Dec 13, 2012

[TV] Leverage: Season 1

I can't fully explain why it took us so long to get into Leverage. A few friends here and there had recommended the show to us previously, but for one reason or another we never gave it a shot. I suppose the fact that it sounded like a Mission Impossible style show with "bad guys" as leads seemed like a lazy rehash of the old concept may have played a part.

But recently Tobie gave the show a shot and now has me watching the episodes as well and I'll admit that it's not so bad. I don't think it'll evolve to become my favorite TV show any time soon, but admittedly there are far worse shows on air now than this.

The show is already in its fifth season and there are talks of it finally coming to an end. It's a sad reality to consider for any TV show, but then again these things have their project lifespans that need to be played out accordingly.

But for now it's time to go back to the very beginning.

Synopsis: Leverage is drama series created by John Rogers and Chris Downey for TNT. It is interesting to note that the show is shot using Red One video cameras and thus all post-production is digital.

The show follows a group of five, well, bad guys, in the sense that they're thieves and con men. They were initially brought together to steal back supposedly stolen technology but were double-crossed, and thus they turn the tables in order to get revenge. And this becomes a platform for these five independent criminals to start working together to right the wrongs of the world using their rather unique talents.

And rather than discuss the merits of individual episodes - a lot of them being standalone pieces for the most part - it seems more prudent to first discuss the characters instead. In later seasons we have more appropriate identifying terms for each of their roles, but for now we'll stick to names and descriptions.

The de facto leader of the group is Nathan Ford (Timothy Hutton), who is esentially the team's strategist. He comes up with the big plans and figures out how best to utilize everyone's diverse talents. Sophie (Gina Bellman) is a grifter who also happens to be an actress when not involved in cons. However she's very bad at it, except when she's portraying different roles in aid of a con job.

Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge) is the group's hacker and technology expert who handles everything from breaking into security systems and developing custom equipment for the team to use. Parker (Beth Riesgraf) is the team's expert cat buglar and obsession with figuring out how to steal things is only tempered by her social awkwardness. And finally there's Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane), who is essentially the team's muscle man, although he's pretty handy during con jobs as well. Plus he has a thing against guns ala Batman.

While some of the plots for this first season were a little weak and even inconsistent at times, the strength of the show is clearly in the characters themselves. How these diverse individuals manage to come together to pull off their various heists is certainly a fun exercise in itself and where the bulk of the fun is to be had. And when you add in their little character flaws and you end up with a very human group indeed.

Nate has drinking issues. Sophie can't act. Hardison's knowledge is ultra-focused on technology and become less and less relevant beyond that. Eliot is secretive and won't use guns. And Parker is...Parker. It's hard to explain in a few sentences.

This first season takes a while to build up steam as we first explore the skills of the various characters and in time we learn more about their personalities and histories. And it's the latter items that really gives the show some weight and substance as we better understand how the characters came to be who they are today and why they work the way they do. Plus there's the overall growth of the team as a single unit as they learn to fully trust one another while also accepting their altruistic mission.

I will give credit for trying to introduce a core "adversary" of sorts come the third episode - which is pretty early in the game. And while Nate's former colleague James Sterling (Mark A. Sheppard) isn't exactly totally out to get Nate and his crew, he is a natural spoil for Nate given they both seem to have similar skills of strategy and foresight.

Leverage is a show that I did not expect to like all that much, but I'm certainly learning to warm up to the series. I'm definitely curious to see more of the likes of Parker and Sophie and how the group as a whole continue to develop.


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