Altogether a neat little show that is well worth the watch, propelled by fantastic performances all round.
Way back in August 2015, Sneaky Pete made its way onto Amazon Prime, to much praise and well over 1000 impatient reviews from audiences wanting a full series. But we were watching a pilot, so we then had to stand vigil and wait for it to actually get made. A mere year and a half later, and here we are.
In theory, this old new system of Amazon’s works, but unsurprisingly the addition of 9 extra episodes adds baggage to the innocent and unencumbered pilot ep. Watching episode two only served to bring back memories of going to see Twilight: New Moon with no context, just wondering who the hell ‘this Charlie guy’ was. The addition of Sneaky Pete’s Charlie (Wayne Duvall), Katie (Virginia Kull), Karolina (Karolina Wydra) and co. is interesting to see in this sprawling plot, but a little heads up to re-watch the pilot would have been nice.
The series is straight up entertaining. The fantastically messed-up family con artist Marius (Giovanni Ribisi) unknowingly enters as long lost cousin Pete is all the more thrilling when you realise he isn’t even related to them, but has to put up with all their crazy crap anyway. He uses them to hide from big bad Vince (Bryan Cranston), who is holding onto his brother Eddie (Michael Drayer) until he pays up the $100,000 he stole from him.
The cast definitely makes the series, carrying the show through to its close without so much as a hint of filler (here’s looking at you, The Walking Dead). A particular shout-out goes to Alison Wright’s con Marjorie, the pairing of Julia (Marin Ireland) and her bemused ex Lance (Jacob Pitts), and the wonderfully sensitive relationship between Audrey (Margo Martindale) and Otto (Peter Gerety). The flashiness and suave of the con life we see so much in film and television is transferred by way of a suburban displacement that grounds the plot and makes it altogether more rich and enjoyable.
Cousin Carly’s (Libe Barer) character sees the biggest transformation from Pilot v1 and version 2.0, taking her a step away from her uncle and setting her on his trail. Barer and Ribisi shared some good screen time together, a highlight being when Marius shares Pete’s memory of hearing of Carly’s birth. It was heartfelt, tainted only by the trail of thought that took you from wondering if he was doing it to just get Carly off his back, or knew that she wanted to hear more about her secret-infused family, or knew that it was something she would have wanted to be true and made it up for her. A few other instances like this really added some oomph to the show, proving that blood maybe isn’t thicker than water as he crosses the personal boundaries that the bond of family can somehow get around, in the end making Marius vulnerable and susceptible to it and his adopted family’s unconditional love.
Ribisi and Drayer share next to no screen time but emotionally carried off their brotherly relationship, while Bryan Cranston serves as a worthy villain (with a few too many monologues) who is ultimately taken down poorly. No part of the plot suffered, but the final con scene is an anti-climax that was only covered up by the satisfactory ending between Marius and Eddie, and his fake family.
But the climaxes and close calls that littered the series as a whole proved far more engaging. Ribisi took an exhilarating beating as Pete, turning each close call into a bloody believable near breakdown. His challenge was to keep up with the malleability and audacity of Marius, constantly slaving away to get back the money with the deadline looming.
A little more backstory for the brothers would have been nice but there was so much to catch up on in the present that the snippet we got in the first episode sufficed for now. The music that accompanied each end credits was also a nice touch.
The pilot grew into something bigger and better than what it had first been and the whole series proved its worth among the small fusillade of Netflix and Amazon Originals. Marius/Pete/Ribisi says it best when he gestures the family farm and the messy and twisted life of “cousin” Carly’s as real life, and not the idyllic past she and the prison version of Pete are hung up on. That is where the real magic in the series happened, no sleight of hand needed.
Stream all of Sneaky Pete on Amazon Prime now.