Amazon Prime’s Sneaky Pete is the perfect excuse to blow off your friends, loved ones, and responsibilities as you become entrenched in the life of a con artist.
Season 1 of Sneaky Pete contains many memorizing elements. The con, the plot, the cast, all captivate and illuminate the world built originally by Bryan Cranston and David Shore. But the opening credits, something that may be a hindrance to any binge, are perhaps the best example of what to expect in the series to come.
The black and white sequence plays with light, shadows, and faces. The clip quickly flashes through a variety of poses, each altered slightly — hair, an uptick of the lip, a scrunch of the forehead. These are the same people who could easily be mistaken for someone else with the slightest shift in plain sight.
And so goes the pilot of Sneaky Pete. How can you pull off impersonating someone’s family member? Simple. Perception is in the eye of the beholder. If the details are right, the person will be none the wiser. Until they aren’t.
Amazon’s Sneaky Pete captures all the suspense of a thriller, the heart of a family-centered drama (think Brothers and Sisters), and the heist-like quality of an action-packed summer blockbuster. It’s smart, captivating, and unpredictable.
And you should binge it, immediately.
Sneaky Pete‘s ensemble is undeniably its greatest asset. Marion Ireland, Margo Martindale, Bryan Cranston, Shane McRae, Libe Barer, Peter Gerety, Michael Drayer, Karoline Wydra, and Victor Williams round out the core ensemble that escalate tension like no others.
I know. How can you possibly say that Bryan Cranston and character actress Margo Martindale “round out” a cast? When you have Giovanni Ribisi as the lead.
Ribisi is captivating yet slippery, giving audiences exactly what they expect and slowly slithering out of reach just as you believe you have him all figured out. He is a blank slate. You can place whatever emotions are running through a scene on him. He is, quite simply, the perfect con man with all his charm, elegance, and arrogance perfectly calibrated.
“I remember the green…” Sneaky Pete starts off with the title character, though not title actor, reminiscing about his childhood spent at his grandparents’ home in Connecticut. It encapsulates all the highs and none of the lows — the tire swings, the apples, the science experiments in the attic.
A simple life, funded by the family’s bail bond business. Though not entirely altruistic, the bail bond business’ dirty dealings with families and criminals kept food on the table and roof overhead. And so, Marius goes off in search of greener pastures — in both the literal and figurative monetary sense.
But what could would a con be without Marius getting in over his head on the other end? Every family has secrets. Behind those green fields are parents and children driving wedges between each other, near bankruptcy, secrets and lies piling up for decades.
Marius, who has his own brother on the outside to protect, finds some kinship with his new family. And in Sneaky Pete, for better or much, much worse, family comes first.
By the close of season 1, Marius finds himself so ingrained with the family he chose to con that he sticks around when another opportunity arrives. Season 2 expands upon that family dynamic. It’s not your typical August Osage County breaking bread and slamming insults. Rather, it’s watching a group of outsiders, examining what that group of people around the table means to them each and every time they share a meal, or a pass in the kitchen.
The complicated path to production
Sometimes behind the scenes stories are just as interesting as the ones the writer’s room churns out on a weekly basis.
Creators Bryan Cranston and David Shore sold their pilot to CBS, a network where weekly crime beats are its bread and butter. Serialized television is one thing CBS does not specialize in.
And with some stroke of luck (which it couldn’t be called at the time), CBS passed on picking up the series and Cranston and company were left with an interesting situation — shopping it out to other networks.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Cranston notes, “The first place we stopped at was Amazon and they said, ‘We really like this pilot. It’s not exactly what we want, but we feel like it could be. We want it serialized, so can you wash off the broadcast aspect of it and retool it to make it a serialized show?'”
Amazon offered Sneaky Pete a home and with it a fresh start. The series was reworked, fine-tuned, and given the room to breathe. The cast stuck around, the core of the story carried over, but sprinkled in were moments, silences, and time that CBS would never be able to afford the story. It also added one more element — Graham Yost (Justified), as showrunner.
And thus, the show began its transformation.
I cannot imagine this series with act breaks for commercials. It earns your attention and even the end credits don’t always break it.
Sneaky Pete, recently debuted its second season on Amazon Prime. With endless possibilities available across multiple platforms, its hard for a series to earn 20 hours of your time. One of the best aspects of this series is that it is not taxing, nor does it take four or five hours to “get into.”
It captivates from start to finish, with cons old and new. While some series lose their balance after a strong, tight opener, Sneaky Pete becomes more sure of its footing.
Sneaky Pete season 2 is available to stream now on Amazon Prime.