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Series / Sneaky Pete

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"Trust in me..."

Sneaky Pete is an American crime drama series created by David Shore and Bryan Cranston. The series follows Marius Josipovic (Giovanni Ribisi), a released convict who adopts the identity of his cell mate, Pete Murphy, in order to avoid his past life. The series also stars Marin Ireland, Libe Barer, Michael Drayer, Peter Gerety, and Margo Martindale.

The series ran for three seasons from 2015 to 2019.

This show provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Vignetti, played by Ricky Jay, a renowned card manipulator, asks Marius to show him some card manipulation, claiming that he's not skilled himself. Later, Vignetti displays that he is, in fact, good with cards.
  • Affably Evil: In spite of being a ruthless crime lord, Vince is a very friendly guy who used to be a (corrupt) cop. He takes a liking to the Josipovic brothers in spite of their attempts to betray and rob him, but does not shrink from punishing them.
  • All for Nothing: Some of the schemes to get the money from the safe, such as spending all day with Otto and convincing him to call someone to reset the lock, only to find the safe is empty.
  • The Antagonist:
    • Season 1: Vince is the main one, who wants money from Marius.
    • Season 2: Luka, the Montenegrin crimelord who wants his $11 million back.
    • Season 3: Kilbane, a rich man who wants revenge on the man who conned him, is the antagonist for Marius. Chuck Johnson, a drug lord wrapped up in the Bowmans' family drama, is the antagonist for the Bowmans.
  • Artistic License – Law: Taylor usually sports a stubbly beard. While every city's laws are different, almost none of them allow police to wear beards, and most of those that do are only for religious or medical reasons.
  • Badass Israeli: In season 3, Kilbane has a group of ex-Mossad mercenaries as personal security/thugs.
  • Batman Gambit: Many of Marius's schemes rely on people acting or reacting in a way that he has predicted. For example, in a flashback, impressing Vince with a card trick and then leaving, causes Vince to call him and get hooked into a con.
  • Batter Up!: Otto threatens his old friend turned rival Sam with a baseball bat and gives a long backstory to its use, which he then admits was completely made up.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: In spite of Pete's idyllic recollections, the Bernhardts have had a lot of strife and tragedy over the past 20 years. They're barely hanging on when Marius arrives.
  • Blackand Gray Morality: Marius does some pretty bad stuff but he's often set up against the cruelest people imaginable.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Carly is a 16-year-old rebel who smokes and has a flippant attitude.
  • Briar Patching: When Marius pulls the attempted con on Vince, it's clear Vince is going to kill him for it. Marius manages to escape with a gun and a pair of crooked cops on his tail. Bursting into a bank, he holds it up and then allows himself to be arrested for attempted robbery, figuring that being in jail is the safest place for him right now.
  • Brick Joke: After "Sam" establishes Lance's fear of blood, "The Roll Over" ends with him fainting after witnessing a murder.
  • Card Sharp: Eddie and Marius are very skilled at sleight-of-hand card tricks. They can completely control the way cards are dealt at a table.
  • Celebrity Paradox:
  • The Chessmaster: Marius makes a living by manipulating people into furthering his goals through subtlety and deception. It doesn't always work, though.
  • The Con: The first seasons has the audience guessing as to who Marius's real mark will be, Vince or the Bernhardts.
  • Con Man: The series is based on a group of these, especially Marius, or "Pete".
  • Corrupt Cop:
    • Vince used to be one. The way he tells it, pretty much everyone was on the take in his day, and he was not by any stretch the most crooked.
    • Vince has his own man on the force in the form of Winslow.
  • Crazy-Prepared: In the season 3 finale, it turns out that Marius has two fake bags of diamonds, one filled with sand that he hands to Lizzie, and one filled with fake diamonds that he throws into the ocean, all to convince Lizzie that he's discarded the real bag, which he produces later.
  • The Danza: Karolina is played by Karolina Wydra.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Otto refers to hitmen as "house painters," which is real mob slang, at least according to Frank Sheeran.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The pilot opens with Pete's recollections of his childhood, but these are not the words of our main character.
  • Detective Mole: Taylor is assigned to help investigate the murder he and his grandmother committed.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Frank ends up killing Luka in retaliation for his brutal murder of Joe.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Lizzie, Marius's former colleague and old flame, reunites with him in season 3 to pull a con, but turns against him when his loyalties to the Bowmans endanger the con once too often.
  • Fake Guest Star: An extreme version with Vince. Bryan Cranston plays the antagonist of the first season, but declined to be credited as an actor.
  • Fake Shemp: Ricky Jay died before completing all of his scenes in season 3. In the final episode, only the back of his head is visible. He's portrayed by a stand-in, and his only line is dubbed in.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: After Julia finds out who Marius is, he tries to get her to trust him again. She begins to quote the Scorpion and the Frog fable. Marius says that he wishes people would stop quoting that story and consider that the scorpion isn't dumb enough to drown himself.
  • Friend in the Black Market: When Otto needs his safe opened as he forgot the code, Marius knows just the guy.
  • The Gambler: Marius and, to a lesser extent, Eddie
  • Get-Rich-Quick Scheme: a lot of the series revolves around one of these
  • Hero Antagonist: Marius's probation officer genuinely wants to help his charges better themselves and become "eagles." However, Marius is in way too deep to fly straight right now.
  • Honest John's Dealership: The Bowman kids' great grandfather Tex owns a used car dealership and is quite shady in spite of his protestations that he wants to make up for past failings to his family.
  • Honey Pot:
    • Karolina's job in the con is to seduce and manipulate Vince. She initially does this by pretending to be a Slovenian sexpot. In the later con, she's his live-in girlfriend under her own identity but still maneuvering Vince where they want him to be.
    • Shannon tries to seduce the liquor shop owner into giving up the security cam footage, but he turns out to be gay.
  • Hustler: Marius for the first part of the series
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Season 3 episodes are named after types of cons.
  • Imposter Forgot One Detail: When Vince exposes how he figured out Marius' con, he presses on how Karolina said both "Slovenia" and "Slovakia" while trying to seduce him. Karolina tries to keep up the act, claiming she only said Slovenia. Vince actually congratulates her for not breaking character but then asks, "What's the capitol of Slovenia?" Her lack of reply has him chuckling.
  • Intro-Only Point of View: The story opens with a focus on the real Pete, and Marius as his cellmate.
  • It's Personal:
    • Winslow wants revenge on Marius for scarring his eye.
    • Marius and his crew want revenge on Vince for killing their comrade. Money is only a side bonus.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: The first season finale revolves around a big one as Vince thinks Marius is running a big con on him involving a guy who's an Indian tech millionaire. When his bodyguard reveals the guy is an FBI informant and he's an agent who's called in others, Vince just laughs at how good his "act" is and shoots him. It's only when the wounded guy shoots back and the Feds race in that Vince realizes too late he just shot a real federal agent and is going to jail for at least 20 years. Oh, and Marius used the whole thing as a huge distraction for an ally to clean out Vince's safe after all.
  • Life Imitates Art: Marius got the idea for his initial con on Vince from The Sting.
  • Lovable Rogue: Marius and his friends are generally portrayed in a way that the audience roots for them to win.

