Thursday, January 26, 2023

REVIEW: 'Poker Face' - Sterling Hopes to Exploit Charlie's Skills Despite Also Ordering a Murder in 'Dead Man's Hand'

Peacock's Poker Face - Episode 1.01 "Dead Man's Hand"

When a close friend meets an untimely end, Charlie Cale, a casino cocktail waitress with an uncanny knack for identifying lies, is determined to unravel these mysterious events, even if it endangers her own life.

"Dead Man's Hand" was written by Rian Johnson and directed by Rian Johnson

Charlie Cale calls out bullshit whenever she hears it. She has an astonishing ability to know whenever someone is lying. It's a gift that defines her entire life. She has learned how to live with it. She investigates when things don't line up. She understands that the reason behind the lie is more important than the lie itself. She recognized that most people lie over trivial matters. And yet, she has the opportunity to make a difference when people blatantly distort the truth for their own selfish gains. She once used her skills to make a ton of money. That didn't provide her with more happiness. Sure, it's much easier to be rich than it is to be poor. However, Charlie has become more content from just getting by. She's upset by the prospect of being fired. She doesn't take it personally. She knows she is perfectly capable of landing on her feet. She has that confidence after a life of many ups and downs. She is an incredibly friendly person. She also enjoys watching and reading the news. It's devastating for her because it has a close personal attachment. It's not some far-removed concept that doesn't have an impact in her life. She knows precisely what the consequences can be if she remains oblivious and just accepts whatever is told to her. She has the power to cut through all that noise. All of this is delivered through a procedural format. The episode starts with a murder. The audience sees that. Natalie finds evidence of a heinous crime while cleaning a hotel room. She brings it to management. Sterling Frost Jr. orders her death because this revelation disrupts his own plan to frisk this high roller by ruining his private poker game. It's that simple. He's a selfish man determined to leave his mark on the world. His father gave him the hotel to manage because he assumed the operation ran smoothly by itself. He didn't have to worry about what his namesake child could possibly do to it. Nothing could disrupt the operation in a significant way. Sterling sets out to prove his father wrong. He knows this top client has been cheating the system. He has been spending just enough money in the hotel and casino to keep the long-running management happy. However, the total amount has gone down each year because he has found a more lucrative opportunity elsewhere. It's all about the business. That's all that these people understand. Sterling even believes Charlie once made her way across the country winning at poker because of some master plan to embarrass these highly influential people and accumulate more power for herself. She did it because she could. The explanation is as simple as that. She had the ability to play this game well. She never cheated. No one could ever figure out how she won every time. She simply sees a shift in aura when a lie is told. That makes it great for adapting to the game. It makes her quite skilled at reading people as well.

Charlie doesn't want to do anything that could potentially anger Sterling's father once more. He gave her a free pass. The most significant damage he did was blackball her from every casino. She could never gamble again. She was offered a job mostly to keep her in check. He had to keep his eye on her. He had to know she could never threaten his livelihood ever again. Of course, Sterling sees things differently. He wants to incorporate Charlie into his schemes. He believes she can be motivated to do so for the same reasons he selfishly wants this wealth and influence. That's his cynical view of the world. Punishment needs to hit people where it hurts the most. Natalie's death was a crime of opportunity. Sterling and Cliff didn't care one way or another about her life. She was simply a threat. She listened to them. She did the right thing. She wasn't protected by the system that has its own selfish interests. Charlie wants to honor her friend. She needs to expose what truly happened. Of course, this isn't in pursuit of producing criminal charges. She doesn't necessarily see that as the right punishment. She is skeptical of the police because they are seemingly bought off by the Frost family. The county is named after them. All it takes is one call to the sheriff to end this investigation. Charlie needs evidence to make her case. She doesn't have to follow the rules that apply to law enforcement. Of course, she doesn't see them complying either. Charlie knows she is the only person who can get to the truth. It doesn't even matter what Natalie ultimately saw on the computer. The picture she took was the true piece of damning evidence. That was what set all of this into motion. Charlie was a good friend. She cared about Natalie. She wanted to help her escape an abusive marriage. Natalie had no way out. She wasn't killed by her partner. That was nothing but a convenient story. It's one easily picked apart by the realization her husband was left-handed and the gun wasn't at home during the murder-suicide. Charlie confronts Sterling and Cliff with these details. They believe they can respond the same way. They won't let anything disrupt their criminal scheme. It would be just as easy to push her out the window. No one would question the details of Charlie's death. She isn't the one to take that fateful fall though. Instead, she reveals the scheme to the target. He flees and ensures the entire casino is blackballed. All of this happened because Charlie was underestimated. She shows her worth and values. In the end, Sterling is completely destroyed. He chooses to jump out the window. That sets off a whole new story for Charlie. She's being hunted down by the vengeful father who she was always more worried about. She destroyed his business and got his son killed. Charlie did the right thing. She just now happens to be on the run fighting for her life. Her skills are valuable. She makes a difference. The world itself doesn't always appreciate her. She doesn't exactly need that. Again, she has the potential to thrive anywhere under any circumstances. It's just a very specific path towards happiness that she now finds herself on.