Last week, the first season of Amazon's Sneaky Pete was finally released in full (I say "finally" because the pilot for the show has been available there since 2015). Now you can watch all ten episodes, which you may be tempted to do in one or two sittings, since the show hit instant-binge status thanks to a bunch of glowing reviews. We suggest watching this at a normal pace though, like the old pre-streaming days.
First of all, what took so long? The show was originally developed for CBS, and the pilot was shot for the network back in March 2015. By May of that year, CBS passed; by June, Amazon was in negotiations to pick it up; by August the pilot was live on their streaming platform and they had officially picked the show up. The series was created by David Shore (NYPD Blue, House) and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), but Shore left the project in 2015, and was replaced by Graham Yost (Justified, The Americans). Following the Shore-Yost transition, the remaining nine episodes of the first season were shot in 2016, with a lot of location shooting done in NYC.
There will be spoilers in everything that follows.
As we learn in the above trailer, Sneaky Pete is actually Marius Josipovic, a con man played by the excellent Giovanni Ribisi, who upon his release from prison steals his cellmate Pete Murphy's identity. He goes to lay low at Murphy's family farm, which Murphy told him about in great detail during their time behind bars together. With his con man skills and a foundation of knowledge of the farm and Murphy's family (who lost touch with the real Pete long ago), Josipovic is able to pull things off. He moves in and starts working for his faux-family's bail-bond business.
Why is he going to all these extreme lengths? To get some much-needed distance from his own life in NYC, where Vince (Bryan Cranston) is waiting for him. Josipovic owes him $100,000, which he hopes to score by way of the Murphy's.
It's all got a little bit of a Breaking Bad feel to it, even without Cranston—the crime, the torture, the sly maneuvers and artful dodging of Trouble. Still, the show manages to bring darkness and light as close together as possible, with moments of real humanity paired up with moments of people losing limbs. This balance is appealing, as the show never drags you into a down and out hellscape for too long.
There was a review last week that noted, "Once you watch the first episode, I dare you not to start binge-watching its 10 episodes." That first episode is about as good as it gets, I found—it was exhilarating to watch Josipovic's plan take shape, and see him smoothly work through it, with a fumble here or there. But once you are living in that bigger con, and it becomes more familiar, the rest is less intriguing. It's certainly a solid show, however (Current Rotten Tomato critics score? 💯), and there's more to enjoy as you journey with "Pete" in his new shoes, it's just not so addictive that you need to carve out 10 hours to watch it in one-sitting. Take your time, you know, watch it like how we used to watch TV shows.
There is a nice payoff during the final moment of the final episode to look forward to, as well, which I won't spoil here except to say that I'm looking forward to season two (presumably, there will be one).
The first season (featuring a large cast, including Marin Ireland, Shane McRae, Margo Martindale, Peter Gerety, Ethan Embry) is streaming on Amazon Prime now, and you can even watch the full pilot below: