The mechanics of scheduling a single television series much less an entire network are foreign to me. There is a multitude of things that have to be figured out, from how many episodes each series has in a season to the production schedule to themed episodes to guest star appearances to holidays to events elsewhere you don’t want to compete with, the list of concerns has to be nearly endless. It is because of the myriad of difficulties that I can wonder all I want exactly why TNT is finishing the third season of Leverage in the way that the network is without ever really understanding it.
Leverage began its third season run in mid- to late-June. Episodes ran on a weekly basis from that point until the first week in September. There were occasions during that run when a repeat was on or when the show aired two episodes back-to-back, but there were episodes on every week. However, during that period, TNT did not air all the episodes made for the third season. They had, it seems, three episodes left over and starting this Sunday night (December 12), we’re going to get to see them.
It does seem like an awfully short run of final episodes in the season – especially when you consider the fact that they’re going to run the last two back-to-back on the 19th. On the other hand, Leverage is definitely a good show and already has an established audience at this point, so whenever new episodes air those who want to see them probably will.
For those who are unfamiliar with the series, it stars Timothy Hutton, Gina Bellman, Aldis Hodge, Christian Kane, and Beth Riesgraf as a group of crooks who have decided to fight for the little guy. Well, that’s not entirely accurate, Hutton’s character, Nate Ford, was actually an insurance investigator and not a criminal, he just put together the group of criminals and convinced them to pull a Robin Hood act.
The third season has featured an on-going plot about a mysterious Italian woman (Elisabetta Canalis) who has been blackmailing Nate in order to get help taking down a criminal, Damien Moreau (Goran Visnjic). Similar to the on-going story on Burn Notice, it is the kind of thing that has popped up on a regular basis this season, but unlike the Burn Notice story, the Moreau tale gets wrapped up by the end of the third season (unless the writers decide to reopen it) and even if it has appeared multiple times isn’t really crucial to the series as a whole.
While the final two episodes this season do show Leverage at its finest, the presence of this on-going but unessential story only serves to highlight why the show shouldn’t have disappeared for months if there were so few episodes left in the season. While the Moreau story has played a role this season, as it isn’t crucial to the overarching plot of the show as a whole, it makes it a little difficult for anyone not truly invested in the story to remember at this point exactly what has been going on. Pieces of the storyline will assuredly come back in dribs and drabs, but the entirety of this year’s stories feel as though they could have been executed without creating the Moreau through line (particularly as Moreau is a criminal and therefore not someone Ford’s team needed any convincing to go after).
Whether or not the recurring story has been necessary, what the final two episodes of the season do highlight is just how much fun the show is as a whole, and that has always been Leverage‘s strength. The series isn’t just action, it isn’t just comedy, it isn’t just a show with heart; rather, it deftly manages to combine all of those elements along with some high-tech doodads and clever plots. It is nearly impossible to watch one of the series better episodes – and the final two ones are pretty good – and not smile as things unfold and reversals are made clear.
On the downside, the episode before the last two, Leverage‘s first holiday-themed episode, isn’t quite as good. There is a good setup present for that one (and it also features a couple of guest stars, none of whom I’ll name so I don’t spoil anything), but the actual climax of the con feels like it is given short shrift. Watching the episode, “The Ho Ho Ho Job,” you can’t help but want it to be a double-episode so that justice can truly be done to the story.
Leverage has been renewed for a fourth season which will, presumably, start at some point next summer and it will be very interesting to note at that time whether the producers choose to go back to episodic plots or to continue with a (new) season-long one. The latter method certainly has some advantages, most notably the ability to build up the bad guy into a truly evil, and yet three dimensional, character. Ford’s team has proved themselves so adept at taking down average criminals at this point that it does feel as though the ante may have to be upped in order for them to truly get tested. If they can just breeze through their schemes, the show loses something.
At this point however, all we can do is sit back and watch this awfully short final run of Leverage‘s third season.
Leverage airs on TNT December 12 at 9:00pm and then again with back-to-back episodes December 19 at 9:00pm and 10:00pm.