A friend once said Leverage was ‘that show with all the competence porn.’
I have always been a fan of thieves in media. I don’t know why, perhaps it was a childhood love of Robin Hood (and trust me, when you live on Christian Replacement media, there’s a lot of takes on Robin Hood), but thieves, theives have always been cool. They’re a great way to do Cool Bad Things and be impressively skillful, without actually ‘hurting anyone.’ Beating people up was bad, but beating people up who were doing something wrong, that was okay.
Basically, I’ve always loved thief stories, and Leverage is one of the best thief stories. It’s one of the best thief stories over 77 episodes, each an hour long, and almost all of them as tight, self-contained stories told in the ‘dramedy’ vein. Here’s the short pitch so you can decide if you want to watch this show:
Leverage is a story about a group of disparate thieves pulled together by one honest man to try and use their abilities to go after people the system has failed. They start out unfocused, they become a family, and in the end you’re watching cool competent people pulling off sweet heists against people who deserve it.
With me still?
TV is a complicated business and you sort of have to decide where you’re going to spend your time and money and talent. Shows like Game of Thrones get to stretch their grotesque breadth because of an enormous budget, with sloppy dangling bit of stories which you need to follow up on or infer around or whatever, and soap operas have a smaller budget they stretch by reusing actors and scenes and setpieces. In Leverage’s case, the cast is basically made up of Hey It’s That Person actors from series you’ve seen before, never really given the chance to show themselves off.
The nature of Leverage is a compressed story. Characters have to present themselves quickly and get out to convey the much larger story – usually because most episodes want to show you three or four plot beats of a major story and give you time to move pieces around. So what Leverage spends its time and effort on is making those exchanges fun, personable and punchy. It’s a real treat – there’s very little wasted time, very little one-scene-meaning moments.
As for the things the stories tend to be about? It’s pretty simple. There’s a lot of very real things in the world that suck, legally, and Leverage is about the fantasy, the desperate romantic need, that someone out there is looking out for it. That anyone is there to catch the bad people, and maybe the bad people can suffer in the way they’re supposed to.
I’m gunna talk more about Leverage, and, because the series is fundamentally a series about the interplay between characters, in a dynamic you can enjoy, we’re going to do it character-by-character.