Thursday, February 23, 2023

REVIEW: 'Poker Face' - The Past Reveals the Personal Monsters That Haunt Many Lives in 'The Orpheus Syndrome'

Peacock's Poker Face - Episode 1.08 "The Orpheus Syndrome"

A special effects artist unearths a past project to find closure from the guilt of a fatal on-set accident. When old demons resurface, Charlie is left to unravel a new deadly plot.

"The Orpheus Syndrome" was written by Natasha Lyonne & Alice Ju and directed by Natasha Lyonne

You gotta revisit the past in order to move passed it. That's the advice Charlie gives Arthur when he opens up about the tragic incident that resulted in the end of his career. He has long insisted that it's impossible for the dead to forgive. And yet, the project he is continually working on in his studio is a thinly-veiled attempt to do precisely that. Charlie doesn't even need her special ability of detecting lies to see that. It's blatantly obvious. It's a way for Arthur to be the hero who saves the young woman he blames himself for getting killed. The greater honor comes from actually engaging with what happened all those years ago. The truth is yet to be fully uncovered. Arthur was in control of the film set because he was the director. Everyone looked to him for guidance. He set the tone. Laura went rogue. She saw Lily as being a difficult actress who refused to help Arthur capture this breathtaking shot. She didn't care about the safety protocols. It would be better if they were ignored. Arthur saw the greatness on film. He also saw a young life ousted far too soon. He has carried that burden ever since. The film that reveals what truly happened has sat in storage for decades. Laura and Max built their company into a massive success in the entertainment industry. It started as a dream shared by three friends who loved monsters. They developed the skills to create these vicious creatures so that stories could be told. What haunts their nightmares isn't anything like the monsters they create. Instead, it's the grief of this former tragedy. It also provides an outlet for Charlie to talk about what she has endured. This season has been so episodic. The stories don't really blend together to build something collectively bigger. Charlie is a fugitive though because she had to solve Natalie's murder. She believes she failed her friend in her time of need. She doesn't know if she could have done anything to save her. That's her personal burden. She carries it with her everywhere she goes. She's constantly moving around the country from job to job. She never stays in one place too long. She interacts with these fascinating stories of the human experience. She cherishes those connections. But she is always aware of the danger she is in. She confronts these deadly mysteries head on. She always has some place to land. She can never forget the story that started her on this path. Charlie and Arthur bond in that way. They share that grief despite the generational divide between them. Charlie is forever curious. She wants to understand what makes Arthur tick. She's not afraid when he confesses to murder. That's the truth in his mind. He's carried it with him. He's been stuck. A powerful confrontation with Laura is needed to find the peace and clarity to conclude this journey.

The truth still leads to Max and Arthur's deaths. Laura kills them to keep her secret hidden. She has convinced herself she was doing the right thing. Her friends needed someone like her protecting them because they were too reckless. In reality, Laura's actions were the most costly. The mystery is only unearthed because of the move to digitize the film storage. Max explores this history once more. It's painful. It's equally devastating when he confronts Laura. She still has the capacity to kill. It's easily accessible too. It only takes one cup for her to deliver that poison. She's haunted by her actions though. It's practical when she asks Arthur to build a replica of Max's face. She needs that identification to delete the footage. He isn't one to question how someone wants to grieve. He knows better than that after a lifetime of destruction. Laura is still devastated knowing she delivered the poison when Arthur was willing to burn the footage. She was ultimately proven right. His action was nothing more than a clever distraction. He hid the true damning piece of film in his studio for Charlie to find. Laura goes through the motions of celebrating her creative partners. Their business has grown in its forty years of existence. It's important to honor the past. Laura can't face it. She sees the faces in the crowd staring back at her. She can't cope. She can't look them in the eyes and be proud about what she has done. Instead, she drifts into her own delirium. It's a merging of reality with the fantastical monster elements that come forth from her imagination. Charlie and Raoul are successful in finding the film and broadcasting it for the world to see. Laura has every reason to be afraid. She sees the destruction of her life and career right in front of her. It's also a projection of Arthur, Max and Lily coming back to haunt her. It's more personal when it comes to Arthur and Max's deaths. She cared about them as people. Lily was simply collateral damage who was lost years ago. Killing Arthur and Max is still fresh. She did so out of desperation. She needed to stop them from exposing her criminal act. She failed. They are coming back from the dead to haunt her. She believes they hold no power over her now. She is free from them. That's simply not true. The plans they put into motion were still guided to success. Throwing Charlie out of the building and firing Raoul wasn't good enough. Instead, Laura is mesmerized by the horror that swallows her whole. It's personal. Max and Arthur are stepping out as the literal monsters of her life. She will always be forced to remember what she did. They enhance the tragedy to make it sting even more. She spirals until it's too much. She takes that fateful plunge as well. That's the only means of escape for so many after they are caught by Charlie. That too is a pattern for how these mysteries conclude. It's still jarring every time. Charlie feels that visceral pain even though the root of it still goes unresolved. That's the burden she carries. She always tries to distract herself with these mysteries she must solve because she knows when people are lying. It's still nothing but a fleeting idea that can't remove her from the grief she also bears.