Rian Johnson’s New Mystery Series “Poker Face” With Natasha Lyonne is a Royal Flush With Critics
Who better to revive the mystery-of-the-week concept than Mr. Knives Out himself, Rian Johnson, and Ms. Russian Doll herself, Natasha Lyonne? The pairing is too perfect, and the conceit of their new mystery series is too delicious, so you’d be forgiven for assuming that Poker Face (Peacock) would merely deliver a pleasing new diversion, a pair of Jacks if you will. Instead, critics are calling Poker Face a royal flush.
Here’s the conceit; Lyonne plays Charlie Cale, a woman with the incredible ability to determine whether someone is lying. Right there, imagining a performer with Lyonne’s truly singular gifts playing a human lie detector test is comedic gold, yet Johnson puts her on the road in her Plymouth Barracuda and sends her on a series of mysteries, plunging her into new scenes with new characters committing fresh crimes. Due to her incredible ability, Charlie can’t help but solve the crimes as she merrily rolls along.
Lyonne’s charisma is enough to carry any series, but like her own series, Russian Doll, Poker Face surrounds her with great actors working with richly conceived material. Here, Lyonne becomes a modern-day Columbo, an ace sleuth carrying the burden of living in a world of lies and deceit she can see from a mile away. Yet her Charlie isn’t some hard-charging wannabe detective; she’s a self-described “dumbass” (as she calls herself in the first episode), and it’s only because she has no other choice that Charlie hits the road and starts solving crimes.
Lyonne is joined by a starry cast including Adrien Brody, Benjamin Bratt, Judith Light, Hong Chau, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Chloë Sevigny, Ron Perlman, Ellen Barkin, Nick Nolte, Lil Rey Howery, Tim Blake Nelson, and more.
So now that you’ve gotten this barebones sketch of what Johnson and Lyonne are up to, let’s take a quick stroll through some of what the critics are saying. Poker Face is now streaming on Peacock (four episodes worth!), with new episodes appearing on Thursdays.
My #PokerFace feelings are embargoed no more! In case you hadn’t figured it out by now, I love Rian Johnson and Natasha Lyonne’s modern spin on the classic Mystery of the Week series. My full review: https://t.co/tY9qucVJZ6 pic.twitter.com/z5R1zkOaV0
— Alan Sepinwall (@sepinwall) January 25, 2023
There’s scarcely a person on this Earth as charismatic as Natasha Lyonne—as rumpled and chaotic and fun to watch, writes @sophieGG, after watching the actor’s new show, “Poker Face”: https://t.co/952ZCBiYV6
— The Atlantic (@TheAtlantic) January 26, 2023
Inhaled the first six episodes of #PokerFace, and came here to say that Rian Johnson and Natasha Lyonne are doing it BIG for the Columbo heads. “Good” doesn’t even begin to describe the show, but I tried to get into what I loved about it in my review: https://t.co/dCRvRLp2zh
— Charles PM (@CharlesPulliam) January 25, 2023
The new series ‘Poker Face’ is a throwback to ‘Columbo,’ and while it might not be instantly obvious, Natasha Lyonne is the Peter Falk of her generation, our critic writes. https://t.co/HSM3eM0Udy
— NPR (@NPR) January 26, 2023
— Deadline Hollywood (@DEADLINE) January 25, 2023
Now that #PokerFace is out, it’s worth pausing to acknowledge Steve Yedlin’s cinematography on the pilot.
In keeping with the seventies influence, there’s a lovely golden hue, and it’s shot in shadows evoking Gordon Willis.
It’s gorgeous. pic.twitter.com/3Zcb6zEiZl
— Darren Mooney (@Darren_Mooney) January 26, 2023
it’s not just that Poker Face is episodic: it’s that it’s radically uninterested in the simple and sloppy cliffhanger surprise tension of typical streaming mysteries. it is the very rare kind of mystery that cares more about middles than ends.https://t.co/jGK8ltD6TP
— Kathryn VanArendonk (@kvanaren) January 25, 2023
— William Goodman (@goodmanw) January 25, 2023
— The A.V. Club (@TheAVClub) January 26, 2023
I loved, loved POKER FACE. https://t.co/d7niH8bneS
— Linda Holmes thisislindaholmes.com (@lindaholmes) January 25, 2023