If there’s a defining trait of the first half of the first season of Sneaky Pete, it’s inconsistency. More often than not the inconsistency does come from the show’s outsized ambitions, shooting too high and then failing to really follow through. The season’s halfway point, “Sam,” was also the season’s nadir, a messy, overstuffed episode that piled one mystery on top of another until no storyline had any room to breathe. To me, the main issue was that Sneaky Pete was strictly offering up questions, and the failure to give up any answers ended up killing the narrative momentum. “Coyote Is Always Hungry” doesn’t exactly fix everything, but it is a step in the right direction, offering up some much needed clarity.

“Coyote Is Always Hungry” doesn’t provide that clarity right off the bat though, instead going for one of the more effective cold opens of the season so far. Here, we see a man walking through the woods, rifle at his side. He seems to be hunting. He’s quietly sneaking over logs and branches before hearing a branch snap, causing him to pause. Next thing he knows he has an arrow through the chest, and a man is by his side, shovel in hand, digging his grave.

It’s a disorienting way to begin the episode, but it’s the kind of disorienting that works. Rather than the sometimes-contrived mysteries that dominate the main plot, this cold open establishes a contained mystery, one that’s paid off by the end of the episode. In fact, “Coyote Is Always Hungry” is all about finally revealing some of the motivations behind the season biggest mysteries. After “Sam” nearly buckled under the weight of its many secrets, “Coyote Is Always Hungry” alleviates the pressure, showing how Lance, Audrey, Otto, and many others are connected, and how the many secrets they keep could be the undoing of the Bernhardt’s.

Before we get to that though, we need to talk about Eddie and Vince. As great as it’s been to see Bryan Cranston dig into the role of Vince, complicating the cop-turned-gangster trope with genuine emotion and a chilling presence, the storyline as a whole has lacked any real punch. Sure, “The Fury” boasted one of the season’s finest moments, but outside of that one lengthy sequence, the scenes in the city have paled in comparison to those with Marius and the Bernhardt’s. In “Coyote Is Always Hungry,” Vince turns to Eddie in the hopes of catching Mukherjee cheating at the table, while Karolina lets Eddie know that her and Marius are working on a plan to get them all out of the orbit of the vicious gangster. Until that time comes though, the storyline must spin its wheels. The Mukherjee subplot just doesn’t have the same stakes as Marius trying to save his brother, leaving this story feeling rather removed from everything else, both in terms of tone and intrigue.

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“Coyote Is Always Hungry” more than makes up for the lackluster city scenes with everything else though, as the larger plot comes out of its haze and begins to present a clearer vision. The first sign that Sneaky Pete is moving forward and beginning to answer some questions comes at the top of the episode, as Otto confronts Audrey about the missing money supplied as collateral for the Dockery trial, which is about to get underway. It’s a stirring scene, with Otto expressing a feeling of betrayal, especially when you add in the layer about his mental health, and Audrey in turn realizing that she may be in over her head. For once, two characters come at each other straight. Otto asks if she can get the money back before the end of the trial, and Audrey, with a defeated sigh executed with pitch perfect devastation by Margo Martindale, says she doesn’t know. It’s a beautiful, quiet, but also gut-wrenching scene, and it’s the kind of emotional stakes that the story has been missing.

As the episode unfolds, the carefully kept secrets of the Bernhardts begin to come out. After Lance presents Julia with a boat and an offer to begin again as a family, Julia turns to “Pete” and opens up about her relationship and how hard it’s been to raise two kids on her own, and how that’s led her back to Lance despite knowing better. Having Julia’s inner turmoil laid out so plainly is a boon to the subplot, elevating a simplistic “exes that still have sex” story into one about financial and emotional burden.

From there, “Coyote Is Always Hungry” interweaves the ever-complex threads of the missing $150,000, which Audrey has apparently given to Lance as some sort of investment in purchasing land. She wants the money back, and Lance says he’ll get it for her, but something’s still off. After all, he’s defending Dockery, who doesn’t seem to be on the level; the episode’s cold open confirms a hit ordered by Dockery in order to eliminate the one witness who could put him in prison. Then there’s the introduction of a name: Victoria Jemmett. Who is she, why is Audrey paying her a visit, and why is Lance seemingly paying her rent?

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While “Coyote Is Always Hungry” runs the same risk as “Sam” by posing too many questions, it provides some answers as well, getting Sneaky Pete back on track as it enters the homestretch of its first season. After some digging from Carly reveals the criminal past of “Pete,” Otto and Audrey confront him. “Are you a criminal?” they ask. Marius ponders how to play this, but only for a moment. “Yes, and that’s exactly why you need me,” he says before sliding Lance’s wallet over to Audrey. Sneaky Pete’s long con is starting to pay off. The question now is: will the Bernhardt’s, with the help of Marius, be able to pull off their own?

Stray observations

  • With all the crime details to keep track of, I feel like I don’t hit on the show’s comedy enough in these reviews, but rest assured, I laughed out loud when the aging heavy metal guitarist rolled his amp and guitar into the pawn shop, only to discover the owner pointing a gun at Marius.
  • I wonder if we’ll see any more of the pickpocket couple that Marius hired to tail Audrey for the day.
  • So far, Marius, Marjorie, and Joseph have a few ideas for cons they can pull: The Roll Over, or perhaps the Spanish Prisoner.
  • Otto pushes Dockery to flee to Canada, but he refuses. Why flee to Canada when you can just kill the one man who could get you sentenced?
  • While Sneaky Pete has had its fair share of intrigue all season, “Coyote Is Always Hungry” boasts the best cliffhanger yet.

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