Rian Johnson’s Poker Face TV Review

We review the new Peacock series Poker Face from Knives Out director Rian Johnson, starring Natasha Lyonne.

Last Updated on February 8, 2023


Plot: 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. 

Review: Rian Johnson has transformed his director career, starting with indie darlings like Brick and Looper before jumping to the biggest canvas out there with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Johnson’s favorite genre has consistently been Mystery, with his Benoit Blanc films Knives Out and Glass Onion becoming massive hits with fans and critics alike. His latest project, Poker Face, continues in the mystery genre with a distinct take on whodunit and crime stories which blends anthology storytelling with a cool wraparound tale led by Natasha Lyonne. Poker Face is a blast from start to finish, with some great direction from Rian Johnson and several other filmmakers, and a big cast full of stars, big screen and small, who inhabit this world as a playground for telling a wide array of stories within the confines of a long-form series

Poker Face,Peacock,Rian Johnson,Natasha Lyonne

Poker Face has all of the signature elements we have come to expect from Rian Johnson, who serves as creator of the series, writer of two episodes, and director of four. The ten-episode first season opens with an hour-long mystery that sets the stage for the over-arching narrative that connects these standalone episodes together. Charlie Cale (Natasha Lyonne) is a waitress working at a casino after being caught running a scam during poker games. Charlie has the uncanny ability to tell if someone is lying or telling the truth simply by looking at them and listening to what they say. When she comes out of retirement to use this skill again, an enforcer (Benjamin Bratt) and a dangerous man (Ron Perlman) from her past begin a hunt for her, which sends Charlie on the road. She gets caught up in many situations that bring her trademark skill to the forefront.

Most of the footage in the trailers for Poker Face comes from the first episode, including Adrien Brody’s great role. Almost all of the actors aside from Natasha Lyonne are billed in the trailer as “guest stars” because this series harkens back to the old-school mystery shows of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s like The Fugitive, The Rockford Files, Magnum P.I., and The Fall Guy, all of which featured a star who met new characters each week played by some of the biggest names in Hollywood. For Poker Face, Rian Johnson brings back actors he has worked with in the past, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and a massive ensemble of talent, including Nick Nolte, Ellen Barkin, Chloe Sevigny, Tim Meadows, Lil Rel Howery, Stephanie Hsu, Hong Chau, Jameela Jamil, Luis Guzman, Tim Blake Nelson, Clea DuVall, and many more. All of these actors balance the dark humor in Poker Face with the mystery elements, akin to Knives Out, but with more of a road trip vibe.


Natasha Lyonne, who is fantastic in Russian Doll, brings a similar energy to Charlie Cale as she did to Nadia in her Netflix hit. Evoking a little bit of Peter Falk as Columbo, Lyonne’s husky voice and signature attitude make Charlie an instantly likable character who is a blast to watch. While her unique skill as a human lie detector is well beyond suspension of disbelief, it is a fun little twist that makes this series fun to watch. It also explains her fun cameo in Glass Onion, which I hope may someday have Charlie share the screen with Daniel Craig as Beniot Blanc. Lyonne’s energy as Charlie allows her to become fast friends with the characters in each episode, uniquely positioning her to know the victims before they die. This gives her the investment to solve their deaths and provides audiences with an original way of experiencing the mystery unfolding. Like in his big screen whodunits, Rian Johnson is more interested in the characters surrounding the crime than the crime itself. In Poker Face, each crime unfolds in the episode’s opening before going back and showing us how Charlie figures it all out.

Alongside Rian Johnson, filmmakers Iain B. MacDonald direct two episodes, Ben Sinclair and Lucky McKee direct one each, as do Tiffany Johnson and Janicza Bravo. Star Natasha Lyonne, who serves as executive producer alongside Maya Rudolph, co-wrote an episode she also directs. The writers and directors of this series give each episode a sense of humor that blankets the violent crimes at the center of the tales. While the deaths are no laughing matter, the innocent and guilty characters’ foibles and quirks are entertaining to watch. From the twangy score to the editing and cinematography, Poker Face never looks like a television series but instead ten mini-movies. Like Rian Johnson’s big-screen productions, this show has a sense of macabre fun that makes it hard to dislike anything about it.

Poker Face,Peacock,Rian Johnson,Natasha Lyonne

Poker Face plays like a collection of stories rather than a single novel. Like Agatha Christie had Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, now Rian Johnson has both Benoit Blanc and Charlie Cale. Two very different investigators, Charlie and Blanc, do share one thing in common: they are fun to watch. Where Blanc is an investigator and a professional, Charlie is an amateur who stumbles into solving crimes. Both are unique, but the talented actors who portray them can blend in with any cast. Rian Johnson and Natasha Lyonne have done phenomenal work in bringing this series to life and resurrecting a format of storytelling that has grown stale on the small screen. Poker Face is a great series that works in every way and serves as a love letter to areas of the United States that are not showcased often enough on screen.

Rian Johnson’s Poker Face premieres on January 26th on Peacock.

Poker Face



Source: JoBlo.com

About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.