Leverage Season 1 Eps 5-8 (TV Show Review)

Watching the first four episodes of Leverage about three weeks back proved to be one of the best experiences of television viewing to date. The show began on a really good note, and it brought together some really fun characters, put them in what initially appeared to really tough situations and then showed how they got together, pooled their resources and abilities to come up with some really innovative and bright solutions to these problems.

Outside of a handful of movies, I haven’t really seen any show where confidence men and heists were the big premise, and in that regard the show proved to be extremely fresh for me. Especially since at the time of writing this review, I’ve already finished all thirteen episodes of the first season and have seen the first three episodes of the second season. I had “vowed” to myself not to get into the second season until I finished reviewing the first season but the other day, I just couldn’t hold back anymore and after a valiant 10-day break, I was back into Leverage. That’s how damn good this show has been till now.

Leverage Season 1 0001The fifth episode here deals with the team putting down under a company that makes toxic fertilizer, something that has led to the death of a young girl and the family is now out for some kind of restitution. The team ends up following some leads that involve everyone except Hardison getting on a plane to find out some evidence against the company, but things take a nosedive when its discovered that the plane has been seriously sabotaged. And without computer genius Hardison around, its a very, very close thing whether or not the team is going to make it out of this one alive.

One of the strongest elements of this episode was all the personal interaction between Sophie and Nate. They have had a lot of history together, with hints of romantic involvement and in the last four episodes, we saw that there were still some sparks. This time around, Sophie discovers to her annoyance that Nate’s memories of their times together are really muddled and he can’t really recall anything properly. This created a really involved dynamic that explored their relation, past and present, and helped develop their characters in the process.

Another thing was that Parker’s people skills are still way off-base and she can be brutally honest in how to deal with people who need some kind of help. Such as a passenger who gets nervous whenever she travels on a plane. Parker ends up “helping” her by giving her a list of more common and more horrible ways to die than in a plane crash. This emotionally freaks the woman out and the best thing, on Parker’s part, is how cheery she is when she talks with the woman.

And that brings me to another strong element, Sara Rue’s character Marissa Devins, who is the woman in question. I’m a fan of Rue from her performances on Less Than Perfect, The Ring and Pearl Harbour, so it was great to see her here in this episode. She portrays a very skittish and easily freaked out character, something that she hasn’t quite done before, and it worked off really well. Instant attachment to the character.

Other than all the usual good things, if there was a negative to this episode, it was that the pacing was off and the story itself wasn’t all that interesting. It lacked a certain personal touch and it didn’t involve me as much as the four previous episodes did. A good effort, but not the best.

The sixth episode is one of my favourites from the first season. In this episode an old friend of Nate’s, a Catholic priest who is very much a childhood friend and who helped him get over the grief for his son, is in trouble since a local property hotshot wants to close off his Church. This episode informed a lot about Nate’s character, such as his history and what makes him tick, in addition to providing some real wholesome entertainment throughout.

To save the Church, the team decides to create a miracle, something that Father Paul stridently objects to when he finds out. But he can’t argue with the results since people are now flocking to the Church in droves and with all the interest and attention being lavished on the miracle, the local developer has no choice but to put off his plans for destroying the Church and replacing it with a multi-million dollar shopping complex. But, things head south when the miracle becomes too popular and the Vatican sends representatives to confirm the authenticity of the miracle.

Once again, there were some stellar performances around, and as much as I love the main cast, I have to say that  as with Sara Rue’s Marissa Devins from the previous episode, D. B. Sweeney’s Father Paul proved to be a heavy-hitter, someone who stood out from the crowd and was, as a character, comfortable in that limelight. More than any other episode thus far, this one is the most emotionally-charged given the relationship between Father Paul and Nate, and it allows us to take a peek into the latter character, as I said above. And this is important since we’ve seen very little of Nate, whereas for the other characters we’ve had a lot of backhistory.

The really fun part of this episode, as with the others, is the final twist when the entire plan comes together, and so spectacularly at that. That’s something that I really love about the show. The last 5 minutes or so are always worth the price of admission to see just how devious the cons are, how all the little things contribute to the resolution.

Leverage Cast 0002The seventh episode takes the team out of its comfort zone and this time they have to play a con game involving race horses and Wall Street financiers. This is also a story that explores a small part of Eliot’s past from when he used to be a black ops soldier. The people that the team is helping this time are old friends of Eliot, specifically a former girlfriend and her racehorse-trainer father. This episode, more than the others, shows just how passionate and how driven Eliot can get about one of these jobs. This made for a great change of pace Eliot is usually pretty blase about these things and he doesn’t get really involved in all of it. This episode proves different.

The high-point of this episode was the introduction of a character from Nate’s past, Jim Sterling, a co-worker from his days at the IYS insurance company. Sterling is the insurance investigator handling all the details for the Wall Street financier that the team is conning and since he knows how Nate works and thinks, and he knows most of the team members from run-ins in the past, this was one of the most dangerous jobs for the team to date. They have to con someone who is supported by a man who knows all the ins and outs of the con game business. All of a sudden, we have an all-new long-term antagonist for the team and the stakes get raised higher.

Of course, the team still has to win through you see and as with the previous episode, the fun is in seeing how the con is finally pulled off in the end. That’s where the real thrill of the matter is, the team turning the con over and making out scot free, leaving the people they’ve conned wondering just what the hell happened, including Sterling.

The story this time wasn’t as involved as some of the others have been, but it had a good pace, some great tension and it was generally quite good, thanks to addition of Mark Sheppard as Jim Sterling. He’s a class actor, from his brief appearances on Battlestar Galactica and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him in person as well, so that counts for something I suppose.

The eighth episode proves to be one of the most exciting cons so far. While pulling a con on a small-town corrupt judge, Nate and Sophie are caught up in a bank robbery and things kind of go downhill from there until they are able to figure out what the two inept bank robbers really want and what’s forced them to do this. This is one of the more personal stories on the show and these create a very different atmosphere from the usual cons since this is very much a life-and-death situation.

If there’s a standout performance here, its by Parker, who is awesome as usual. Her role as a fake FBI agent this time was phenomenal, and it always surprises me how easily Hardison gets into these roles as well. Together, the two of them make for a really fun FBI agent team-up and the way that they interact with the local law enforcement is hilarious. As is when Parker ends up breaking into the bank to talk with one of the bank robbers.

Parker’s skills and abilities have been more towards the physical efforts thus far and we are slowly beginning to see that she has a keen mind as well, and the penultimate season episode shows that off perfectly. She has to have a keen mind to have been a successful thief for so long, but its not something that was stressed on as well as it could have been since Nate is always running the cons. So that’s that thing.

Some generally good performances here, including Christian Kane being a total badass once again.

The show is definitely growing on me now and these second set of episodes proved to be hell of a lot of good fun. The team is incredibly diverse in its skill-sets and each episode brings out something different. One of the things that I’m absolutely loving thus far is how well the show treats its female characters, particularly Sophie and Parker, and how well-represented Hardison is. In an era where people are locked into their biases, of all kinds, watching characters like these three do so well is incredibly rewarding as a viewer. And Nate and Eliot bring a lot to the show as well so that the entire main cast is a solid team-up that has pretty much everything you could ask of it.

More Leverage: Eps 1-4.

Posted on October 27, 2013, in Leverage, Review Central, TV Show Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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