Sneaky Pete is one of Amazon’s best written shows yet. And, with a producing team that helped bring us Justified, House M.D., NYPD Blue, Breaking Bad, and Horrible Bosses, the quality didn’t come as a surprise. The gritty, almost-dramedy-but-mostly-drama is headed by Marius (Giovanni Ribisi) and Eddie (Michael Drayer), brothers who owe the wrong man (Bryan Cranston) too much money. Marius is a con man. He gives you confidence, you give him your money. When he gets out of prison, Marius slips almost effortlessly into the life of his prison roommate Pete in order to buy time to pay back the mounting debts. But he finds that Pete wasn’t as forthcoming about the family business as Marius had assumed.
The show is ultimately about human nature, what family really means, and how to bluff your way out of a situation, more so than it is about crime and adventure. This makes the reveal of what’s actually going on at the very end that much more satisfying. Its also a great break from dramas that double as heavy-handed social commentary. It never loses its emotional center in an attempt to make a statement about prisons or crime or racism or any number of other social issues. Sneaky Pete keeps its focus squarely on the ideas of honor (even among thieves) and the price of goodness (even self-serving goodness), and the script is that much stronger for it.
Ribisi and Drayer have incredible chemistry as brothers – one a slick grifter, the other an impossibly good card dealer. The dangerous game they play between the streets, the Pete’s family and Cranston’s high stakes card room absolutely churns with false starts, long games, and a dramatic lack of lady luck. Bryan Cranston isn’t featured in every episode, but when he shows up, you can tell he’s having fun portraying Vince Lonigan, the king of cards who is as polished as Bond and as brutal as Capone. His monologues about power and people are to die for.
While there’s not a ton of visual innovation or many high concept elements, the gritty realism of the situations and the beautiful way we are made to care for each flawed character in the ensemble makes it great for binging. If you’re a fan of Rounders or Ocean’s 11, you’re likely to find plenty to love in Sneaky Pete.
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The Loresworn Order reviews games, movies, TV, books, and music on a four-point scale.
- No Medal, “Not Recommended”
- Bronze, “Okay”
- Silver, “Good!”
- Gold, “Great!”