Leverage Season 1 Eps 1-4 (TV Show Review)
Earlier this year, I read Matt Forbeck’s Leverage: The Con Job, a novel he had written as a tie-in for the TV show Leverage, which had just recently been taken off-air after a full fifth season. Set at San Diego Comic Con, the biggest geek convention in the world, it was a really fun story about a group of people who use their skills at conning people to help those who have been cheated in one way or another by the “system”, whether corporations or criminals or whatever. You can read my review of the novel here.
The novel was one that made me really want to watch the TV show itself, but I didn’t get a chance to do that until just a few days ago, pretty much nine months later. So far, I’ve seen only the first four episodes of the first season, but I’m really enjoying it. The entire concept behind the show is really fun and the execution has been brilliant.
The first episode does a great job of introducing the entire team. Of all the players, only Nathan Ford is a “good guy”, that is, he starts out as a retired insurance investigator. He is approached by a client who has put together a group of three con artists who are really good at what they do and he wants Nate to lead the team. Nate is familiar with all of them, since he has gone after them at one point or another. Things don’t turn out as expected however, and the team is double-crossed, which is when Nate brings in another player, an old friend and a con artist, and now they go after their original client.
The thing I loved about the show was, first and foremost, the acting. Each of the actors, regardless of who they he or she is, turns in a great performance. Nate (Timothy Hutton), Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman), Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge), Parker (Beth Riesgraf) and Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane) are characters that I loved all through the issue. Each of them has his or her own quirks and together, they are a really formidable team. Nate brings his expertise as an insurance investigator, Sophie is an actress and a grifter, Alec is the tech-specialist, Parker is an accomplished gymnast and thief, and Eliot is the muscle.
The way that these five take down their mark was almost a thing of beauty, especially all the twists and turns that lead them to the final conclusion. And the episode ends on a great note, with the team pretty much promising to return once more.
Which they do in the second episode. One that is much more action-oriented than the last one since a private military contractor is involved this time and that’s the company that the team essentially has to con. Specifically, its owner since he is the lynchpin for everything.
Where before the team was an ad-hoc group of people brought together, this time they are all a part of Leverage associates, a fake company that Nate has had Alec put together as a cover for all their “good con” activities. State of the art facilities, cushy office space, that’s how the team operates now, or at least, that’s Nate’s intent.
This was a really dangerous episode, given the stakes involved and the all too real possibility that someone could really get hurt this time around. All the same, the show maintains its light-hearted tone and things never get really serious to that level. Given that everyone is a team-team this time around with clear goals going in and that they’ve pulled off one caper already, this issue is more about them gelling together rather than personality clashes. And we continue to learn more about the characters.
For instance, we learn that Eliot is able to distinguish weapons and ammo being used just by their sounds. We learn some more about Parker’s skills and her fascination with money, which is really hilarious. Beth Riesgraf is a superb actress and she totally rocks it this time around. And so on it continues. I find it really fun to see how they all work together, especially since I’ve read about these characters at a much later point in their lives and I know how some of the relationships work out over that time. The show’s writers continue to play each character off each other in a way that they complement their teammates and make up for any shortfalls in any way.
With some excellent pacing, a great story and some fun characters, this was a great second episode.
The third episode is a bit of a downer, mostly because the story was somewhat boring. One of Sophie’s friends wants a crimelord to pay her family what they are due. Her husband took the fall for a murder that the man committed with a promised monetary compensation that never materialised. And now the woman wants that back. One of the things that bothered me about this episode was that Nate, at first, pretty much said no to the case. I didn’t really get why that was, why he would refuse to help someone.
We’ve already seen that Nate has had a tough past. He lost his young son because the insurance company he worked for didn’t pay for the son’s treatment on grounds of it being some kind of an experimental procedure and son. Nate watched his son die before his very eyes. When he needed someone’s help, he was horribly let down. And yet, here he is, refusing to do something similar for someone else, especially when in the first episode he leverages his past for his “first” caper.
Other than that, the story just in general was a bit boring. The actors all continue to give a great performance but I was left disappointed. It was all too… straightforward. There were none of the usual twists and turns that characterised the first two episodes. Made for some dull viewing, that’s for certain.
However, the fourth episode swings things back into the black on the ledger. This time the team has to con a construction company, specifically the owner and his two sons, into giving control of a family’s home back to them. The company’s MO is that it takes out construction/repair jobs on homes, drags its feet with the whole process, gets the family involved in debts with the banks and when the family can’t pay the debt, they buy the home from the bank since the family essentially defaults.
As the team finds out, this isn’t just a one-off case and the father and his sons have similarly conned some 400 families out of their owns. Pretty staggering really.
This was a really fun story. This episode encapsulates the best about stories like this: some capers/heists are too damn fun to watch. Like Ocean’s Eleven. Or Inside Man. The whole execution is what matters: how the team put together pulls it all off. And in that respect, this episode does not disappoint at all. Probably my favourite episode as well.
Beth Riesgraf still remains my favourite actress on the series. She does the deadpan damsel in distress so well. Not to mention all her gymnastics/aerobics while she’s on a job. Parker is an entertainer before anything else. Hardison doesn’t get to do too much this time around though, which is a shame. I’m expecting him to get more screen-time as the season progresses because he could definitely use it. I want to see more of his backstory really, and see how he became who he is. With the others, we largely already know that. But not him.
If there was any negative to this episode, it was that Nate inexplicably starts to drink obsessively. Its never really explained why, just that he does. So far, he is the only character to be somewhat inconsistent.
And that’s really it. Leverage, for me, is one of the very few shows that is pretty much consistent with its characters so early on. Most of all it is FUN. I’m having a blast with this show, that’s for sure.
Posted on October 10, 2013, in Leverage, Review Central, TV Show Reviews and tagged Aldis Hodge, Alec Hardison, Beth Riesgraf, Christian Kane, Con-men, Cons, Contemporary, Eliot Spencer, Gina Bellman, Heist, John Rogers, Leverage, Nathan Ford, Parker, Review, Review Central, Sophie Devereaux, Timothy Hutton, TV Show, TV Show Reviews. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.
I loved leverage. They managed to have strong women, and a strong POC, and a flawed leader. The plan never a goes off as … well… planned.
Yes, that’s one of the things I love about the show so far, but I’m giving it more time to develop on that front. Often things like that are strong early on but fizzle out later.
Withholding judgement is good. I believe it kept the strong women & POC but after my accident in March 2012 I’ve watched little TV. So I can’t be certain if my memory is right. I think for the most part you’ll enjoy it. The drinking does get annoying at times.
Sorry to hear that!
I’m definitely in the long haul for this one though. This is becoming a show that I can definitely follow for that long.
I discovered Leverage last year, and I really loved it (I even started to rewatch it with dvd comments, something I never usually do).
To me, Nate’s drinking problem was made clear in the first episode (the first image sets the tone: we see him pouring a mini bar bottle in his whisky glass at a bar, and later he’s sleeping it off).
I’m looking forward to reading your review of the rest of the season & show. I enjoyed reading this.
Oh yeah, its made clear early on, but its never been cleared that it is such a big problem that all of a sudden he is drinking like its the end of the world or something. Doesn’t jive together with the fact that he now has a team of people working with him to prevent the kind of things that happened with him and his son.
And cheers for the comment!
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