POKER FACE -- “Time of the Monkey” Episode 105 -- Pictured: (l-r) S. Epatha Merkerson as Joyce Harris, Judith Light as Irene Smothers — (Photo by: Peacock)

We’ve been spoiled by four terrific episodes of Rian Johnson’s POKER FACE. So it’s kind of self-entitled to hate on a perfectly serviceable episode for not being just a smidge less than its predecessors. And to be clear, I’m not hating on it. It’s good. It’s just there’s a big glaring wasted opportunity with this episode that I had issues with.

TIME OF THE MONKEY brings Charlie to a nursing home, where she meets two sparkplug residents that love rebelling against the system. Naturally, a murder happens, and Charlie has to solve it.

The formula still works. But I think POKER FACE had an opportunity to shake things up by making this week’s murder one that could have represented a morally grey area. So far, we’ve had murders motivated by selfish or greedy intentions. And that obviously means the perpetrators were blatantly nefarious beings that deserved what they had coming. But it would have been more interesting if the murder committed this week could have been one that Charlie would have understood and the culprits she could have empathized with.

And the episode starts that way. We get this sympathetic portrayal of the culprit (or culprits), and we completely understand why what happens happens. We actually feel for them. And we think this will be a MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS situation where justice is truly served.

Unfortunately, the show decides – nah. Let’s just throw in a reason to remove any sense of empathy or sympathy for these characters and make it a status quo situation where the bad guys are evil and the good guys triumph.

Obviously I’m not saying murder is justifiable. Nor am I saying we need sympathetic murderers. But we need to remember Charlie Cale is not a cop. And it would be a much stronger storyline to challenge Charlie’s preconceived notions of right and wrong here. Even if murder is not justifiable by any means necessary, to have her at least see things from the perspective of people who aren’t evil but committed to a morally inexcusable decision would have been interesting.

But no. We’ll settle for making characters randomly evil to keep to the status quo. Why not. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I guess? Also, Judith Light and S. Epatha Merkerson are terrific!

But I expect more from this show, so I hope we get more later. But for now, I have to consider this disappointing though still entertaining enough episode the weakest link in an otherwise terrific series so far.

The 5th episode of POKER FACE is now streaming on Peacock.

Mike Manalo

Born a Slytherin. Baptized into Marvel. Bitten by a Radioactive DC fan. And raised a Jedi, Mike Manalo is a silent guardian, a watchful protector… a Dark Nerd!

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