[Review] - Leverage, Season 5

Courtesy of Electric Entertainment
I hate The Big Bang Theory. Just hate it. It's not funny, it's insulting. Just throwing a bunch of pop culture references and science jargon into a script doesn't make it a nerd show. Because behind those references and jargon, the show is still, at it's core, laughing at them rather than with them. It all based around the idea that how the guys behave and what they do is strange and different and really ought to be mocked. And I for one don't like being insulted for twenty two minutes a week. That, and the jokes are really quite awful.

So what is a true nerd show then? Community is the obvious answer, so drenched in nerd and geek culture that the sheer amount of prior knowledge required to appreciate a fraction of the jokes is staggering (and might explain the low ratings). QI is a better answer, a half hour devoted to nothing but unfettered knowledge, Stephen Fry and frequent penis jokes. And Leverage, I think, needs to be included. For five years, it has flown under the radar, but I think a case can be made for it's level of geekiness. References abound, and never in a blatant way. The writers clearly were fans of all genres (of Doctor Who if the number of related aliases used on the show is any indication) and managed to work into the frame work of the plot as much as they could. It shouldn't be surprising considering it came from Dean Devlin, one of the writers of the original Stargate film, and filled it's guests, both in front and behind the camera with geek royalty, including Jonathan Frakes, Ronny Cox, Saul Rubinek, Jeri Ryan, Wil Wheaton, Adam Baldwin, Tom Skerritt, and Mark Sheppard in what is undoubtedly his finest role.

And now, sadly, it is done. TNT cancelled the series just before the finale aired on christmas day, and luckily it was to be expected, and managed a proper last episode. So after five years, the con is done. But did it finish well? Hit the jump to read the review, which contains spoilers for the final season.

What I've always appreciated about Leverage was it's ability to balance drama and humour. When it was dark, it could get very dark. But, for the most part, it kept things light without ever becoming a full on comedy. It felt more like how real people get through their day, taking shots at their colleagues and family, not taking things too seriously unless it was absolutely necessary. It just happened that these characters were con artists. Superficially, Leverage was Ocean's Eleven on a weekly basis. Happily though, it took itself a little more seriously then that.

Leverage was never in a position of power. TNT as a network has yet to truly established itself as a source of original programming in the way FX or Showtime has. And Leverage always maintained that position of getting renewed during the hiatus period, after the season had wrapped and aired. Which meant they had to restrict themselves from playing too far ahead. Which, I felt, made for tighter stories. Treating each season as if it were the last lead to self contained arcs, and a lack of the sort of mystery building that cripples so many shows now, trying to replicate the success of LOST.

I was surprised when the show returned for a fifth season, and I suspect so were those involved in the show. The fourth season wrapped things up nicely, dispatched a long time villain, and put each character in a comforting place. I worried that a fifth year might play like House's last, where it all just seemed like shuffling chairs, waiting for the final end. Happily, the writers saw to it that the focus remained on the episode to episode stuff, and all but abandoned an arc at all in this final year. It allowed them to flush out the last bits of development they wanted to get from the characters, and take them from the safe, concluded space of last season, to a more fulfilled, rounded space this year.

The best episode of the season was The Broken Wing Job, focusing entirely on Parker (the highlight of the regular cast) as she develops her inner mastermind. The Corkscrew Job was the weakest, if for no other reason then it was unremarkable late in the year. It did little to add to the theme of development in the main cast, and just kind of sat there.

The only major qualm I had with this season was the final episode itself, reported to be how Devlin always pictured the series ending. But it felt far too rushed, and muddled in places, and should have had the two part treatment that other seasons had ended on. It wasn't their strongest ending, I'm sad to say, considering that the finales of seasons two and four were far superior. It did though bring back Sheppard for his second appearance this season as Stirling, and he always elevates the show (the writers always have the most obvious fun when he is around). His turn in the The Frame Up Job was much better, and a far better departure for the character, as it lacked the permanent sense of closure the Long Goodbye Job seemed intent on providing.

I've always said that five years is the perfect length of time for any series to last. Be it ten episodes or 23 per season, after five years, the writers tend to burn out, the characters reach their breaking point, and the plot starts to run thin. I'd rather see a show I love end well, and early then linger on and on, after it had been put down. So I'm sad to say goodbye to Leverage, but I'm happy at the same time. Happy that we got five solid years, none of which felt forced or belaboured. And we got six wonderful characters added to the great pile of fiction, to look back on and enjoy the company of.

Even Parker. Parker's crazy.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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