[Editor’s note: The following contains mild spoilers for Poker Face, Season 1 Episode 7, “The Future of the Sport.”]
Charlie Cale (Natasha Lyonne) is still on the road as Season 1 of Poker Face continues, with her latest pit stop taking place at a go-kart complex close to a local race track, where a fierce rivalry between an up-and-coming young racer (Charles Melton) and an older driver worried about being past his prime (Tim Blake Nelson) comes to a head with tragic results.
It’s not quite as simple as that, of course, thanks to the series’ unconventional approach to mystery storytelling. As Nelson tells Consequence, it’s all rooted in creator Rian Johnson’s signature approach: “The way that he shoots, he’s always saying to you, ‘I know I’m a step ahead of you.’ And that’s part of the fun of this. It’s a very, almost retro style. And nobody else does it quite the way Rian does.”
Like other Poker Face installments, “The Future of the Sport” features more than one twist as the full nature of the crime evolves. “I loved how the indictment of characters kept folding into new shapes, so that everybody’s vulnerability kept trumping other characters’ vulnerabilities in this escalation, which made each crime that happens throughout the episode worse than the one before it,” Nelson says. “You never knew, really, who ultimately was going to end up as the episode’s most nefarious person.”
Continues Nelson, “that’s what I love about Rian’s aesthetic. Because in the Knives Out movies, and then in Poker Face, he’s constantly trying to outdo himself as a storyteller, in a narrative tradition that he clearly loves, which is the mystery. And a really great mystery has twists and then twists upon the twist. I love being in an episode that does that in a quite breathtaking way.”
Many Poker Face guest stars have a long-standing relationship with either the show’s creator or its star — in the case of Nelson, he first connected with Lyonne after directing her in the 2001 Holocaust drama The Grey Zone, a very different project from Poker Face. “[Lyonne] is one of those actors who just makes you better,” he says, “because she offers so much nuance. If you simply react to what she’s giving you, you’re gonna find truth in the moment.”