Network has a new mystery show that caught my attention even though it is early in first season. Ten shows are planned. Like many earlier and successful television shows, it features a different crime every week. It avoids de-populating a small town, by being a road trip.
Award-winning Filmmaker, Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper, Star Wars, the Last Jedi, Knives Out, Glass Onion, A Knives Out Mystery, and Knives Out 3) created the series. Natasha Lyonne portrays Charlie Cale, a gravel-voiced, trailer park resident, and unofficial detective.
Charlie has the quirks and observational skills of Jessica Fletcher or Sherlock Holmes. Like Columbo, the question is not who killed whom, but how will they NOT get away with the crime. Unlike Columbo, Charlie has no police authority. What’s worse, she is on the run herself from a crime family enforcer, Cliff Legrand, played by Benjamin Bratt.
In the first episode, Charlie works as a waitress in a casino bar and lives more or less contentedly in a trailer only slightly better than the one Rockford owned. The new casino manager, the son of a Mafia boss, is ineptly trying to keep up a legendary casino/resort. The audience gradually learns that Charlie works there as a result of a deal she made with the Mafia boss. She has a modest income and a home in return for not employing her remarkable skill. She can tell immediately and completely accurately when someone is lying.
In the past, she haunted low to moderate poker games, where she won each game by using her skill. Gamblers noted her success. The mob boss became intrigued and eventually figured out why she won so often. She was blacklisted from games. The boss negotiated a deal where she would never play poker and he would not kill her.
The Boss’s son discovers her ability. He is angry that one of the casino’s biggest betters, known as “a whale” uses the casino for the site of unauthorized games of his own, cutting the casino out of the money made for sponsored games.
Note: This is accurate. A few wealthy players attract action that all casinos covet. In the show, the son said his father gave him only two instructions before making his manager – “Keep the carpet clean and never upset a whale.”
A maid, cleaning the whale’s room and unaware that he is in the shower, walks in and sees the television running something on a videotape that the audience cannot see. It shocks her profoundly. She tells the manager, who assures her he will deal with the matter. He sends her home.
The hotel security director, a mob enforcer, at the instruction of the manager, kills the maid, making it appear that her boyfriend murdered her and then committed suicide.
Meanwhile, the manager bugs and secretly has a camera put in the whale’s suite. He convinces Charlie to watch the high-stakes game and to tell him when the whale is lying so he can tell a competitor in the game and take the whale’s money.
Charlie figures out the murder. Her encounter with the local police makes it clear they are working with the casino’s owner. From there you can watch to show to see what she does and how she does it.
Suffice it to say she ends up on the road in her 1967 Plymouth Barracuda fleeing the mob enforcer.
At each stop along the road, she looks for a job that pays cash and does not ask questions. At every stop she enlists local help to bring some sort of justice to the wrong-doers she unwittingly happens across.
I find the concept original. The filming is much better than the average television quality. Charlie is a fascinating character.
My highest recommendation for this show.