Poker Face Season 1 finale ending explained: Is Charlie still on the run?

POKER FACE -- “Dead Man's Hand” Episode 101 -- Pictured: Natasha Lyonne as Charlie Cale -- (Photo by: Peacock)
POKER FACE -- “Dead Man's Hand” Episode 101 -- Pictured: Natasha Lyonne as Charlie Cale -- (Photo by: Peacock) /

Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for the Poker Face Season 1 finale. 

Poker Face ended its first season with a wild turn for heroine Charlie Cale which closed out one big mystery but set up another arc for Season 2.

All season, Charlie (Natasha Lyonne) has been on the run after she pulled a trick that got casino boss Sterling Frost Jr. (Adrian Brody) in trouble. So much trouble that Sterling Jr. decided to kill himself. That had his father (Ron Perlman) out for payback and ordered henchman Cliff (Benjamin Bratt) to hunt Charlie down.

This put Charlie into various small towns where her unique gift for detecting lies allowed her to solve murder cases. In the penultimate episode, Charlie was badly injured by a killer and the police mixed up her identity with a thief to declare her “dead.” But Cliff had followed her to the hospital.

Sterling Sr. ordered Cliff to wait two months for Charlie to be healed and then bring her to him. Cliff and Charlie both assumed Sterling was going to kill her, but instead, he was willing to let this slide in exchange for Charlie using her skills to help Sterling in a battle against other mob bosses.

Sterling gave Charlie a “gift” of an old revolver. Suddenly, the lights went out and Sterling was shot dead with Charlie the prime suspect.

Who really shot Sterling in Poker Face?

As usual, the series flashed back to show what really happened. After a year of hunting Charlie in vain, Cliff had finally had enough of working for Sterling and switched sides to rival mobster Beatrix Hasp (Rhea Perlman). He tricked Charlie into holding that gun to get her fingerprints on it, then shot Sterling himself to frame Charlie.

Charlie managed to slip out of the hotel and called Luca Clark, the FBI agent who helped her in Episode 5. It turned out Charlie’s tip on a high roller had gotten Clark a promotion as he was handling the Sterling case. He told Charlie her best bet was to run and Charlie tried to reach out to her estranged sister Emily (Clea Duvall), who turned her away.

Charlie made the mistake of thinking Cliff was innocent in this and tried to get his help. She realized too late that Cliff was the killer as he locked her into a boat. Charlie managed to escape and gave Luca taped evidence of Cliff killing Charlie’s friend Natalie and husband Jerry in the pilot, leading to Cliff’s arrest.

How did Poker Face Season 1 end for Charlie?

Cliff wasted no time flipping on Hasp and giving up everything on her, thus exonerating Charlie. Luca offered Charlie a job working for the FBI, but she preferred going back to a quiet life.

Before she could, Charlie got a call from Hasp on how Charlie’s actions had started a mob war with Hasp on the ropes. She gave Charlie a choice of coming in to work for her or Hasp would use her resources to hunt Charlie down.

When Hasp asked if Charlie was happy with this life, Charlie replied, “I’m good at it. It’s what I got.” She hung up and the season ended with her leaning on her car, looking out at the road.

Thus, Poker Face ended its first season with Charlie free of one mob debt but now in deep with another. That should play into Season 2 and put Charlie into a new series of wild adventures.

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Poker Face Season 1 streaming on Peacock.