It’s that horrible time of the season—or seasons, I guess is more accurate. Yes, all the shows we love and adore are gearing up for their finales, leaving that horrible, dark place in your schedule that used to be filled with familiar characters and drama. While it could be filled with that homework that’s piling up behind the laptop screen (Nah), I went in search of a new series to fill the void.
I stumbled across an interesting Amazon Prime original that I had overlooked and, frankly, not heard a lot about:“Sneaky Pete.” It sounded interesting enough, so I pushed aside my textbook and pressed play. A beautiful scene, describing the joys of summer and spending time outside unfolded before my eyes—but only for the first minute. Viewers were then brought back sharply to a reality depicting two inmates in prison, one wistfully describing the scene to which viewers were just being treated. Welcome to the show.
“Sneaky Pete” is possibly the best piece of television I have had the privilege of watching in the past year, and that includes a year with giants like “Westworld” premiering. Marius Josipovic (Giovanni Ribisi) has spent three years in jail listening to his cellmate Pete (Ethan Embry) describe the good ol’ days. Marius is on his last day in prison and shows it, giving Pete a piece of his mind before going to call his brother, Eddie (Michael Drayer), to arrange a ride. He learns that New York isn’t safe for him, and he needs a hideout. Swallowing his own words, Marius goes back and asks Pete to tell him more about his childhood, feigning interest while collecting information.
Marius assumes the identity of Pete, using the three years of ramblings to show up and surprise Grandpa Otto (Peter Gerety) and Grandma Audrey (Margo Martindale) who haven’t seen Pete in a decade. Cue the intro.
I was already breathless from the events of the show, but the intro is something else. Where “Game of Thrones” wows viewers with grandiose music and “Westworld” uses subtle piano, “Sneaky Pete” features the immediate clang of blues guitar, making me want to to get up and groove with the riffs. The black and white headshots of the main characters slowly pan across, artfully lined down the middle to represent the show’s message.
Of course, Marius (now “Pete”) finds himself in a situation where he has bitten off more than he can chew. On top of running from his old life in New York, he finds out his new “family” has strong ties to the law as bail bondsmen and police officers. The show expertly brings you to the edge of your seat and keeps you there as Marius navigates new waters, dodging questions that I thought were absolutely impossible to get around.
This show draws its amazing flair from stellar performances and stunningly constructed characters. Everyone seems to have a secret that is simmering just below the surface, and Ribisi and company do each dramatic turn justice, making my knuckles white as I watched. A group of my friends and I were invested in the show together, and thank goodness, because it’s one of those that I would have gladly stayed up all night watching, either until it was over or I passed out.
For me, “Sneaky Pete” fills a void that has truly been around since the film, “Ocean’s Eleven”— the heist, the hustle and the silver-tongued rogue. Yes, the film “Now You See Me” was a pretty near hit, but nothing on television has ever quite captured that genre of badassery for me until now. “Sneaky Pete” walks the tightrope of morality, somehow making everyone both a hero and a villain at once.
Viewers need to look only as far as the writing credits to discover why this show hits hard and never lets go. Bryan Cranston (who also plays a character) created the show along with David Shore. The expertly crafted writing and intricate plot is a hallmark of Cranston, who has vaulted himself to new heights with this latest creation.
So, while the world holds its breath for “Game of Thrones,” I suggest you let “Sneaky Pete” take yours away. With an explosive first season featuring excellent characters and plotlines, this is not a show you want to miss.