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By Pam Glazier · June 27, 2011
If you haven’t seen Leverage, I’ve reverse engineered the recipe. Take one part crime caper, one part Robin Hood, five parts quirky ensemble cast; mix thoroughly, and garnish with a pinch of sarcastic wit and a dash of empathy. This is the essence of the procedural drama that is Leverage. It is the ongoing saga that tells the tale of ex-insurance investigator Nate Ford (Timothy Hutton) and his band of criminals. Together they thwart the villainy of the untouchably corrupt (i.e., corporations, bankers, mob bosses, dirty politicians, etc.) in order to right the wrongs done to the everyday man. After just a couple of episodes you will be familiar with the way things run, for each week is pretty much the same: con the big guy to help the little guy. Despite such a simplistic formula, Leverage wins because of its strong characters and their varied, complex backgrounds. The plot may always be afoot, but the people within the plot are the ones driving this show forward.
Leverage starts off its fourth season with a pleasantly predicable episode. The show-runners are not trying to reinvent the wheel. They’ve chosen a juicy antagonist (a banker whose company auto-forclosed on hundreds of families), a noble cause (a grieving wife who suspects her husband died trying to out the foul-play allegedly done by said juicy antagonist), and a daring challenge (fix the wrongs through deft deception while on the top of an Everest-like mountain).
It’s the same type of formulaic plotting they’ve been using since the beginning of the show. However, nice details were added in, and these details personalize the story, especially for the long-time viewer.
We have suffered with Nate in his battle against alcohol, so when Spencer (Christian Kane) warns him about overdoing it on the mountain because altitude sickness has similar symptoms to alcohol withdrawals, we are that much more concerned for Nate—that much more invested in the story. When Hardison (Aldis Hodge) crowds Parker (Beth Riesgraf), we are amused because we know that something romantic has been going on between them, even if we can’t quite put our finger on it. When Spencer helps Parker find her emotional center, we are that much more invested because he is usually just busting heads. And lastly, when Sophie (Gina Bellman) agrees that she and Nate must never mention their recent night together (last season’s finale), we feel safe that this tenuous family of thieves and grifters will be shielded from any emotions that would destabilize them—but we also know that the truth will out, and this future “truth-outage” is something that we just gotta see. And so we will be back.
While watching this episode, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had seen this story somewhere before. I mean this exact story, right down to the various plot minutiae. I couldn’t place it, but it doesn’t matter because the characters are what make the show, not the weekly scenarios, and so I didn’t mind if the background events were recycled or familiar. The main thing was that I got to see the characters (my people) doing what they do best.
This episode was exactly what it was supposed to be. It is the start to a new season, and though the action in this episode is not as bombastic as some of its earlier counterparts, you know that the tension will be arriving shortly. Leverage hits the mark, both for the die-hard fan as well as the new viewer.