Just a few episodes ago, Sneaky Pete was in a rough place. “Sam,” the season’s fifth episode, represented a low point, the show finally crumbling under the weight of its many storylines. The biggest problem with “Sam” was its structure. By withholding a lot of information while also trying build a brand new mystery, the episode struggled to create any real drama; we were all too busy trying to keep up with the flurry of new information and clues as to what had happened to the $150,000 collateral from the Dockery case. It was a lot to take in, the 50-minute runtime doing little to lighten the burden of balancing so many subplots all at once. I mention “Sam” because the neat and tidy plotting of the season’s eighth episode, “The Roll Over,” provides a contrast to the messiness from earlier this season, and acts as a good example of how Sneaky Pete can use its many mysteries to enhance its emotional story.

Advertisement

What “The Roll Over” gets right about its plotting is the reveal of the endgame. From the very beginning of this episode we know where it’s going, and that leaves us questioning just how everything will go down. The previous episode, “Lieutenant Bernhardt,” left off with a cliffhanger, as Otto was in the process of hiring a hitman named Hopper to…well, to kill himself. If it was unclear in that moment just how Otto saw this plan happening and what the benefit would be, “The Roll Over” immediately clears things up. Otto wants Hopper to fake a robbery while Otto is working, going after the money in the safe and taking Otto out in the process, making it look like a robbery gone wrong.

Knowing that the plan is in place adds some real stakes to the episode. What’s impressive is how “The Roll Over” then dovetails the story of Marius and Lance trying to con one another with Otto’s death wish. The episode sets up a potentially disastrous collision from the get-go, and all we can do is sit back and wait for it to happen. It’s excruciatingly tense, and some of the best plotting Sneaky Pete has done all season. Sneaky Pete has had its fair share of drama and tension, but “The Roll Over” finds another level.

As Otto walks around his home on the morning of the day he’s decided to die, it’s clear that while he’s sure about the choice he’s made, he’s also terrified. He runs his hand along the table that’s been the sight of countless family dinners, remembering all the good and bad times that have unfolded around that table. He downs an ounce of scotch and surveys his home, the dull grey of the early morning, so often a source of calm and peace, here a contrast to Otto’s inner turmoil. Otto seems sure in his decision, but that doesn’t mean he’s at peace.

Advertisement

“The Roll Over” is essentially executing two storylines: there’s Otto’s excruciating wait for his death, and then there’s Marius, Audrey, Julia, and Porter teaming up to con Lance. While the two plots work as separate entities, their strengths really show as they build towards an intertwining climax. So, Marius and Porter doing their best to dupe Lance, and having to continually up their game because Lance is smarter than he looks, is perhaps the most engaging con so far this season because it directly affects the Bernhardt’s. It’s fun to see Audrey want vengeance, even as Marius is manipulating her. The scene at the restaurant, where Lance “figures out” that Marius and Porter are conning Audrey into selling her farm because they know there’s profitable, accessible uranium in the soil, is the type of ludicrous, complex plotting that Sneaky Pete has proven adept at pulling off. As Lance gets further roped into this con—Marius having Marjorie disguise herself as Maggie is a great touch, and once again asserts that Alison Wright is deserving of every role that comes her way—it becomes clear that he, along with Marius, is on a collision course with Otto, Hopper, and one of Dockery’s men who’s sent to the bail bonds office to make sure nothing happens to his cash.

“The Roll Over” builds to those final moments, and the intensity of the scene is not only a credit to the show’s unpredictability, but also its patience when it comes to plotting. Where “Sam” and a few other episodes were overstuffed, every twist and turn in “The Roll Over” services the main plot, clarifying and amplifying the emotions and motivations that lead to that final, bloody confrontation. It’s a stirring climax unlike anything Sneaky Pete has pulled off before—Cranston’s monologue in “The Fury” is certainly chilling, but I’d argue the confluence of events here makes a bigger impact—and it’s a good sign that the show is well on its way to closing out the season with a string of compelling episodes.

Stray observations

  • I don’t think there’s a fictional character on all of TV that I hate more than ANB’s Sean. I am very ready for Taylor to steal his girl.
  • That said, Lance certainly gives him a run for his money. He really has no compassion for Audrey or any of the Bernhardt’s, which doesn’t seem like a great move considering he’s trying to win back Julia.
  • Alison Wright as Marjorie impersonating Maggie might just be my favorite moment of the season. The way Wright just slips into the presumed character tics of Maggie is wonderful, and it tells us a lot about who Marjorie is.
  • Brendon isn’t messing around at all. What a badass.

Advertisement