Is Natasha Lyonne Less Columbo and More the Angel of Death in 'Poker Face'?
Fans of Columbo who miss the show but are ethically opposed to desecrating a cemetery and reanimating Peter Falk’s corpse for a reboot are likely to be thrilled by Poker Face, the new throwback mystery series starring Natasha Lyonne as amateur sleuth/poker player/BBQ server/rock merch girl, Charlie Kale, who has an uncanny ability to tell when someone is lying – like a human polygraph machine, only less completely full of crap.
While Charlie is clearly inspired by the deceptively scraggly Lt. Columbo (and years of online demand for Lyonne to inherit the role), her position in life is notably different from his. Columbo was routinely called in to investigate homicides for the LAPD, whereas Charlie is on the run from the sinister Benjamin Bratt, constantly moving from town to town like The Incredible Hulk. But no matter where she goes, someone gets brutally murdered shortly after she arrives, as if she’s some kind of raspy-voiced Angel of Death.
And by the way, we’re just four episodes in at this point; presumably, we’re going to get an entire season where every pitstop Charlie makes somehow coincides with a deadly crime for her to solve. In this way, Poker Face resembles another beloved old-school mystery series, Murder, She Wrote, in which Jessica Fletcher’s quaint small town home of Cabot Cove, Maine, was inexplicably plagued with more per capita homicides than some entire countries, thereby making it the “murder capital of the world.”
Not only was visiting Cabot Cove riskier than juggling chainsaws or dining at Taco Bell, but any time Jessica took a vacation or went on a simple business trip, bodies began piling up. She couldn’t even attend a good old-fashioned Canadian rodeo without encountering yet another tragedy.
While Murder, She Wrote never commented on this grim coincidence, Poker Face seems like too self-aware of a show to never have anyone address the fact that Charlie seemingly spreads murder schemes around the country the way a toddler spreads germs.
Perhaps it’s possible that Charlie is… cursed? Sure, this may sound like a pretty far-out theory for a show attempting to recapture the shag carpet and Watergate hearings-era of TV. But is it really so nuts to think that something supernatural is going on here? After all, in addition to the spike in murders in her presence, Charlie’s lie-detecting skills are never given any kind of explanation beyond the fact that she just has a magical superpower. Perhaps the curse is some kind of cosmic consequence of this otherworldly gift?
And if this is the case, who knows how long it’s been going on for? Sure it’s more obvious now that she’s visiting towns that are populated by, like, 10 people – but back when she was working as a server in Las Vegas, was Charlie inadvertently dooming random strangers, but just never found out about it? Poker Face might secretly be the bleakest show on TV right now, and that’s saying something.
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