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A Good Deal of Leverage

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Last week I wrote a review of TNT's new drama, Leverage.  It was, on the whole, a positive review, but I did note a few concerns.  Chief among those was that the twists weren't really twisty, they were all a little obvious.  Even so, I figured that the characters were interesting enough, the humor clever enough, and, as previously pointed out, I'm a fan of Timothy Hutton.

Last night I watched the third episode, and my opinion pretty much remains the same, only, perhaps, more resolutely so.  It's clever enough to be enjoyable, but the twist was still pretty obvious. 

That's okay, it really is.

It's okay because of just how fun the characters are, because of just how good the dynamic between everyone is.  As an example, take a look at last night's "briefing" for the mission.  In the middle of Alec's delivering his presentation about the horse, trainer, and investor in question, Parker asks to be let out of the mission.  Why?   Because, as she says "I once saw a horse kill a clown." Definitely weird, but Parker is weird, that's her thing.  The show then explains exactly what happened, it flashes back to Parker's past and her witnessing (at a party) a man in a horse outfit killing a clown. And that, my friends, is just one of the reasons that Parker is weird, you'd be weird too if your childhood was filled with horse killing clown moments.  You know you would.

The other element I really liked about the episode was the introduction of Jim Sterling, a man doing Nathan Ford's old job with, quite possibly, fewer scruples than Nate.  Sterling was described last night as sort of an evil version of Ford, and that's just the sort of perfect nemesis the show really needs.  Our doppelganger doesn't need to appear in every episode, but if he pops up every so often to confuse the issue, sometimes work with our team and sometimes against them, it should work really well. 

Any good guys versus bad guys-type show seems to do a nemesis thing eventually, and very often it's those nemesis stories that are the most remembered.  Frankly, even comedies often resort to recurring nemesis storylines – think Sideshow Bob, Gary's Old Towne Tavern, and Newman – with great success.  Who is MacGyver without Murdock?  Who is Mulder without the Cancer Man?  If you setup a great hero, there needs to be a great villain on the opposite end of the spectrum.  It's just one of those rules, and if it hasn't yet been codified, I'm doing so now.  Done.  Consider it codified.

What I'm not saying is that Sterling is the Leverage team's nemesis, just that he stands out as a potential one and was introduced with all the necessary characteristics of a nemesis.  An evil Nathan Ford, it's like introducing the bad guy in Clear and Present Danger as "a Latin Jack Ryan," there's a pretty good indication of where things are headed.

Lastly, the third episode of Leverage was far less preachy than the second, which was a distinct concern of mine.  A little bit of preachiness is okay, and if the show does a "message" episode every once in a while I'm fine with that, but I'm really happy to see that it's not going to be an every episode thing.

So, I still don't find the show perfect, but it is all still headed in the right direction, and with good shows disappearing left and right, that's like a holiday dream come true.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.