Review: Poker Face, "The Hook" | Season 1, Episode 10
In which Charlie is confronted by how ruinous she can be
“What are you, a cop?”
With “The Hook,” we have arrived at the end of the first, and thankfully not last, season of Poker Face. Where the series began by pointing out that Charlie Cale’s not a cop, it wraps with Charlie teasing someone else specifically for being one and having the chutzpah to try and convince her to join them. More pressing, the season concludes with Charlie facing the inevitability of perpetually being on the run, while interrogating the idea of someone choosing to walk the Earth.1
I noted earlier in the season in the Stray Observations that it’s kind of funny how this show’s creator Rian Johnson said that Poker Face was episodic and not serialized, when its very concept bakes in some serialization. The idea of the protagonist being a human lie detector does not require serialization. But the answer to the question “Why would that protagonist be involved, even peripherally, with murders each week?” very much was a case of serialization. “The Hook” not only picks up right where “Escape from Shit Mountain” left off, with Charlie in a Denver hospital and unaware that the man who’s tracked her for over a year is right outside, waiting for her to get better. “The Hook” also wraps up the season-long arc of Charlie being on the run from the terrifying casino boss Sterling Frost, Sr. (Ron Perlman, finally in the flesh), having hopped from locale to locale each week.
What makes “The Hook” satisfying is less how it plays with the formula of past episodes—here is a murder, Charlie gets to the bottom of it, and her lie-detection skills are employed to good use—and more what it does to buck up against that very formula. I’ve talked about Columbo more than enough in past reviews, and it’s worth discussing one element of the show that Poker Face’s season-one finale explores in greater depth with its own lead: who Lt. Columbo is. The almost elemental power of Columbo is that we know so very little about the man wearing the rumpled raincoat. Does he talk a lot about an offscreen wife? Sure. Does he talk about his childhood? From time to time. Is any of it true? We have no idea.2 Hell, we never officially learn Columbo’s first name during the series.3