by Matthew Thompson
My guilty conscience makes me a pretty terrible liar. It’s one of the reasons I love private eye fiction. Seeing all the little deceitful tricks they use to get the information they need is highly entertaining as I know I could never do it. There is a similar enjoyment in watching con-artists operate.
Enter Amazon’s Sneaky Pete which hones in on fresh out of jail con-man Marius Josipovic (Giovanni Ribisi) who assumes the life of his ex-cell mate in a bid to help get away from the troubles of his old life. Marius is good at what he does and he needs to be to keep all the plates spinning in his new life. Along with making sure his new marks – a family in the bail bond business – don’t uncover his identity, he is dealing with a parole officer and a mob boss (Bryan Cranston) who along with a grudge is holding his brother hostage. Watching Marius perform this incredibly tense high-wire act is part of what makes Sneaky Pete so much fun to watch, but it is also responsible for the show’s biggest fault. As is often the case with fiction of this ilk, sometimes things just feel a little too convenient. It makes for some incredible near misses and narrow escapes which can be captivating, but occasionally it all feels a bit too slick.
Sneaky Pete was originally set to air on CBS. You can see its broadcast network roots in the pilot. While the first episode was tweaked slightly after Amazon got a hold of it, the procedural setup seems a bit more CBS-y than the rest of the series more serialized nature. That means you may want to check out at least the first two episodes to decide if the show is for you. The second outing is where new showrunner Graham Yost of Justified fame comes in and will likely allow you to better gauge what the series has in store.
Sneaky Pete isn’t essential viewing, but it is a fun romp that makes good use of its talented cast. The con-man angle makes for plenty of nail-biting scenarios and the series is a fine way to while away some hours on a rainy day.
A few more things:
- The highlight of the season for me was a monologue delivered by Bryan Cranston at the end of episode 4. Everyone knows what a phenomenal actor he is and once again he was able to show what an intimidating presence he could be, this time as mobster Vince Lonigan.
- Along with Ribisi and Cranston, there were quite a few familiar faces in the show. Most notable is everyone’s favorite character actress Margo Martindale. I also recognized Michael Drayer from Mr. Robot, Victor Williams who I always remember fondly as Deacon on King of Queens and Malcolm-Jamal Warner best known for The Cosby Show.
- The show goes full-on heist film by the end which I guess is a stone’s throw from con-artists’ typical dealings. And it’s a lot of fun.
- I’m not big on grades/ratings in reviews, but I plan to do more short reviews like this and figure they might give a better idea of where exactly I stand. Generally it will be: A is great, B is good, C is average, D is bad, F is terrible. Then I will add a + or – for more differentiation when needed.