'Poker Face' plays its final hand of Season One
Plus, 'Ted Lasso' returns, Pedro Pascal gets rescued on two different shows, and 'Rain Dogs' debuts
This week’s What’s Alan Watching? newsletter coming up just as soon as I watch more Burn Notice…
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Ted Lasso rides again. Or does Led Tasso?
The review embargo for Ted Lasso Season Three lifted overnight. So if you were awake at 3 a.m. Eastern/midnight Pacific, you may have already seen my take on where things stand with Ted, Beard, Roy, Rebecca, Keeley, Dani Rojas, Jan Maas, and the rest of the gang. If not, you can go to Rolling Stone right now to take a look at all I have to say about a show that keeps expanding — both in episode length and number of characters being spotlighted — with each passing season, and how much I think that does or doesn’t work.
Here comes the Rain Dogs
Occasionally, a story of mine will publish just a little bit too late to make that week’s newsletter. In this case, it was my review of Rain Dogs, an HBO/BBC co-production that debuted Stateside on Monday, and whose review published late last Friday morning. As I discuss in the column, the show — about a single mom who wants to become a writer and drag herself and her daughter out of poverty, but who has to do sex work and depend on the wealth of her volatile gay friend to get by — really doesn’t feel like anything else on TV at the moment. Parts are (deliberately) tough, while others are bitterly hilarious. And the actors (including Daisy May Cooper, pictured above) are all great.
Pedro Pascal’s young charges, to the rescue!
After this, we’ve only got one week left of recaps of the two different shows where Pedro Pascal plays a proficiently violent man trying to protect an adorable adopted child in dangerous circumstances. And this week offered more overlap than usual between The Last of Us and The Mandalorian, with both episodes featuring segments where Joel and Mando were incapacitated, while Ellie and Grogu had to figure out how to save them. Here’s my recap of another phenomenal Bella Ramsey showcase on Last of Us, and here’s what I had to say about a Mandalorian episode that felt like a substantial improvement over the premiere.
Poker Face finale recaplet: “The Hook”
I would suggest that time has really flown with this season of Poker Face, but I guess that’s what happens when you drop the first four episodes of your throwback Case of the Week show on the very first week.
The one-two punch of “The Orpheus Syndrome” and “Escape from Shit Mountain” was definitely the creative peak of Season One, but “The Hook” — written by Rian Johnson and directed by Janicza Bravo — felt like a perfect close to the season. It’s not just that it wrapped up the original arc of Charlie being on the run from Sterling Sr. and Cliff. It’s not just that it found a way to continue the show’s premise — this time, amusingly enough, with Rhea Perlman replacing Ron Perlman as the big bad on the phone. It’s not just that it brought back Luca the FBI agent from the retirement community episode, nor that it gave us closure to Natalie’s murder by having Cliff get arrested for it. Nor even that a good chunk of the finale is devoted to showing us Cliff’s POV on the events of the season, along with his burgeoning addiction to Burn Notice, a show very much in the done-in-one vein of this one. (And a series that, once upon a time, I took great pleasure in watching, particularly in the second season.)
No, it’s that “The Hook” so expertly bottled that delicate balance of comedy, drama, and suspense that has made this show so wonderful. Some episodes this season trended more towards silliness, some more towards danger, and some — this one included — had it all in spades. It’s an hour where Charlie can be in genuine fear for her life, while also escaping peril for the moment by sneaking aboard a party bus full of drunken bridesmaids. Where Cliff can be completely menacing towards Charlie, even as he is reciting the lyrics to Blues Traveler’s second most-famous song. Where Natasha Lyonne and her BFF Clea DuVall can, of course, play sisters — in their first acting duet since DuVall’s directorial feature debut, The Intervention — and DuVall’s Emily can forcefully bring up all the ways that having a reckless human lie detector for a sister would be kind of awful, even as it’s fun for us to watch her. And where Johnson’s usual attempt to use make every piece of a script relevant to the plot means that the penis ring Charlie gets on the party bus winds up saving her life when Cliff nearly has her captured on his new yacht.
Man, I love this show. So glad it seems to be a genuine success for a streamer that pretty desperately needed one. Can’t wait to see what Johnson, Lyonne, the Zuckermans, and everyone else have in store for Season Two.
What did everybody else think?
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