TNT has a pretty good thing going for it with Leverage: a strong cast, a fun premise, and decent enough writing to make its weekly heist installments worth watching. It’s not the sharpest show out there, and it’s not above doing to audiences what many say Ocean’s 12 did by pulling a fast one with no way for the audience to see it coming. Through it all though, the show remains spunky and upbeat with enough of an overarching story to make it more than just a “caper of the week”.
For the first season of Leverage, TNT boasted, long and hard, about Timothy Hutton’s Academy Award-winning past to bolster the show with some level of credibility. He won the award back in 1980 as the Best Supporting Actor in Ordinary People, but to be fair that should have little to no effect on what you expect from his performance here. In Leverage he’s as much the protagonist as he is one of the gang. The writers do an excellent job of spreading out the attention to all the characters, with Hutton’s only getting a slightly larger piece of the pie.
Nathan Ford (Hutton) used to be an honest insurance claims investigator until the company screwed him over by denying the coverage his son needed, resulting in his death. It left him an emotional wreck, a drunk, and eager to strike back at big name, deep pocket targets in an attempt at modern day justice a la Robin Hood. He put together the ultimate con team and has been fighting for vigilante justice ever since. Through it all, three storylines weave from one end to the next: Nathan’s rivalry with Jim Sterling (Mark Sheppard) who finds his way into the team’s schemes every once in a while, Nathan’s drinking problem, and the ongoing identity crisis of Sophie (Gina Bellman). These three stories help tie together the otherwise week-by-week adventures of the team. The tactics are usually wildly elaborate, and the ruse involving such labyrinthine logic, but I suppose that’s necessary to continually amuse an audience of TV viewers who attempt to guess every twist and turn before it happens.
The team consists of Nathan, as the brains; Sophie, as the actor; Parker (Beth Riesgraf), as the thief; Hardison (Aldis Hodge), as the hacker; and Eliot (Christian Kane), as the hitter. Within the team, most of the laughs come from the sibling-like banter between Parker, Hardison, and Eliot. Nathan dreams up each plan, coordinates the con, and gets the satisfaction of returning whatever was taken to the client. Everyone else does their job and lends a touch of comicality to the proceedings. For the second season, Sophie’s aforementioned identity crisis hits a peak and she wanders off to Europe to find herself, like a high school grad convinced they need a year before college. In her place, the team takes on Tara Cole (Jeri Ryan) whom, to be entirely fair, actually seems to fit in better with the dynamics of the team than Bellman’s Sophie did as she’s much more wry. The season starts and ends about where it began: Nathan is struggling with alcohol, Sophie still doesn’t know who she is, and the rivalry with Sterling simmers just below boiling point, as per usual. Considering the first season’s finale is all about Sterling’s master plan to screw over Nathan’s team, it’s amazing how quickly things get patched up for his reappearances throughout the season. And seeing as how the third season also just dispenses with the closing events of the second season, it’s clear to see the series isn’t too concerned with character continuity, at least as far as it relates to their progress.
If you can forgive that and enjoy the show and its characters, then you’ll find the second season of Leverage to be a solid serving of television fun.
DVD Bonus Features
The first season set fared pretty well in the extras department, and this set is no different. The cast and crew have a lot of fun making the blooper reel, and a comic-con Q&A session featuring Dean Devlin proves to be quite entertaining. Aldis Hodge takes the camera on a mock heist called “The Hand Job”, writer John Rogers takes us through a set tour, and audio commentaries for all episodes and a duo of production featurettes complete the set.
"Leverage: The Second Season" is on sale May 25, 2010 and is not rated. Comedy, Drama. Directed by Dean Devlin, Jonathan Frakes, Marc Roskin. Written by Chris Downey, John Rogers. Starring Aldis Hodge, Beth Riesgraf, Christian Kane, Gina Bellman, Timothy Hutton, Jeri Ryan, Mark Sheppard.