  • Out-of-Character Alert: Julia hunts her ex, Lance, wanted on some charges and meets her former friend who also slept with Lance. They seem to bond before the woman mentions Lance went to visit his sick mother in Florida. Julia later shows up at her house, pushing her way inside to find Lance living there.
    Julia: Next time you have her lie for you, let her know you hate Florida. And your mother.
  • Parental Neglect: One flashback and a few comments indicate Marius usually had to feed himself and his brother as a child because their mother was a heroin addict.
  • Police Brutality: Taylor beats up a teen he thinks slashed his tire.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The entire series rests on Marius assuming Pete comes from a rich family into stocks thanks to all the talk of "bond business" and thus it'll be easy to slip in, bilk them out of money and then leave. It's when he meets them that he realizes it's the bail bonds business and they're not ready for him to go just yet.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Vince's two main bodyguards are decent enough guys and just follow his orders. Richard in particular seems to sympathize with Eddie.
  • Retool:
    • If the show had aired on CBS, as it was supposed to initially, it would have been a pretty episodic skiptracer procedural run by David Shore. Then the pilot moved to Amazon, who wanted a more serialized show. This change made Shore uncomfortable so he left, and was replaced by Graham Yost. As a result there are a bunch of differences between the pilot and the rest of the show
    • For season 3 the show changed location (it moved to California due to the state's more advantageous tax policy) and showrunner (Blake Masters replaced Graham Yost)
  • The Reveal:
    • Taylor's lover Shannon works for a competing bail bonds company.
    • Marius was actually working on a con on Vince to get revenge for the murder of his comrade.
    • The Bowman matriarch is actually dead. Maggie Murphy has been living under her identity without telling anyone.
  • The Savage Indian: Partially Subverted. Chayton Dockrey seems to have a large piece of most of the crime going through the reservation, (and then some by the looks of it), and comes off as being more Affably Evil... but as the Bernhardt/Bowman Family finds out, you don’t wanna piss him off. Played straighter with his personal hitman/enforcer Ayawamat, who’s practically a Native American terminator who doesn't show much emotion to begin with, and doesn’t bat an eye at killing witnesses to a crime. We even find out that he once bit a man’s nose off in a fight, and this was after he was already sent to prison for an unknown felony crime.
  • Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up: Taylor. In spite of acting like he and Marius/Pete are best friends, his interactions with Marius range from inappropriately rough to outright threatening. By the end of the first season, he admits that he bullied Pete as a kid and begins working to better himself as a person.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Marius's original con on Vince is lifted almost directly from The Sting. Vince calls him out on it, and Marius begrudgingly admits that it was "inspired by" the film.
    • Vince makes a reference to Bullwinkle from Rocky and Bullwinkle and explains it to Karolina while she's pretending to be Slovenian.
  • Snowball Lie: Audrey steals collateral to pay for her investment scheme, then has to maintain a charade that the money is still there.
  • Spanner in the Works: While by no means fools, Marius's plans often go awry because of well-meaning plans by the Bernhardts. He often has to get somewhere, such as to his Parole Officer, but can't because his 'grandma' insists on lunch.
  • Straight Gay: The clerk at the local liquor store turns out to be gay when Shannon tries to Honey Pot him. He displays no gay mannerisms.