Friday, August 02, 2013

Leverage Season Two

My review of season one of Leverage

Season one of Leverage left off in a great place, just in case the show didn't get renewed. So at the beginning of season two the team of criminals has separated and has to come back together. They manage this when they all show up to support Sophie in a disastrous performance of The Sound of Music (Sophie's failed acting career is one of my favorite plot threads).

I really loved the way it all seamlessly fell back into place, and the way that the entire crew is much more comfortable running over Nate when he gets ridiculous. If he's doing something dumb, they just don't listen. This is also the season where you start to see the different experts start to coach their "co-workers" in their craft.

Specifically, Sophie starts to teach Parker how to better relate to people and Elliot starts to teach them all how to fight and defend themselves. These lessons slowly build up as the series goes on, but the foundations are here in season two and they really work. Season two is a tough time for a lot of shows, and even Leverage goes through a few growing pains. It's a time where you have to figure out how to continue what worked, fix what didn't, and how to have your characters change and grow without going so far they aren't what the fans love anymore.

With Leverage, part of how they do this is having Nate embrace being a bad guy, and finally quitting drinking. I was pretty happy to see the alcoholic storyline drop, and I'm still grumpy that it doesn't stay dead, but it was nice while it lasted. Sophie realizes she's been lying for so long that she needs to take time to figure out who she is, and leaves to discover her true self, appearing only in phone calls and quick shots in a few episodes. This was necessitated by actress Gina Bellman's pregnancy, which couldn't convincingly be written into the show and I'm glad they didn't try.

For a while they're joined by Tara, who never really worked for me and I don't think she ever fit the team dynamic. But she wasn't meant as a permanent replacement, so that's okay.

A lot of really great, classic episodes of the show are in season two. The Zanzibar Marketplace Job stands out, as it brings back Sterling and Nate's ex-wife Maggie. It's also a great episode for showing off how the team has grown, since they have to manage to finish the con without Sophie or Nate. More often as the show goes on, characters other than Nate will take over as the "mastermind" for an episode, and usually it doesn't work out completely for them but you never get the sense that Nate is trying to prove he's the only man for the job. Instead, he's helping them learn.

The Two Live Crew Job has the team run into a nearly identical team, so they face the worst version of themselves. This is the first episode to feature Chaos, Wil Wheaton's typical smarmy jerk character and adversary of Hardison. The Bottle Job, where the crew has only two hours to save McRory's Pub from a loan shark is particularly brilliant. In fact, looking back on the episode list the only one that I don't have at least some fond thoughts about is The Future Job, which was very interesting in it's take down of television psychics and their techniques, but I would have rather seen Gina Bellman's take as the team's fake psychic.

It's always great to see a show that just steadily increases in quality as it goes on, and Leverage was already pretty good in season one. Season two definitely just makes it all even better.