Poker Face Season 1 Finale Review: A Killer Conclusion To Season 1 Of Peacock’s Best Series
Poker Face's first season ends as it began - as one of this year's best new series.
Channeling Columbo more than Knives Out, Rian Johnson has delivered what could very well prove to be the best new series of 2023. Peacock’s Poker Face opened with nothing but promise, and Season 1 ends true to that potential with a finale full of fun, suspense, and the title’s signature genius. With top-notch guest stars, Natasha Lyonne‘s usual excellent performance as the hero Charlie, the series’ smartly offbeat and devilishly juvenile humor, and twists that play with the show’s formula in the best ways, “The Hook” is a tremendous conclusion to Poker Face‘s first chapter.
POKER FACE SEASON 1 FINALE REVIEW SCORE:
The Poker Face Season 1 finale is the first time in the series you can’t really go into things blind. The episode’s mystery revolves around mob button man Cliff’s cross-country pursuit of Charlie after the events of the series premiere. Benjamin Bratt (Law & Order) has never been more fun to watch than as the surprisingly introspective Cliff, particularly in an opening montage that reveals the not only frustrating, but hilariously monotonous, tracking of Charlie that’s been going on behind the scenes for the entire season.
After he finally catches her, we are blessed with the killer torturing the hero in the last way we would expect — by serenading her with spoken-word Blues Traveler lyrics.
Along with requiring the audience to have seen at least the series premiere (and preferably episode 5, “The Time of the Monkey”), “The Hook” is also the first time Poker Face breaks with the Columbo-esque format of revealing the killer up front. I’m doing my best to avoid spoilers, so I’ll just say that until about a quarter of the way through the Poker Face Season 1 finale you suspect it’s actually going to skip the murder mystery and deal just with the consequences of Charlie’s actions in the premiere. Of course, you’re wrong, and when the murder comes it’s the first time you don’t immediately know who did it or why.
I wrote in my review of the Poker Face premiere that this show would live and die by its guest stars, and the Season 1 finale does not prove me wrong. It’s wonderful to finally see Ron Perlman (Hellboy) in the flesh as Sterling, who we only hear over the phone in the premiere. Simon Hebderg (The Big Bang Theory) returns as Agent Luca — Charlie’s only friend in the FBI who first shows up in episode 5.
Clea DuVall (The Faculty) appears as well, as the first flesh-and-blood family member we meet of Charlie’s, who isn’t all that happy to see her.
There’s also a new villain revealed who we’ll no doubt see more of in Poker Face Season 2. I’d rather not tell you who plays them because I’d prefer you find out for yourself. Like Ron Perlman in the series premiere, you only hear this new antagonist over the phone rather than see them, but I’ll give you a hint — they rose to fame appearing in one of the most beloved sitcoms of the eighties.
Speaking of that villain, they have something to do with the reason I give the Poker Face Season 1 finale a 4.5 out of 5 rather than a perfect score. Probably my only disappointment with the episode was how lazily I felt the continuing story of Charlie Cale is set up at the end. Still, it’s not egregious, and it has the upside of helping to make sure we get more of this excellent series.