For fans of the murder mystery genre, it's been a long wait here in the UK to see Poker Face.


The series has so much going for it - it was created by Knives Out and Glass Onion writer/director Rian Johnson. It's a case-of-the-week series, meaning there isn't too much baggage from an over-extended plot. And it stars the fantastic Natasha Lyonne, who dazzled in Netflix's Russian Doll.

Given all of this, and the fact that it received rapturous praise from critics when it first debuted in the US at the start of the year, the series has a lot to live up to now that it's finally debuting on this side of the pond.

So, the big question is... does it?

Natasha Lyonne as Charlie Cale in Poker Face
Natasha Lyonne as Charlie Cale in Poker Face. Peacock

Thankfully, the answer is unequivocally yes. Poker Face is an absolute delight from start to finish, a 10-hour series which more than earns its runtime and the reputation it has developed in the US.

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But first, a little background - the show follows Charlie Cale, a woman initially seen working in a casino who is easy-going, charming and astute. Not only that, but she has an innate ability to tell when people are lying.

The series doesn't try to explain this ability, nor should it have to. It's a simple set-up, we know the rules of the game and how it works, so we don't need to spend time going into why it works. That would just drag things down, and one of the true gifts here is the lightness of tone.

At the end of the first episode, Charlie finds herself on the run, travelling cross-country to nowhere in particular. We follow her on her journey, as she takes on a vast array on menial jobs and meets various kooky, and some not-so-kooky characters. In each episode, a murder or attempted murder takes place and Charlie sets about solving the mystery.

Jack Alcott as Randy, Angel Desai as Jean McDowell and Natasha Lyonne as Charlie Cale in Poker Face
Jack Alcott as Randy, Angel Desai as Jean McDowell and Natasha Lyonne as Charlie Cale in Poker Face. Peacock

Above all else, the key here is the format, which manages to be both old-school and nostalgic, as well as being utterly fresh and unique.

We the audience are told who the killer or assailant is ahead of time. Not to say there aren't twists along the way, but this is not a whodunnit series. So far, so Columbo.

The different ingredient here and the one which makes the series so enjoyable is Charlie's gift. As soon as the killer tells her point blank they didn't do it, she knows they did. But it's the ways in which the information is both withheld and received, as well as the methods she uses to entrap them and gain that all-important proof, which keep us on our toes.

However, a format's only going to get you so far. What you also need is a killer cast, and boy does Poker Face have one.

Natasha Lyonne as Charlie Cale in Poker Face
Natasha Lyonne as Charlie Cale in Poker Face. Peacock

Lyonne is magnificent in the central role and her Charlie is an absolute joy to spend time with. She's not perfect, nor is she always the best judge of character, in spite of her ability. But she's kind-hearted to a fault, unendingly witty and perfectly suited to Lyonne, who was excellent in Russian Doll, but with a looser concept to play with is even better here.

The other thing the show's format gifts us is a stellar supporting cast. Just like with an anthology series such as Black Mirror or Inside No. 9, the fact that each specific story is wrapped up within the space of an hour means the cream of the crop have been roped in to take part, and we're talking some big names.

Adrien Brody, Lil Rel Howery, Hong Chau, Nick Nolte and so many more all pop by for dazzling supporting turns, often allowed to delightfully chew the scenery with outrageous parts.

We've seen this before with case-of-the-week mystery series. Shows such as Death in Paradise have always managed to attract high-calibre actors. The difference here is the sheer star power that Johnson and Lyonne's names attract in Hollywood. You can just hear every big name actor's agent on the phone right now trying to secure a place in season 2.

Adrien Brody as Sterling Frost Jr in Poker Face
Adrien Brody as Sterling Frost Jr in Poker Face. Peacock

Of course, it's not perfect, what series is? There are certain mysteries and certain settings which work better than others, as is to be expected from the format. Some pop with originality, while others are more of a fun diversion.

But that doesn't in any way diminish the fun this series is having along the way, whether it's with its twists and turns, larger than life characters or its stylish Americana aesthetic.

Ten hours is of course a lot of television to devour regardless, and I would recommend spacing out the episodes (if you can!). A binge watch may feel natural, but the variety on display here and the nature of the show's pacing and set-up means it would probably benefit from a steadier watching pace.

That said, come the final credits on episode 10 you will be begging for a season 2. And aren't we lucky that one is already on its way, no word of a lie.

Poker Face will be available on Sky and NOW from Friday 26th May - sign up for Sky TV here or stream on NOW. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.


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