Poker Face review: Natasha Lyonne sleuth series was worth the wait

Natasha Lyonne in Poker Face.   (Sky Max/Peacock)
Natasha Lyonne in Poker Face. (Sky Max/Peacock)
  • 📺 Where to watch Poker Face: Sky Max and NOW from 26 May

  • ⭐️ Our rating: 5/5

  • 🍿 Watch it if you liked: Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Knives Out, Columbo

  • 🎭 Who's in it?: Natasha Lyonne, Benjamin Bratt, and guest stars 

  • How long is it? 10 episodes, between 47 and 67 minutes

  • 📖 What’s it about? Cocktail waitress Charlie Cale ends up living on the road after being linked to several casino deaths. Charlie can spot when someone is lying and solves a number of uniquely staged murders on her travels, trying to stay one step ahead of her pursuer.

After debuting to overwhelming positive reviews in the US (and a quick second season renewal) earlier this year, Rian Johnson's Poker Face is finally arriving in the UK via Sky Max and NOW.

From his neo-noir debut Brick in 2005, to Knives Out and Glass Onion featuring Daniel Craig’s new sleuth Benoit Blanc, it’s clear Johnson has a love of Agatha Christie-style whodunnits.

Johnson now sets his sights on the small screen with the 10-part series Poker Face starring Russian Doll’s Natasha Lyonne as Charlie Cale, a cocktail waitress is forced to live on the road, moving from job to job, meeting a number of fascinating people along the way. It’s stylised as a 'mystery of the week' show, borrowing from Columbo, Murder She Wrote and others.

Watch a trailer for Poker Face

Similarly to Marta’s inability to lie in Knives Out, Charlie is able to tell when someone is lying. It's a unique skill that helps her deduce when something is amiss and helps her solve a number of peculiar incidents on her travels.

The number of different settings keeps the show engaging as we follow Charlie in different locations, from working at a Barbecue restaurant, to being a roadie for a metal band, or working as a waitress at a theatre.

The variety of settings, and a colourful assortment of supporting players, sets up several diverting mysteries that keep audiences guessing. In a way reminiscent of Columbo, we don’t see Charlie until almost 20 minutes into the majority of the episodes, helping to contextualise her new location and the new people she’ll meet there.

Natasha Lyonne in Poker Face.   (Sky Max/Peacock)
Natasha Lyonne in Poker Face. (Sky Max/Peacock)

With each episode being largely self-contained there is a preposterously high standard of guest stars who all slot into their various storylines and never prove distracting, from Adrien Brody as a slimy casino owner to Oscar-nominee Stephanie Hsu as a petty thief, and Ellen Barkin as a self-obsessed actor. Johnson regular Joseph Gordon-Levitt also makes a memorable appearance after having starred Brick and Looper, and cameoing in most of his projects.

Read more: What other critics thought of Poker Face

At ten episodes, Poker Face never outstays its welcome and is yet another high-calibre mystery package from Rian Johnson, following hot on the heels of Glass Onion.

With the news of its renewal for a second season — and a stellar 99% Rotten Tomatoes rating — expect to see plenty more of Charlie Cale as she continues her adventures. This is a hugely entertaining series that will have fans of the genre grinning from ear to ear, and it offers enough meat for more casual fans of the mystery genre.

Poker Face is streaming from Friday, 26 May exclusively on Sky Max and NOW with an Entertainment Membership.