Natasha Lyonne is not a performer who holds lots in reserve. Her high-quality gift is for charging right into a scene and electrifying it with a flow of chatter, all of sudden resetting the temperature for all those round her. It’s a skills that self-consciously throws back to the screwball comedy technology, and one which become leveraged well on indicates such as “Orange Is the New Black” and “Russian Doll.” But one perhaps did now not formerly have a experience of this celebrity as one with a great deal of a poker face at all.
Which makes her casting on, yes, “Poker Face” an interesting improvement, and a welcome hazard to stretch her skills. Here, in collaboration with show creator Rian Johnson (of, most recently, the “Knives Out” films), Lyonne finds a brand new equipment as a Columbo-esque unintentional sleuth who perennially knows a bit more than she’s saying.
Not that she’d have you ever suppose that. In the first episode, Lyonne’s Charlie tells a doubtlessly sinister Las Vegas wealthy person played by using Adrien Brody, “I’m nonetheless pretty much a dumbass, and I’m doing simply great.” She’s certain she’s about to be fired from her process as a casino cocktail waitress, and is serene about it; the man or woman is a profound underachiever, able to detecting any lie (and, as such, dominating at the card table) but content material to take anything job comes her manner.
As can manifest in Vegas, matters get out of hand, and Charlie ends up on the lam, smashing her telephone with a rock earlier than taking an extended pull from a Coors Light and hitting the road. The America she meanders thru within the following episodes is one in all boundless venality and small cruelties: Every city Charlie pulls into offers her with a homicide to untangle, a reason she takes up with any individual’s-got-to-do-it gumption.
The crimes Charlie investigates are not tough to crack — and, as with “Columbo,” we’re ahead of the sport, watching what has befell first, before our detective puzzles it out over the next hour or so. But the testimonies are creatively built and superbly forged (my favorite installment of the primary six that have been provided to critics concerns a pair of dinner-theater actors played with the aid of Ellen Barkin and Tim Meadows). And Lyonne fits into them jaggedly, normally simply encountering a small drama and unable to resist the temptation to contain herself. There’s a canniness to the Lyonne overall performance, a careful calibration of her zaniness. Charlie is garrulous and nosy, but she has an instinct for manipulation and for self-maintenance. She carefully wheedles facts from her assets, and as cautiously geese out of the danger that we aren’t allowed to neglect for too lengthy is proper on her heels.
Which makes “Poker Face” a double delight — a road narrative with one-of-a-kind characters cropping up all the time, with a backbone made from Lyonne’s clever performance and the chance of violence she’s just slightly outsmarting. Surely one of the strongest collection yet to release on Peacock, this streaming drama feels like the first-rate sort of vintage, with no trouble spread-out TV. This elegant set of mystery testimonies permits a longtime superstar the time and area to crack a brand new form of case, that of how to evolve a acquainted persona and produce lovers along for the ride.