Poker Face: Season One Blu-ray Review: An Extremely Clever TV Series

I am a crime junkie and it is rare that something comes along in this genre that is new and fresh. Poker Face is that. Created by Rian Johnson, the extremely clever series follows Charlie Cale (Natasha Lyonne) who has a unique ability to act as a human lie-detector. While working in a Laughlin, Nevada casino, her best friend is murdered. When Charlie realizes who is behind it, she is forced to go on the run. This results in her roaming from town to town, confronted by mysterious deaths to be solved. While being primarily a crime series, the show is also reminiscent of The Incredible Hulk and The Fugitive in that Charlie touches the lives of people she interacts with in a meaningful way.

Each episode starts with the murder being committed, an ode to the historic series Columbo starting Peter Falk. While I have never been a fan of the “howcatchem” type of series as I prefer the “whodunnit?” to try and solve the mystery along with the crime solver. In this instance, I am a huge fan of the distinctive way Charlie is brought into each crime. She isn’t an outsider and the revelations of her level of involvement in each situation is brilliant. It was such a special surprise each episode that there will be no spoilers here.

The episodes stand on their own while including the subplot throughout of why Charlie is on the run. Since Charlie is not in law enforcement, the resulting resolutions from her investigation is not traditional yet still satisfying. There are instances where you are empathetic for the killers. I felt frustration at times wanting them to get away with it.

The star-studded guest list grows with each episode. Chloe Sevigny appears in what I thought would be my favorite episode with “Rest in Metal” because it featured the most intriguing entry for Charlie into the story. That is until Judith Light and S. Epatha Merkerson (who will forever be one of my most beloved characters as Lieutenant Anita Van Buren from Law & Order) co-star in “Time of the Monkey” as long-time best friends living in a senior community. The series also features Ellen Barkin, Tim Meadows, Nick Nolte, Cherry Jones, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. There are also lovely, smaller performances by John Ratzenberger, Hong Chau, Jameela Jamil, Luis Guzman and Stephanie Hsu. The underlying subplot includes Adrien Brody, Benjamin Bratt, Ron Perlman, and Rhea Perlman.

Lyonne co-wrote and directed the most stunningly beautiful episode, “The Orpheus Syndrome”. It felt more like a short movie with the depth of characters, the fully realized story, and its brilliant conclusion. I was on the edge of my seat anticipating the twist and turns.

Johnson wrote and directed several episodes but his presence is felt throughout. He is an exceptional and exciting creator whose projects are worth one’s attention. Lyonne is also a charismatic force whose acting is worthy of being the focal point of the series.

Poker Face debuted on Peacock and is now available on Blu-ray and DVD. The Blu-ray’s video has been given a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer. The audio is available in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Unfortunately, there are no Special Features, which is a shame because I would like a deeper dive into the show.

Poker Face has been renewed for a second season and I can’t wait to follow Charlie wherever she goes as she serves up her unique version of justice.

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Lorna Miller

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