Launching on January 13 on Amazon, the first season of the con man series Sneaky Pete from creators Bryan Cranston and David Shore doesn’t break much new ground. But it sure shows the former Walter White as very bad – in a very good way.
And, in a series that often aims to intentionally distract you from the real action, it is a thing to watch indeed; Cranston only showed up at the tail end of the 2015 pilot of Sneaky Pete. Bizarrely passed on by CBS, that Seth Gordon-directed episode spent almost all its time laying the narrative tracks for Giovanni Ribisi as a just-out-of-jail hustler trying to consolidate himself into the family of an ex-cellmate as their long-lost grandson and pay off a hefty debt to Cranston’s ruthless character.
Looking at several episodes of the Graham Yost-showrun first season now, Cranston’s role as the villainous gambling don Vince is to Ribisi as Bob Odenkirk’s Saul Goodman was to White in the brilliant Breaking Bad — and we all know how well that worked out. Simply put, Cranston isn’t in every scene, but he owns the ones he shows up for. Additionally, the specter of ex-NYPD cop Vince spreads over the shell-game series of sorts as Ribisi, his younger brother (Michael Drayer), his grifter ex-girlfriend (Karolina Wydra) and everyone else is trapped in his web.
As I say in my video review above, while I still stand by my review of the pilot back in August 2015 about the procedural setup of Sneaky Pete with its scam of the week and overall arch, the surprise of the whole season is the enlarged role of the multiple Emmy winner Cranston plus some strong supporting actors. Proving again just how good it is to play the bad guy, Cranston shows here how his good is above most people’s great as he seeks revenge and repayment from Ribisi’s fast-talking character.
Having appeared in the pilot over a year and a half ago, the wonderful Margo Martindale and Pete Gerety continue to seal the deal as Pete/Marius’ would-be grandparents, with scams of their own on the make. Adding to that mix, Wicked City alum Wydra might be the breakout of the show as Marius’ ex and now Vince’s lady, an equally deft con artist in her own right.
So put your cards on the table and click on my video review of Sneaky Pete above — a fairly conventional show that is well worth bingeing as it sneaks up on you with its nimble performances.