May 11th, 2009


Leverage? More Like Beverage!

When I first heard about Leverage, I was mildly interested since it starred Christian Kane and Gina Bellman. But, as so often happens, the first thing I read about it was a middling Entertainment Weekly review, which colored my impression of the series. My flist, however, seemed to be enjoying the series, especially r_a_l_i_g_h, who described it as a show with "capers and costumes and accents and fight scenes and explosions," which sounded AWESOME. I heard the show was a lot of fun, but it wasn't until I saw this Aldis Hodge video that I moved the show to the top of my List. The subsequent Beth Riesgraf video was just icing. And then I learned that one of the showrunners was John Rogers, whom I knew from the Global Frequency pilot and whose blog I enjoyed. Finally, a meta factor I didn't know about until I watched the show: according to the credits, there appear to be a lot of female writers on the staff, which is cool.

Leverage is about a thief, a hacker, a brute, a grifter, and the honest ex-insurance investigator who brings them together to fight crime help the helpless. Team Leverage sticks up for the little people who get screwed by the Big People. They pick up where the law leaves off, attacking corrupt businesses and foiling scams on their own terms. And their own terms involve stealing, lying, disguising, hacking, plotting, scamming, and blowing things up. It's like Ocean's Eleven: The Show! Or, if you will, Mission: Impossible and The A-Team with more style and humor. And with these kinds of shows, it's all about the crack team you've assembled.

Parker is the thief. Her skills include crawling through vents, jumping off buildings, and setting explosives. Her skills do not include talking to people or telling lies. She's very blunt and snarky, and she always has this very intent look on her face. She is also a cute blonde, and, to my surprise, this is exploited surprisingly little. To be honest, it confused the hell out of me. Parker seems like a girl who doesn't realize how pretty she is, and there are only a couple times during the season that her sex appeal is even used as an asset, despite her porcelain-doll good looks. Instead, Sophie, the woman a decade older, is the sexy, alluring one. It was very confusing. Refreshing, but confusing. And sad for my male, cleavage-desiring gaze. Parker is awesome at what she does, however, like everyone else on the team, and people are constantly impressed by her badassery. She is my favorite character if she plays the Cute Girl Card, but, really, it's a very close match between her and Hardison.

Hardison is the hacker. His skills include gaining access to government databases, modifying streaming video on the fly, and painting. His skills do not include...well, there is little Hardison can't do because he is Made of Awesome. Better yet, he is a GEEK. "Age of the Geek!" he often declares proudly. Television rarely shows us a truly badass geek; Hardison is strong and confident and just happens to be a huge Doctor Who fan. His geekiness isn't used as the butt of a joke but is instead used to provide geeky in-jokes for geeks. "Power to the geek!" is another of his victory cries. Hardison is played by Aldis Hodge up there, and if you liked that video, you'll love Hardison. I cannot believe that this is Voodoo fucking Tatum. And Jake from Supernatural! Why were you being cast as tough, surly guys when you were CLEARLY meant to be Hardison?! Hardison basically walks around pwning everything. I cannot get over how awesome Hardison and Parker are; rarely are characters THIS awesome.

Eliot is the brute. His skills include beating a lot of people up at one time, identifying weaponry from the sound of the bullets, and cooking. His skills do not include understanding geekery or shooting people. One of the cool things about Eliot is that he's totally badass but hates guns, far preferring the art of close combat. He's sort of cantankerous and a loner, so working with a team is a new experience for him (as it is for the rest of them, really).

Sophie is the grifter. Her skills include charming men, speaking in accents, and acting offstage. Her skills do not include acting onstage and getting over Nate. Gina Bellman is far more subdued here than she was as Jane, which is less fun. What is fun, however, is seeing her play all her different roles with fervor and conviction. She and Nate clearly have a History that constantly threatens to become a Present in that typical, eye-rolley UST way.

Nate is the honest man. His skills include planning and coordinating scams, being righteous, and drinking. His skills do not include keeping his personal feelings out of things and not drinking. Nate used to work for a large insurance company that let his son die by denying his claim for treatment. Nate lost his job, his son, and his wife, and he sure would like some revenge. Team Leverage consists of people he's chased down as part of his job, so he knows they're good and he knows their tricks. Honestly, it's hard to believe Nate wasn't one of them; he's so good at being one of them now.

Each episode is another job, and they're all different and come with their own set of complications and stratagems, though in every episode, Nate is likely to suggest they steal something ridiculous like the moon or whatever. Just watch, next season, they'll steal the goddamn moon. We learn little pieces of the characters' backstories in hilarious little flashbacks—the show is much sillier than I expected. Most of all, however, it is SO MUCH FUN. I was pretty much addicted from the first episode. I love heists and capers and shit, and every week is a new one! And at the end, you get all the flashback twists explaining what the team was doing that they didn't show us at first (like at the end of Ocean's Eleven). Meanwhile, you have the characters being funny, a parade of recognizable guest stars, and lots of comm chatter.

The first season doesn't have a great deal of character development and plot arc until the last few episodes; it focuses mostly on the team dynamic. It soon becomes apparent that this is a show about The Family You Make for Yourself. All of these people grow to depend on and trust each other, and in turn, they help expand their horizons a bit. They start to enjoy the work they do, helping people in need and giving scumbags their comeuppance.

The show sort of reminds me of Chuck with the FUN factor, geek-friendly nature, and character composition (a geek! a badass! a hot blonde!), although the shows have different tones. Both shows are incredibly entertaining and have likable characters without being overburdened with serious drama, though, and that's a plus. The second season premieres Wednesday, July 15, on TNT and, having gone through the first season in four days, I don't know what to do with myself until then.

Steal the moon?