Sneaky Pete is in a unique position as it enters its third season.
The show does not waste its time getting right back into the swing of things, taking the expected and twisting it into a surprising but inevitable direction.
There's a realigning of sorts, in which its characters are taken down their natural, and uncomfortable, paths.
A looming theme comes to light through the opening hours of the third season: the need to be better. It's on every character's mind as their status quo changes in some form.
The show plays with this delicate balance, stretching barriers while retaining the core the show, something at which it excels.
Marius' past drives his story allowing for his shell to crack a little more. Giovanni Ribisi as the lead gives the show a commanding presence as his character continues to fascinate.
Ribisi plays Marius with a level of discomfort, less assured and confident as he has been in past seasons. There's a sense that the other shoe could drop at any moment, even though the stakes, at least initially, are not high for him.
It's the personal, the closeness he feels, where the discomfort lies. Marius is a character driven by an end goal, so Sneaky Pete becomes intriguing when something else entirely drives him further.
Ribisi continues to be a shrouded but great performer, where he can turn on a dime making any scene into whatever is asked of him. It's an art, and he does so effortlessly while being endlessly entertaining.
Julia becomes a larger focus, giving Marin Ireland bonafide co-lead status.
The direction her character heads provides a vast and deep look into Julia's character, deconstructing her and allowing Ireland a larger and more welcome role on the show.
The other characters are never short-changed, either. With gifted actors such as Margo Martindale, Libe Barer, Peter Gerety, and Shane McRae, the show gets to keep them all in play and with something integral to the overall narrative.
Their stories may not be riveting during the two opening episodes, but the performances and the repurcussions help sell what's essentially early-going bumps with the show's energy.
While Sneaky Pete is splitting up everyone, at least for now, it's doing so in a way so some characters are paired off with others with whom they have not had a lot of time. That leads the show leads down new avenues, and it helps breathe new life into Sneaky Pete.
A lot of the characters find themselves with a level of distrust for those in their lives.
No one comes out and says what's really happening which leaves behind a sense of repression and doubt.
Sneaky Pete searches for what's inside its characters, what makes them tick. There's a level of intimate closeness in that regard, that digs deep into their flaws and what ostensibly takes them to their low points.
All of those pieces lead to a slower moving season, but it's confidently building to something. At least during its first two episodes as it's not ready to share where it's heading.
While it may be a tad slower, it's more rewarding. The change of pace allows characters and actors to thrive, making them endlessly fascinating. By adding new characters like Efrat Dor's addition to the series, the show can to say more about Marius and show a different side of him, leading to new avenues of storytelling.
Sneaky Pete knows what it's doing and goes about it in a way that Marius and the Bernhardt/Bowman family find themselves reflecting back while trying to move forward.
Sneaky Pete Season 3 finds a way to keep the show fresh.
The writing is still a highlight, with some quick lines and witty retorts becoming punctuation for its characters as they navigate their changing lives.
The stakes for normalcy might be at stake, but the show continues to have humor and intelligence in its pocket.
The third season continues down a path of discovey for what makes Marius tick and gets more interesting by doing the same with Julia. There's more to her story now, as her life changes direction making her just as important to follow.
By digging deep, Sneaky Pete brings forward a powerful layer of honesty to a show about dishonest and untrustworthy people.
The series succeeds best when they strive to do better, and whether they succeed or fail, it remains compelling and triumphant.
On a show about cons, lies, and deception, making the truth the underlying vulnerability of its characters is a feat, and one Sneaky Pete pulls off with great enthusiasm.