‘Poker Face’ Saved the Best for the Finale


“The Hook” wasn’t just Poker Face’s season one finale—it was also, apparently, Rian Johnson’s “love letter” to Benjamin Bratt.

There are only two constants on the Peacock hit: lead character Charlie Cale (Natasha Lyonne), and Bratt, whose steely security goon Cliff is on Charlie’s tail. Since his introduction in the show’s pilot, Cliff generally appears once an episode to miss Charlie by a hair. But the Johnson-scripted (and Janicza Bravo-directed) finale put Cliff front and center, tracking him as he tours the country in search of his elusive target. But eventually, tired of his assignment, he decides to turn on his boss, Sterling Frost (Ron Perlman), killing him and framing Charlie for the crime. 

Just as she’s done all year, Charlie evades the law. She then seeks Cliff’s help, not realizing that he’s responsible for Frost’s death. She eventually escapes Cliff’s grasp…only to wind up on the radar of Frost’s rival, Beatrix Hasp (Rhea Perlman), who hired Cliff to carry out the murder. Meanwhile, FBI agent Luca Clark (Simon Helberg) returns to arrest Cliff. 

Early in the episode, Cliff chillingly recites the Blues Traveler’s “Hook” to Charlie: “The hook brings you back,” he says. It’s “inevitable.” At the end, on the verge of going to jail for the rest of his life, with a slick smile and a bloody eye, Cliff shakes his head and simply says, “inevitable.”

“In a way, there’s a cynical resignation,” says Bratt, “but I really believe there’s a twinkle in his eye because he knows he’ll be back.”

Vanity Fair: We finally got our big Cliff episode!

Benjamin Bratt: How about that finale? Holy cow.

I have to start with the most pressing question: What’s the initial reaction when you are told that the climax of the finale is going to be you getting punched in the face with a dildo ring?

No one told me that was going to happen. [Laughs.] I discovered it as I read the script for the first time, and I immediately fell into uncontrollable laughter. But that’s really emblematic of Rian and his writing. He’s got such a unique sensibility, and not only is masterful at building these mystery puzzles, but also inserting a quirky sensibility. So although it was surprising, it wasn’t necessarily shocking, and it’s just something you roll with. I’ll probably include it in my reel: “The scene where I got stabbed in the eye with a dick ring.” It’ll be my most memorable moment on the small screen.

Before getting deeper in “The Hook,” what was it about Poker Face and Cliff that originally convinced you to sign on?

I had been told that they wanted to offer me the role, and the first step was to have a conversation with Rian. They sent me the script, easily the best script that I had read in three years. Cliff remained a bit of an enigma, though. So I really wanted to talk to Rian. We got on the phone, and, obviously, I was a fan of his because he’s just an incredible filmmaker, and I told him, “Look, my answer is already yes, but can you enlighten me as to what you’re thinking?” He said, “Well, all I can tell you is that it’ll all pay off, that it’ll be worth it.” And so with that promise, it was enough to jump on board. 


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