On the Bubble: Leverage

Posted on December 28, 2011

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This show has a terrific pedigree, and we spotted that right off in the advertising.

It stars Timothy Hutton, whose work we’ve watched for literally decades.

Gina Bellman also stars, and we knew her from the British sitcom Coupling and the wonderful drama, Jekyll.

Plus, for all the geeky fans out there, it stars Christian Kane. Come on. How do you not watch a show that stars the Evil Hand?

Beth Riesgraf and Aldis Hodge were vaguely familiar to us from shows they’d done guest shots on. That said, we certainly love them now.

Plus, the show premiered in December, 2008, as the whole world was just beginning to understand how greed and corporate stupidity had screwed the global economy into a black hole.

We Watched It

Nathan “Nate” Ford (Timothy Hutton) is a top insurance investigator with a tragic past. His son died because his insurance company employer wouldn’t pay for needed treatments. This led to divorce, drinking, and freelance work.

A man comes to him and asks him to recover some stolen property. The job requires him to supervise and control three thieves that Nate caught in the past – Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane), Parker (Beth Riesgraf), and Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge). It also offers a little revenge against Nate’s former employer.

Even though he doesn’t trust the client, Nate takes the job. When the whole team gets screwed, Nate puts the team back together for revenge, and brings in a ringer to even the playing field – Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman).

When the job’s done, they discover how good it feels to help the helpless and take down the powerful. Especially when they can make money doing it.

 

On the Bubble

It’s on the bubble because the show’s focus is shifting.

Here were the bad guys from first season – insurance company, government contractors, a Wall Street broker, real estate developer, corrupt judge, human traffickers, rival mob families, a corporation, a building contractor, embezzler, another corporation, the CEO of an insurance company.

Notice any themes running through there?

Here’s season two’s list: Irish mob, fight promoter, felon, investment banker, tabloid newscaster, agricultural business, a different band of thieves, diamond thieves, corrupt lawyer, sweat shop owner, loan shark, the Ukrainian government, psychic, politician, local mayor.

The theme (and I’ll get specific in a moment) is breaking down.

Season three: Jail warden, software magnate, Parker’s mentor, African kleptocrat, CEO of a pharmaceuticals company, recording studio executive, debt collector/private militia, car dealer, con artist, coal mining company, antiques trafficker, financier, a thief from a previous season, the season’s villain (Damien Moreau).

Be patient. My point is coming soon.

Season four: Financial executive, murderer, PR executive, agricultural business, Russian mob, funeral director, con man, defense contractor, embezzler, Venezuelan government, Irish mob, con artists.

And now my point.

WTF?

Season one was all about taking down big business. Sometimes the business targeted the Leverage gang’s clients on purpose, and sometimes the clients were just ground underfoot by a corporate giant that didn’t notice their insignificant existence. The Leverage crew were Robin Hood and his Merry Men, and as the real global economy continued its tailspin, we felt good watching it.

Even in Season One, we got background on the characters. We met Eliot’s childhood sweetheart, and Nate’s former pastor.

As the seasons have gone on, the crew has faced more and more criminals, rather than legitimate businesses whose completely legal behavior hurts people. Watching criminals (and the Leverage crew are criminals) take down criminals isn’t as satisfying.

Yes, we love the characters. Yes, the writing has been good (particularly in Season Two). That said, the whole point of the show was giving helpless people leverage against powerful businesses – corrupt or just uncaring and cruel. Losing that point makes the show less fun to watch. When a client enters McRory’s Pub to complain about a criminal hurting the family, we the audience wonder the client hasn’t gone to the police, or doesn’t wait for the police to do their jobs. Criminals aren’t untouchable, by definition.

Thoughts

Even though I’m aware of the shifting focus, I can’t look away…yet. I like the characters too much, and we have too much fun trying to figure out when and how the crew gained the upper hand. Are there any shows that you watch where you know the show has gone off the rails but you have too much loyalty to look away?

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Posted in: television