Thursday, February 28, 2013

Leverage Reviewed!

I did it! Finally! I have finished the fifth and final season of Leverage. I didn’t want to finish it. I didn’t want it to be over. Leverage is happy, fluffy fun, with cool characters and a week to week premise that allows us to enjoy ourselves and unwind from all those other shows that we love that have huge series arcs and require religious watching and re-watching of all episodes.

The basic premise is like Hustle or a modern day Robin Hood; five criminals, stealing from the rich and giving back to the poor. Or as is more common in the story, allowing those who are powerless and being exploited to get back at and bring down corrupt corporations. All of this is done in a way that requires both a sense of humour and a suspension of disbelief. If you have those things and if you want a bit of fun, then you’ll enjoy Leverage.
Follow me under the jump for character descriptions, reactions to season 5 and an analysis of the series finale.

There are five main characters in Leverage making up the super team that tackles episodic espionage and heists.

The Mastermind – Nathan Ford


Nathan Ford used to work for an insurance company that screwed him and didn’t pay for an experimental treatment for his son, resulting in his son’s death. Bitter and twisted and out for revenge, Nate uses the knowledge he has gained to put together a team of con artists and criminals to get a job done. As the story progresses, Nate believes that he can make a greater and more positive difference to the injustice in the world through this team. He holds them together, scopes the cons, runs the game play and is an alcoholic. He’s also, totally infatuated with Sophie.

The Grifter – Sophie Devereaux

Sophie’s skill is convincing people that she is who she says she is. Whether that is a politician, a scientist, a CEO of a company, a drugs dealer... well that depends on the day and the con. She’s extremely good at what she does, but don’t ask her to actually perform in a play or production. It seems her acting talents aren’t the scripted kind. Her attraction to Nate is another aspect explored in the show. The two of them try to make each other better people.

The Hitter – Eliot Spencer


Eliot is the brawn of the group, long history... shady history. Most notable of course being his time in Vietnam and his time as an assassin; these make him valuable to the team. Eliot is also a master chef which was a delightful development; lethal to criminals, corporations and zucchini. His banter with Hardison and his big brother attitude towards Parker grow and develop into one of the most special aspects of the show.

The Thief – Parker

Parker; socially removed, socially inept, deeply troubled, but ass kicking, name taking, independent, intelligent and an expert thief. Parker struggles with relationships and trust and has a convoluted and messed up past so watching her grow and develop, conquer her fears and find friendship is a really rewarding part of the show. Towards the end of the series, she and Hardison actually become a couple and their experiences with each other are utterly adorable, in that really awkward and in many ways real way. Parker is no romantic.

The Hacker – Alec Hardison

Hardison is the cool guy hacker who knows every trick in the book, off the book and at times outside of the realm of the book... or possibility (you have to ignore that bit). What he causes in terms of raised eyebrows for his use of improbable technology, he more than makes up for with his smooth talking, wise cracking attitude. His banter with Eliot is amazing. His gentleness with Parker, his chastising of the group’s inability to understand what he is talking about, his belief in the Age of the Geek, is all gold.

Season 5 – The Final Season

Season 5 was pleasantly surprisingly good. Maybe it was because I knew it was the last season? I don’t think so. I have always really liked Leverage but with long seasons and no real overarching arc a lot of the time, it can get old. This season is completely on song. The banter is there. The heists are there. The character development is there. Parker and Hardison’s burgeoning relationship is hysterical. Their dates involving Hardison screaming down a zip line, their solving of debates using ridiculous bets, the inappropriate gestures and the teaching of each other’s technical language is all fantastic!

Also what Leverage has always done really well, the novelty episodes. The best one saw Parker, Eliot and Hardison take on a terrorist attack without Sophie and Nate. This was actually setting up the team for the end of the series, but at the time it was wonderful simply because the three of them together carried the warmth, fun and heart in the show. Another great episode saw Parker, injured and unable to take part in a con, stuck in the apartment and becoming the mastermind of her own investigation. The character growth and development in that episode was fantastic and was something often replicated in season five because of where the finale was actually heading.

And the character development wasn’t just found in episodes about incapacity or trauma, like Eliot’s experience as a war vet being used for the team to infiltrate a horrific experiment on homeless war vets, but through the humanistic and humorous elements of the show. Eliot and Hardison driving along, Hardison blaring music that he’s created lyrics to (and it’s still stuck in my head “two good old boys behind the wheel chasing down bad guys in Lucille) and Eliot singing along with him has got to be one of my favourite scenes of the season. It was all about them being bros.

The Final Episode: The Long Goodbye Job

The season finale itself was very well put together. The premise is flashbacks that imply that the team has died and that Nate is the only one who has survived. He is currently in custody being forced to tell the story of his team’s death and the con that went wrong. As I watched Parker get shot, Hardison falling and breaking, Parker dragging him to the car, Eliot shot in the back protecting them, the black van with them inside driving away... my heart completely gave way. The three hold hands in the back of the van, worried about each other. Eliot tells Hardison that it’s the age of the geek, using one of Hardison’s common catch phrases. The cops close in as a bridge, leading them to safety and escape starts to lift. Sophie peers into the back of the van. Parker, Eliot and Hardison are dead. She holds Nate’s hand and tells Nate to try to make the jump in the car. Evidently, it fails, she dies while he survives. Four bodies are pulled from the wreckage. As Nate screams and howls and rants and thumps tables I get more and more upset. More afraid.

And then I realise I have been conned.

The agent interrogating Nate makes clear that she believes he’s lying. She’s trying to find out what actually happened. Nate unravels an elaborate plot with twists and turns that reveal not only that the team are alive and well, but that they were after the little black book containing the names of people and corporations involved in one of the biggest cover ups the world had ever seen. A cover up that cost many individuals billions of dollars. The team are successful in their deception, acquiring the book and escaping with the aid of Sterling, Nate’s old nemesis.

The end of the episode, of the series, sees the team in their bar sharing stories for Christmas. True stories about their lives. A real gift. Nate shares a story about his son, bringing the series full circle, and then he proposes to Sophie. When she accepts, Nate’s final plan as the Mastermind becomes clear; he has been up-skilling Parker, Eliot and Hardison to fill the gaps that he and Sophie will make when they leave, to be able to manage their own cons and to be able to carry on the legacy. Before the pair walks away, Nate has a conversation with Eliot, emphasising that Eliot does not need anything. Eliot looks at Parker and Hardison and simply says “Yes I did. But I don’t anymore”.

After Sophie and Nate leave, the show finishes with Eliot, Hardison and Parker interviewing a prospective client. Parker is dressed as a business woman, with slick hair and seated in a chair, taking the lead role. In the final seconds, as the series draws to a close she utters Nate’s trademark words... “We provide... leverage”.

A solid end to a wonderfully fun and well written show. I’ll miss you Leverage.

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