So I am almost done with this show...even though I've already finished it. Meaning, I saw the last several episodes of season 4 and then got totally hooked and watched all of season 5! At first I wasn't really interested, but after a particularly hysterical episode, my curiosity was piqued. Now, I've gone back and watched seasons 1, 2, 3 and I'm three episodes away from finishing season 4.
I can understand why the show was so popular during its run though. It's funny and quirky, but also deals with heavy realities that bring a great deal of empathy and understanding to the characters. The characters themselves are what makes the show. There are also certain characteristics and a particularly fantastic episode (dealing with an interracial relationship) that has made the series such a success.
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Nathan (Nate) Ford// Moral Undertones
After his company refused to pay for his son's cancer treatment, which then led to his death, former insurance investor Nate Ford pretty much turns his back on the world. Then he gets a chance to do some good which requires doing some bad. Primarily lying, cheating, stealing, hacking and no small amount of physical violence. So, Nate puts together a team of thieves to take on the corruption of wealthy businesses and bring justice to innocent people who are being manipulated.
Nate Ford is a character whether you like him or hate him. I happen to like Nate. He's a good man who has been through hell and back. Yet, instead of letting the pain of his son's death destroy him, he fuels it into doing good for other people who have no help. Nate's one fatal flaw is his heavy drinking when he hits the low points in his life. It's a constant problem throughout the serious only Nate doesn't seem to care how it affects him, his work or the other working around him. However, his drinking doesn't deter him from doing his job nor does he allow the hard hits to keep him down for long.
The show has some great moral undertones that balances out the humor. Many of these undertones deal with death, forgiveness, fear, loss, hope and integrity. So, it's not all comedy and fun and to have moral undertones within a story that deals with lying and stealing really gives a look at the human heart. All of these characters have had their own personal fears and conflicts, and their jobs sometimes coincides with these damaging flaws that can either break them or help them to build.
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Sophie Devereaux//Family Love
A beautiful and brilliant grifter and ex-art thief, Sophie is always on her mark...when it's illegal. Her real dream is to become an actress, but she destroys it everytime she hits the stage. So, when Nate Ford approaches her to become part of his team, she agrees, even though they both have some deep seeded issues between them and a rather racy past together.
Sophie's gift of being able to read people aids her well in her grifting job, but it is even more potent with the team she works with. There is no doubt that she is definitely the 'mom' of the group and she gives special attention to each member. Sophie brings a much needed balance to the team and is forever the moral compass, always on points and never faltering. Her extreme kindness and generosity is never overlooked and she is the one person that can never be broken by anything.
Family love and loyalty is spread widely throughout the show. Every character has comes from some sort of dysfunction in their personal lives and together they somehow manage to find the right pieces. Like most families, there is no small shortage of fighting, arguing, making up, hugging it out, walking away and getting hit in the face. Genuine chemistry is important in a successful movie or show and the actors got the chemistry right for their characters. You really do see family and family love in each episode.
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Eliot Spencer//Fighting Your Demons
Handsome hitter, retrieval specialist and former army officer, Eliot Spencer is good at...well, almost everything. Eliot's exterior may be deadly and dangerous as well as cold and withdrawn, but inside he's one of the most honorable and brave men you could ever hope to meet. While he knows how to fight and survive, he also understands suffering and has a strong sense of justice. Although Eliot is a consummate player with no desire for a long term relationship, he has a secret affection for children and has no patience for anyone who wants to hurt them.
Eliot's time in the army has had him do some terrible work that still haunts him. He doesn't open up easily and tries to hide his past in the work that he does for Nate. When Eliot isn't beating someone up, he is usually the older brother figure who is trying to bring the younger ones into the real world (and that's not always an easy task). Eliot is also the only person who isn't afraid to take Nate on when he feels he is not leading properly and Nate might even see Eliot as the man he had hoped one day his son could have become.
