Or Nah? is a feature where we watch and review the first episode of a new TV show. We’ll let you know if it’s worth checking out. As always, these reviews are the opinion of the reviewer, but we’ll try to adequately explain why you should or shouldn’t give the show a chance and provide shows for comparison.
What’s it About?
Marius, a self-described confidence man, has spent the last three years in prison, listening to the idyllic childhood stories of his cellmate, Pete. On the final day of his sentence, Marius learns that nothing but debt and threat of death awaits him in his former life. So, instead of heading home, he sets his sights on his next mark: Pete’s family.
Having been estranged for twenty years, Pete’s family readily accepts Marius as Pete. Of course, it also helps that Marius is very, very gifted with words and an extremely quick read on people. Before long, he’s offered a job with the family’s business in bail bonds, where his talents are put to good use. When the target of Marius and his “cousin” Julia’s first case, Abraham Persikof, turns out to be someone he knows, hijinks quickly ensue.
Though Marius may be settling into life as Pete, the troubles from his past aren’t going anywhere. The crime boss Marius owes money to, Vince, has taken his brother, Eddie, hostage. If the rest of the season is anything like the pilot, watching Marius walk the line between both identities is going to be a highly entertaining ride.
Pretty much everything was enjoyable about this pilot. Above all else, it managed to capture my undivided attention for the entire hour, which is no easy task. The pacing, the character introductions, the blend of humor and drama, the acting, the directing; it was all on point. No time was wasted in setting up the basic premise, getting us acquainted with the main players, and creating a sense of investment for the audience – a feat that many pilots have trouble delivering.
You quickly get the sense that more than one mystery will unfold as the season progresses, and that prospect is exciting. Though we may be in on Marius’ secret, it’s obvious that no one is exactly who they appear to be in this show. Both Julia and her sister, Carly, seem comfortable lying to their grandparents about one thing or another. It’s those grandparents, though, that may have more to them than what’s on the surface. While Otto & Audrey come off innocent enough, there’s just something about Audrey’s fox-in-the-henhouse dialogue, which hints at the idea they’re no typical farm family.
Giovanni Ribisi was a great casting choice for Marius/Pete. The mannerisms, charisma, and quiet vulnerability he brings to the character(s) allow for a very convincing conman; one who you can’t help but root for, and one who (as of yet, anyway) never feels over the top. The entire cast was impressive, in fact, but the real icing on the cake was Bryan Cranston as Vince. Though we didn’t see much of him in the pilot, what we did get was an encouraging glimpse at what’s likely to come. Vince was an almost instantly realized character, who’s sure to be both charming and terrifying throughout the show’s run.
This show could easily turn into a procedural, if there’s a new bail bonds case in every episode. Now, that’s not necessarily meant as an insult towards procedural shows, but the formulaic qualities inherent to that genre don’t particularly feel at home in Sneaky Pete. The pilot offered a ton of material to explore throughout the season, and there’s a chance the finer aspects of it all could get lost in a case-of-the-week setting.
Sneaky Pete is most definitely worth a watch. All episodes are currently available on Amazon Video, which is great, because this show feels perfect for binge watching. Not only do I have the next episode ready for when I finish this review, I’d be surprised if I haven’t finished the entire season within the next few days.
Watch This if You Like
Heist movies. Crime dramas. It has similarities to The Americans, except with a much lighter tone. There were shades of White Collar, except with much better writing.
Sneaky Pete S1E1
Sneaky Pete S1E1 “Pilot” | Starring: Giovanni Ribisi, Marin Ireland, Shane McRae, Libe Barer, Michael Drayer, Peter Gerety, Margo Martindale, Bryan Cranston, Victor Williams, and Karoline Wydra.