Taboo and Sneaky Pete, which one is more you?

9:01:00 AM

Watching Taboo and Sneaky Pete, (both debuted this week) I noticed that they were quite similar. Like one, like them both? 

Taboo episode one recap


Taboo and Sneaky Pete both deal with the protagonist returning to civil society after a long time. 
Tom Hardy plays James Keziah Delaney in Taboo, who in 1814, returns to London after ten years, last seen in Africa and presumed dead.
Giovanni Ribisi plays Marius a con man just released from prison after three years who impersonates his cellmate, Pete Murphy, and arrives at his Pete's estranged grandparents house (they haven't seen Pete in years) looking for a place to hide. 
The elevator pitch for both would be: a cool man, battling his enemies with his smarts. 

Both are up to that challenge. 
Tom Hardy, well he is Tom Hardy. Only slightly kidding. We know James is special when a dog, who waits on the shore for the corpses of suicide victims to wash up, takes to his hand immediately, and starts following him around. James continues dominating everyone he encounters with his unpredictability, fearlessness  and profound knowledge of everybody's business. 
Pete/Marius is equally skilled at reading people. Entering the grandparents house he immediately starts scanning for clues to make everybody believe he is Pete. He continues exploiting his storyteller gift, and emotional intelligence, to con everybody he comes across. 

James and Pete's families are in similar predicaments. James' half sister and her husband have fallen on hard times. Especially her husband is quite displeased that James came back just in time to claim his inheritance. A piece of land on North America's coast, that with the war raging between England and America, is bound to become very valuable.
Marius deduced from his cellmate many stories, that Pete's family had money. He was told they were 'into bonds' and is quite surprised to realize that he walked right into the lions den, a family of bail bonds people and policemen, who are not rich at all.

Soon both men arise suspicion. 
James as soon as he arrives. His time in Africa is clouded in whisperings of unspeakable acts.  (After having seen one episode, I have no clue what the hell happened, what are we talking about, voodoo, interracial sex, murder, bestiality? No clue.) Nobody trusts James intentions, the whole episode he has everybody wondering, what he could possibly want. ( Spoiler: revenge.)
Marius thinks he fooled everyone, but he didn't count on grandma, and that is a mistake because she is played Margot Martindale aka smart cookie Margot, and before long she starts whispering about a fox in the hen house. 

Both show hint at an incestuous relationship. 
It seems that James and his half sister had a relationship before him leaving. And still love each other. Even going so far as having conceived a child together .
Pete and his cousin, (Marin Ireland) have an easy immediate connection. And in the next episodes Marius attraction will only grow. Of course Marius is not really her cousin, but still.
Sneaky Pete recap


The respective villains; Jonathan Price who plays Sir Stuart Strange, head of the East India company, the original multinational, the man who wants the land back James has in his possession, and Brian Cranston who plays Vince, a criminal New York mob boss and madmen, with whom Marius and his brother are 100k in debt, exude the same gravitas, experience and brutal menace.

Both shows rely on very capable performances. Tom Hardy, the master of mumble, having it perfected in The revenant, is as imposing as usual and manages to sell the eloquent faul Old British dialogue with ease. The other performances by Jonathan Price, David Hayman, Oona Chaplin, and Franca Potente can never be that strong, but all are as skilled at dealing with the wonderful dialogue.
Sneaky Pete's cast is topnotch. Ribisi role is made for him. And in addition from him who can't be named (love you Walter White) and Margot Martindale, Marin Ireland, ( watch Hell or High Water!) there is Pete Gerety ( hello judge) and we even get a cameo by another The Americans vet Alison 'poor Martha' Wright. 



So should you watch them both?

The setting and tone, even if both use dark humor to lighten it,  couldn't have been more different. Taboo is gritty, but beautiful, all dark tones, sweeping capes and bloody awfulness. Dirty, and stark, full of Gothic flashbacks, with shots so chilly that feel you a cold coming on by just watching. Executive producer Steven Knight is the creator of Peaky Blinders, and the show also reminds me of Penny Dreadful, Master And Commander and The Knick

Sneaky Pete is snappy, sunny, vibrant. Think to Elmore Leonard, Jim Thompson, Justified and season two of Prison Break with Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell.
It's a British Gothic battling a madcap, pulpy neo noir romcom.
Sneaky Pete is more my style. Which one would you choose?





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