Amazon Originals are all the rage right now. We've seen some trippy alternate history (The Man in the High Castle) and there's talk of more Phillip K. Dick adaptations to follow. So what do we watch while we wait for more science fiction greatness? We settle in for a far-fetched contemporary drama starring Giovanni Ribisi and Bryan Cranston.
Fresh TV With Confidence
Sneaky Pete has a fun story: Marius (Ribisi), a con man, leaves jail and assumes the identity of his loudmouth cell mate named Pete; he gets involved in a family's bail bond business and juggles all these relationships while desperately trying to settle a debt with a ruthless gangster (Cranston) who has his real brother hostage as collateral.
You would think that convincing strangers that you are a relative after a 20-year absence would be impossible. Surely, someone would notice something odd like a physical trait, a nervous tic, the way you talk.
While the pilot was convenient enough to let our sneaky protagonist charm the mark's grandparents, cousins and other family members, we gradually learn throughout the 10-episode season that other people are also playing 'happy families' to conceal incriminating truths that could ruin lives. If it wasn't for these plot twists then Sneaky Pete would become one of those ridiculous shows that overlooks the obvious and becomes its own parody. Luckily, the narrative is smart for the sake of its own conceits.
The immediate tension is how long can our talented con man maintain the act? The game changes slightly when someone hints at knowing the truth.
This show shines when the action slows. The characterisation, those intimate conversations draw you in. You feel like Pete/Marius is living the fantasy family life vicariously but it is only fleeting, and Marius knows it.
There is action. And those moments are intense. If this series was run by any mainstream network I bet we would see gratuitous shootouts and mob brutality just to tick the relevant boxes. Fortunately, we have ourselves a mature story with interesting characters and the right amount of tension and intrigue to fuel this franchise for multiple seasons. Check it out.