Every person has their demons. We all have those hidden sins in our lives that eat away at us even after we've moved on. No one on earth has an easy road and everyone's road is paved with secrets and lies that we could never want to share with the world. Leverage is forever exploring the dark pasts of its characters and how they have to fight their demons everyday to better themselves. The hardest thing we can do is allow the world to see us as we really are and sometimes that mean allowing them to see the good and the bad and what really makes us human.
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Parker is not someone you can sum up in three sentences or less. She's an extraordinary thief, money hoarder, adrenaline junkie, chocolate lover and extreme introvert with no concept of the real world or how people actually live. Orphaned at a young age, Parker spent her life tossed from foster home to foster home, causing severe psychological problems that she dealt with through stealing. Overtime she honed her skills and abilities, but also made a name for herself as being 'weird, strange and completely unrelatable to other people.'
The beauty about Parker is that she doesn't care about what anyone thinks about her. For Parker, it's about the rush, the excitement and getting the job done. Everyone on the team contributes to helping her become more adjusted to the real world, overcoming her introverted nature and understanding other people. While Parker's lack of social skills in the beginning can be grating, she slowly gets in tune to the world around her and obtains a new ability of unexpected leadership and responsibility.
Character growth and development is what separates a good show from a great show and Leverage's character development is very well done. The characters we have by the end are not the people we met in the beginning. Writing good characters can be difficult, because being good can be boring and predictable; the difference with Leverage is that these are former bad guys who are choosing (and at times struggling) to be good. Even while the characters grow, they still maintain elements of their personalities that carry them throughout the show. So by the end, you don't feel like you have a completely different character, but rather a much better character to love and admire.
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Alec Hardison//The Van Gogh Job
One look at Alec Hardison and you would never think that someone that tall, handsome and socially charming could be a geeky computer genius. Yet, Hardison wears his geekdom proudly (in spite of Eliot's endless harassment) and has no problem proving that he's the best computer hacker out there. There is nothing Hardison can't crack, hack or break into and his competitive streak regarding other hackers out there knows no boundaries at all. As the unofficial comic relief of the show, Hardison's explosive tangents are always memorable and hysterical; he really is the funniest guy on the show, no questions asked.
The creators veered away from the stereotype geek (small, skinny, glasses, no social skills) and brought out their interpretation of the 'modern day computer geek' that has now been socially accepted. Lets face it, our society is in the hands of tech geeks all over the world. Alec is just a small representation of that which is why his catch phrase is "Age of the Geek, Baby." It's characters like Hardison that can make anyone proud to be a geek.
Olivia from Meanwhile In Rivendell, who is a huge Leverage fan, talked about an episode from season 4, The Van Gogh Job, and remarked at how it was one the best episodes on the show. It truly is too. The story is about an interracial relationship during the 1940's. It's seen from Parker's POV as she imagines herself and her friends as the people from an old man's story of his past. The episode is beautiful, but heartbreaking as well.
Aldis Hodge's transition from lively and sarcastic Hardison to a reserved and soft-spoken man dealing with racial bigotry is definitely praiseworthy; I was very, very impressed by him! As a strong supporter of interracial relationships (as long as it's between a man and a woman), I thought this was one of the finest stories about overcoming racist prejudice and injustice.
(Another great episode that was also written as the characters in a history setting is The D.B. Cooper Job which is more mystery, but also romance plays an important role. It was really good and had a surprising ending!)
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Sadly, Leverage ended after five successful seasons on TNT, but the storyline was left wide open for a possible movie. The best thing about the show is the "Robin Hood ideal" that bad guys can use their impressive gifts and talents to do good for others. The more good Nate and his team did for people, the better they themselves became.
However, I saw Leverage as more than just a show about robbing the rich to give to the poor. It explores how broken and damaged people can find a way to mend and heal nor do they don't have to do it alone. How family can be created through the most unlikely of circumstances. The characters have their ups and their downs; their ins and their outs; their good and their bad. Leverage exposes the evils of greed and cruelty and how heroes can come about if brought together by the right reasons.