Charlie is at it again. She can’t avoid getting mixed up in other people’s messiness. She is the epitome of falling ass-backward into things. It’s not enough to say she has a nose for trouble. She doesn’t just find it. It finds her, and then bear hugs her until she is so ensnared in it she has no choice but to fight her way out. It may be frustrating for her, but it’s great for us. Poker Face Episode 8 brings us to the world of movie magic and a guilt-laden House of Horrors. Once again, Charlie has to solve a murder and get justice for the victims. She is up to the task thanks to her gift, determination, curiosity, and strong sense of right and wrong.
I continue to be amazed at the level of talent Rian Johnson got for each episode. It is a constant parade of fantastic actors. This week we are graced with the great Nick Nolte(Arthur), who we haven’t seen in ages. We also got a Cherry Jones(The Village) playing a vicious company head named Laura who would do anything to protect her legacy and a delightfully daffy Luis Guzman as Raoul. Guzman and Lyonne have a hysterical energy between them that is as fun to watch as any duo on television. I could sit and watch an entire series of just the two of them.
Charlie gets embroiled in the murder du jour when she delivers human hair to Arthur and is hired to assist him with his practical effects. The semi-retired EFX master tools away in his workshop, making monuments to his guilt. Decades ago, when he was first starting, a young woman died on the set of his first movie. How and why it happened still haunts him all these years later, and he has never recovered. Charlie is a kindred spirit who knows what it is like to be unable to save someone. They bond over loss and regret. All is going well when Arthur sees something he shouldn’t and dies in front of Charlie because of it.
Poker Face Episode 8 opens with another murder. Laura(Jones) and Max(Tim Russ) have a heated discussion that culminates in her begging him to understand and him jumping off the deck of her home to his death. Even if he hadn’t jumped, though, he would have died anyway from a poison that Laura gave him. He wanted to make her watch him die and prevent her from using his face to unlock his computer, where he had evidence of her crime. This is why Laura went to Arthur and asked for a bust of Max. It had nothing to do with asking for his forgiveness from beyond the grave for their harsh words. Charlie hears Laura talk to Arthur, and she knows she is lying about something.
If Lyonne wasn’t funny enough, she has developed an eye tic when she hears a lie. Luckily Arthur is as honest as they come, and she gets a reprieve working with him. Unluckily, Laura, who entered her orbit, does nothing but lie. Charlie is good for Arthur, helping him work through his guilt. She helps him understand that his newest work, The Orpheus Syndrome, is about ritual penitence. Lyonne and Nolte give wonderfully layered performances in Poker Face Episode 8 that feel as personal as it gets.
Arthur has been plagued with the belief that he killed the actress because she endangered herself to get the shoot. She had been struggling with the tank she was to shoot in. Take after take, she had hit the button that lit the red lightbulb alarm, signally her discomfort. Tensions were high, and when they finally got the shot, they were static until they realized the actress was dead.
Finally ready to face the past, Arthur calls his old friend Raoul(Guzman), who works in the archives. He requests the film from that day and watches as Laura disables the red lightbulb. Arthur goes to Laura’s house and confronts her. He throws the film into her fireplace and says he will never tell anyone, but that was a lie, and she wasn’t willing to take the chance. She poisoned him, and he managed to get home before dying in the driveway in front of Charlie. When Charlie goes to Laura to ask about Arthur’s visit, she knows Laura is lying about Max and Arthur. She also knows that Laura is still looking for the film because Arthur has spliced out the proof of what Laura did.
Laura demands all of Arthur’s workshop be relocated to the headquarters for a tribute, but it is really to find the lost frames. She thinks if she can get the proof, she will be absolved of everything. Unfortunately, her capacity for compartmentalizing makes her arrogant. She truly believed the dead can’t hurt her. Charlie has a way of speaking the plain truth that always cuts deep. “You’ve got to revisit the past to get past it,” she says.
In an effort to maintain her lie, Laura fires Raoul and proceeds with the event as if nothing is wrong, even though she hasn’t found the film yet. Charlie, who breached the headquarters wearing a horse costume, uses Raoul’s key card and puts the footage into the tribute film Laura played at the event. Guilt finally gets the better of her, and as she walks through the hall looking at each of Arthur’s creations, she sees the ghosts of her past. Driven mad, she leaps from the upper floor to her death.
Peacock has a certified hit with Poker Face. The Lyonne vehicle is a treasure trove of talent and fascinating stories. It’s as funny as it is thrilling to watch and has revamped the episodic who-done-it. Poker Face Episode 8 proves this show keeps getting better. It has already been renewed for a second season, so there is no better time to hop on board the truth train. With series like this, Peacock is positioning itself as a legitimate player in the streaming field. Find all our Poker Face coverage here.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.