Reviewed by Alicia Glass
On the run from a murderous former casino boss, gifted (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) truthsayer Charlie Cale hits the road in her Plymouth Barracuda, hiding in the backwater bayous and forgotten places of rural America, where she makes all sorts of unique friends and inevitably ends up unwillingly solving murder cases!
The show is done as an inverted howcatchem, a case-of-the-week murder mystery series likened to the old Columbo show, each week a seemingly-random murder in some out-of-the-way place occurs on the periphery of Charlie’s consciousness, and her sense of justice and fairness and just-can’t-let-it-go-ness inevitably leads Charlie to get involved. Packing her “bullsh*t-meter”, that is, her ability to just somehow know when a person is lying and a whole hell of a lot of steel nothin-but-nerve to back it up since Charlie doesn’t usually even carry weapons, our often-indigent heroine and her Barracuda cruise the long-hidden places of America, always only a half-step ahead of the hitman Cliff (Benjamin Bratt) sent after her! Natasha Lyonne, who stars as Charlie Cale, is no stranger to peculiar roles (see Russian Doll, Antibirth, Yoga Hosers and oh so many more), and this one is right up there with the rest.
Most of the time the casino boss after Charlie is just a rather familiar if threatening gravelly voice over a phone, sending Cliff to appear like the specter of Death showing up to loom over Charlie menacingly. The last couple of episodes of the season however, feature an in-person involved role of the Man himself, Ron Perlman in all his devastating glory, as murderous casino boss Sterling Frost Sr.
Each episode, while featuring a storyline full of murder and mystery and happy who-done-it-ness, is also chock-full of glowing celebrity cameos – Cherry Jones, Tim Meadows, Ellen Barkin, Nick Nolte, Lil Rel Howery, Pedro Hollywood, Hong Chau, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Chloe Sevigny, to name just a few – giving each actor a cool chance to remind us all why they’re considered big-name well-rounded actors with serious chops. The show is brought to us by the notable Rian Johnson, who also gave us both Knives Out and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, who also tailor-made the role for Lyonne, as a kind of outside-the-law lady Columbo jaunt.
Cheer on Charlie Cale and all the interesting friends and enemies she makes along the way, in Poker Face available on Peacock now!