“Poker Face” Season 1 Review

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The present builds pressure most successfully when it intertwines its season-long runaway arc with its episodic mysteries. Within the season’s standout second episode, Johnson strikes this steadiness properly with a easy storytelling instrument. When Charlie makes use of an ATM, she units a four-hour countdown on her watch, giving herself a strict deadline to get out of city earlier than her outdated boss’s head safety guard exhibits up. As she works to resolve the episode’s thriller, she retains checking her watch, squirming every time she wonders if she ought to keep to show her new pal’s innocence or depart to avoid wasting herself. It makes each clue really feel extra treasured and each setback extra nail-biting. 

Later episodes ditch this urgency fully, as an alternative making Charlie’s life in hiding really feel extra like a carefree romp. In these episodes, the present derives its leisure much less from the suspense of mystery-solving and extra from the shiny thrill of constructing new worlds with bizarre characters. Essentially the most profitable iterations of this work due to the potent chemistry of visitor actors. In an episode the place Charlie joins a middle-aged metallic band on its reunion tour, Chloë Sevigny’s steely lead singer Ruby Damage finds an unlikely rival in Gavin, the grubby younger drummer she picked up off of Craigslist, performed by an effervescent Nicholas Cirillo. They conflict time and again: Ruby in head-to-toe black latex performing alongside Gavin in a sweaty tank high, Ruby telling Gavin to close up whereas he shrieks about his adoration for her music. The delights of their dynamic make it simple to forgive the components of the episode that really feel crammed in, as within the blink-and-you-miss-it montage the place the killers lay their lure, or within the abrupt revelation, mid-episode, that Charlie had been accompanying the band the entire time, simply out of body. 

However the least profitable variations of this sort of episode — extra vibes, much less plot — recycle tropes that Johnson already relied upon earlier within the season. For instance, one lackluster story, set at a neighborhood theater, facilities on an growing older actor staging a comeback. Although Ellen Barkin acts her coronary heart out, the determined diva she performs seems like a extra clichéd model of the bitter hardcore punk we noticed in Sevigny two episodes earlier than.

As a style, the homicide thriller is especially accommodating of tropes and formulation. It’s a extremely stylized sort of storytelling that usually relies on elaborate plot pivots and spectacularly shady characters. It’s usually enjoyable to witness Johnson’s favourite patterns come again to play in Poker Face. Adrien Brody gives a slimier spin on the fool billionaire archetype performed by Edward Norton in Glass Onion. Charlie’s skill to detect lies is equally helpful and much much less somber when in comparison with Marta’s (Ana de Armas) lack of ability to lie in Knives Out. However seeing Johnson’s storytelling instincts iterated time and again over a number of hourlong episodes makes the weak factors stick out, and the predictability of every self-contained story wearisome.

This predictability is considerably intentional, in that it’s constructed into the precise setup Johnson makes use of. He skips the traditional Sherlock Holmes premise during which readers or viewers arrive on the scene alongside the detective and must piece the clues collectively after the very fact. As an alternative, every episode provides the sport away inside the first quarter-hour. Viewers bear witness to the precise circumstances of the homicide, together with who did it and the way. In 4 of the six episodes made out there to critics, viewers additionally instantly discover out the killers’ motives. The killers at all times body another person or make it appear to be an accident, so Charlie has to piece collectively the reality from lies she overhears. However as a result of viewers know the reality from the start, the again halves of those episodes can really feel like ready for Charlie to catch up. By the point she will get round to confronting the killers in a long-winded monologue, it’s onerous in charge a viewer for being prepared to maneuver on. ●

“Poker Face” Season 1 Review

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