Warning: This contains spoilers for Season 1 of Sneaky Pete. Not caught up? See our spoiler-free review of the first season.
Previously on Sneaky Pete… Marius (the eminently likeable Giovanni Ribisi), masquerading as his cellmate – the eponymous Pete – seemed to have escaped his tangled web of deceit, debt, long cons and vengeful New York gangsters not only intact but without Pete’s family, the Bernhardts, finding out his true identity. But Marius’ walk off into the sunset was postponed at gunpoint by mob enforcers Frank (Joseph Lyle Taylor) and Joe (Dexter’s Desmond Harrington), who have news: Pete’s mother is alive and, they believe, in possession of the $11 million proceeds of a heist.
This welcome return for Amazon’s quirky conman thriller hits the ground running, following immediately on from last season’s fantastic cliffhanger. Leant on by Frank and Joe, Marius agrees to track down his ‘mother’, but Marius, never able to resist a big payday, can’t resist working an angle so he can get his mitts on the moolah. He ropes in his fellow grifter, Marjorie (Sunderland-born Alison Wright, as excellent this time round as she was in Season 1), who’s happy to back Marius up in his elaborate cons. Until, that is, she finds out who Frank and Joe are working for – Luka, a sadistic underworld boss who forced a fellow conman to drink acid over $10,000. “Imagine,” she says, “what he’ll do to us over 11 million.”
Frank and Joe also prove themselves to be ruthless foes, not afraid to kill innocents to make a point. While it doesn’t quite make the irrepressible Marius fall back in line, it does give him pause. And the thugs sense, correctly, that Marius’ one weak spot is his adopted family, especially Pete’s cousin, Julia (Marin Ireland). But threats to kill her just seem to make Marius even more determined to win – a scrappy street rat, it seems Marius’ need to prove himself better than the rich and powerful (both legit and criminal) overrides everything. And, as the trail takes them to a town full of psychics, things only get weirder. And potentially more deadly.
Running alongside Marius’ travails is the continuing story of the Bernhardts. Shady characters themselves, their bail-bond business – mixed up with Marius’ shenanigans – saw them with two deaths at their doors. One, the “house painter” Otto hired to kill him so his loved ones could benefit from his life insurance – inadvertently shot by one of their drug-dealing clients – requires nothing more than his car to disappear. Simple enough, except that the house painter’s son comes looking – not only is he after revenge, but there’s something important in his dead dad’s car.
Audrey (Margo Martindale), meanwhile, is still reeling from being forced to kill corrupt NYPD detective Winslow, together with her grandson, smalltown cop Taylor (Shane McRae). When a steely and beautiful female detective is brought onto the case, Taylor finds himself trying to steer the investigation away from him and his grandmother. Although it seems fairly clear that Taylor’s burgeoning feelings for the detective are going to complicate matters further…
If these opening four episodes are indicative of the season as a whole, Sneaky Pete looks to have truly found its feet. Its inaugural season had much to recommend it, but some elements – the sub-Tarantinoesque gangsters – were less pleasing. Thankfully, this season appears to only be focusing on the show’s strengths: its likeable characters, smalltown intrigue, low level crime – bar a few homicides – and crummy motel rooms. And, most important of all, plot twists aplenty that’ll turn one ep into a night-long viewing binge.
Season 2 of Sneaky Pete is available on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.