Poker Face is a 10-episode mystery-of-the-week series following Natasha Lyonne’s Charlie, who has an extraordinary ability to determine when someone is lying. She hits the road with her Plymouth Barracuda and with every stop encounters a new cast of characters and strange crimes she can’t help but solve.
Okay, I realize I’m hedging just a little bit because Season One hasn’t ended yet but here I am, telling you to watch the whole shebang, because there is NO way this show will disappoint me in the last few episodes. It’s just WAY too good, to the point where I’m gonna be incensed if there is no Season Two. (Rian Johnson, don’t even try to tell me this is a limited series, because I will have NONE of that.)
So, Charlie Cale is living a pretty low-key life in Vegas, working as a casino waitress by day and drinking beers outside of her trailer by night, when one of her coworkers ends up dead. Since Charlie has an unexplained-but-just-go-with-it ability to tell when someone is lying, she tries to track down the truth of what happened, which—skipping past any spoilers—leads to her hitting the road and living the life of a nomad. She picks up an odd job in every town where she’s temporarily living, and wouldn’t you know it, she always ends up in a place where someone’s been murdered!
One of the best aspects of the show is the episode formula: you see the murder happen at the beginning, so you know who the killer is. The joy of Poker Face is in watching Charlie engage with various witnesses (a.k.a. suspects) to try to puzzle out what happened.
Natasha Lyonne as Charlie Cale
Charlie is this generation’s Columbo, and damn, was Natasha Lyonne born to play this role. Between her raspy voice, her quizzical brow, and her charming smirk, Natasha makes Charlie layered enough to invest in without overshadowing the colorful parade of characters in the room. The best detectives are always in tune with (and/or fascinated by) their fellow humans, and Charlie’s gut for the truth is complimented not only by her empathy, but often by her genuine bewilderment at the antics swirling around her.
Judith Light as Irene Smothers, S. Epatha Merkerson as Joyce Harris
Speaking of characters, holy moly does this series have dynamite guest stars! It’s always a treat to see who shows up, so I won’t spoil it for you, but I did want to give you a taste, thus the photo of Judith Light and S. Epatha Merkerson. These two legends play besties living together in a nursing home (in this episode, Charlie works there), and the shit they get up to is stuff only Rian Johnson could dream up.
Unsurprisingly, every single guest star seems to be having the time of their LIFE, which only adds to the crackling energy in each episode. No offense to Jessica Fletcher, but this is a detective show that really knows how to have a good time.
Couch-Sharing Capability: Friendly Face
The folks onscreen make for excellent company, so you could definitely watch solo, but a show this fun basically demands a party. You’ll want someone you can laugh with, someone you can ask, “Wait, where do I know her/him from?”, someone with whom you can shriek with glee every time Charlie solves the mystery.
Recommended Level of Inebriation: Tipsy Face
I don’t recommend drinking too much, since you’ll want to be able to follow along with Charlie’s investigation, BUT this woman has a healthy appreciation for beer, so feel free to indulge alongside her.
Use of Your Streaming Subscription: Happy Face
Y’all, at the risk of raising your expectations too high (JK, that’s impossible), Poker Face is one of the best mystery-of-the-week series I’ve ever seen, and certainly the most entertaining. It’s clever, it’s twisted, it’s darkly funny, and it’s 100% satisfying TV. And that, to quote Charlie, is no bullshit.