Paramount // 2009 // 646 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // May 25th, 2010
Sometimes bad guys make the best good guys.
The second season of TNT's surprise hit series arrives on DVD in an excellent four-disc set. Will it create any new Leverage fans, or is it just more of the same? And would that be such a bad thing?
Leverage: The Complete Second Season picks up about six months after the events of the first season, and the gang is all back. There's Nate Ford (Timothy Hutton, Beautiful Girls), the former insurance investigator, alcoholic and mastermind behind Leverage; Sophie (Gina Bellman, Coupling), failed actress and brilliant con artist; Elliot (Christian Kane, Angel), combat expert and the muscle of the group; Hardison (Aldis Hodge, American Dreamz), the fast, funny computer genius and, finally, Parker (Beth Riesgraf, Alvin and the Chipmunks), the master thief with a dark past.
The 15 episodes that make up Leverage: The Complete Second Season are:
"The Beantown Bailout Job" -- Picking up six months after Season One, "Beantown" finds a now-sober Nate rescuing a father and daughter from a car crash and reuniting the gang to take town a corrupt bank with mob ties.
"The Tap Out Job" -- Eliot goes undercover as a mixed martial arts fighter when the team goes after a shady UFC promoter.
"The Order 23 Job" -- The team sets up shop in a fake hospital and tricks a germaphobic white-collar criminal into revealing the location of some stolen money.
"The Fairy Godparents Job" -- The Leverage team goes undercover in a private school and cozies up to a student in order to take down his investment banker father.
"The Three Days of the Hunter Job" -- Sophie gets a shot at leading the team when Leverage decides to expose a tabloid news reporter and restore the reputation of someone she unfairly smeared.
"The Top Hat Job" -- The team poses as magicians to expose a company selling potentially poisonous food.
"The Two Live Crew Job" -- The Leverage team meets their match when they go up against a rival team of equals and try to steal a painting. Guest starring Wil Wheaton and Griffin Dunne.
"The Ice Man Job" -- Hardison poses as a diamond thief as the team (minus Sophie) rips off a diamond merchant with criminal tendencies.
"The Lost Heir Job" -- The team joins up with a lawyer (guest star Jeri Ryan) to determine the fate of a dead millionaire's fortune. Also guest starring Peter Riegert.
"The Runway Job" -- The Leverage team goes undercover in the fashion world to help bring down a sweatshop owner with ties to Chinese gangsters.
"The Bottle Job" -- The team has just an hour to pull off a con on Irish mobsters who are trying to take over McRory's Pub.
"The Zanzibar Marketplace Job" -- The team works to clear the name of Nate's ex-wife, who's just been framed as a jewel thief.
"The Future Job" -- Tara (guest star Jeri Ryan) poses as a psychic when the team takes down a television psychic and con man. Guest starring Luke Perry.
"The Three Strikes Job" -- The team faces the biggest job of their careers after a good cop is shot while going after a corrupt mayor. Guest starring Richard Kind.
"The Maltese Falcon Job" -- Season Two comes to an end with the continuation of "The Three Strikes Job." Nate and the team are pursued by the cops, the FBI and INTERPOL as they take on gun runners with government protection.
As someone who has never watched any of the original series on TNT, Leverage caught me by surprise. I heard good things and knew the series had developed a real following, but simply haven't had time in my life to commit to yet another TV show. With the regular TV season now winding down, the summer is the perfect time for the uninitiated to get into Leverage, a smart, entertaining caper series that reminds us that not every TV show has to be Lost or The Wire. Sometimes, TV can just be about engaging writing and characters you enjoy spending time with.
I'm certainly not the first to point this out (in fact, I may just be the last), but Leverage is a lot like a cross between The A-Team and Ocean's Eleven; we've got outcast/outlaws doing good deeds for those in need while avoiding government agencies, but the whole thing has the fizzy, fun vibe of Soderbergh's heist movie (and Andy Lange's score for the series owes a debt to David Holmes' Ocean's Eleven score). And though I tend to like my series more on the serialized side -- I like it when a story builds over the course of an entire season -- I can't even complain about Leverage's episodic nature. It's a fun show, one that's meant to entertain more than draw viewers in emotionally, and the week-to-week structure speaks to that. Plus, it allows for a blank slate with each new episode, and Leverage: The Complete Second Season needs a few do-overs. Still, even the episodes with weak plotting or lame gimmicks (including those where the team infiltrates a private school, the fashion world or the brotherhood of professional magicians) get by on the chemistry of the cast, all of whom seem to be having a terrific time. It's good to see Christian Kane kicking ass again (I was a fan of his run on Angel, where he had one of the coolest last scenes of all time), and I'm happy to see Timothy Hutton finally find a role that suits his rumpled charm perfectly after bouncing around mediocre projects for the better part of two decades. My favorite characters and performances, though, are Aldis Hodge as Hardison, who is funny and spontaneous without pulling too much focus (and makes a great Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan reference in the season finale) and Beth Riesgraf, who makes Parker into a completely convincing oddball. It's not the most original character, but the subtle way that Riesgraf plays her makes her like no other character on television.
I may be alone in this, but I actually prefer Jeri Ryan's Tara, who joins the team for a run of mid-season episodes, to Gina Bellman's Sophie. I understand that the Leverage 'shippers' might enjoy the constant romantic tension and drama inherent in her relationship with Nate (I kind of like it, too, in that it's another way of demonstrating how badly damaged Nate is without going too dark with it...are you listening, Rescue Me?), I don't feel like there's much to Sophie beyond some bad acting (the character, not Bellman) and an accent. Jeri Ryan, on the other hand, not only brings much geek cred and an insane amount of sexiness to the show, but her role as an outsider to the team keeps things interesting. She's unpredictable in the best way, and while Leverage rarely capitalizes on that quality, it's at least always hanging in the background. Of course, the "Sophie has to leave and discover herself" plot doesn't make a whole lot of sense to begin with, so maybe I was just happy to get a break from it for a while and spend some time with Seven of Nine. There are worse ways to pass 42 minutes.
If you can ignore the bad cover art, Paramount has put together a good package for Leverage: The Complete Second Season. The 15 episodes that make up the season are spread out over four discs, presented in an anamorphic widescreen transfer of 1.78:1. The image looks terrific, particularly for a broadcast TV series: black levels are solid, everything looks sharp and clear and there are no visible flaws or issues that affect the picture. The 5.1 audio track is robust during musical cues and action beats, and though the dialogue is handled clearly in the front channels, the mix is a bit uneven and the dialogue can be a little hard to hear without cranking the sound way up. Subtitles would have helped the issue, but the disc contains none.
A healthy amount of bonus features have been included for fans of Leverage excited to go beyond the shows themselves. Every episode comes with a commentary from the creative personnel behind the show, including directors, writers and producers; sadly, once again all of the actors are absent on the commentaries. The first -- and longest -- featurette is a Q&A with Leverage creators Dean Devlin, John Rogers and Chris Downey, in which the team discusses the origins of the series and how the cast came together. There's a set tour with executive producer John Rogers and a short piece on the show's music with composer Andy Lange, as well as a featurette called "Behind the Boom," focusing on the series' special effects (which are often kind of awful). Aldis Hodge goofs off in a short piece called "The Hand Job," in which he displays what a terrible amateur thief he is. The final and most enjoyable bonus feature is a nine minute "gag reel," featuring bloopers and bits of joking around in between takes that improves based on your affection for the show's ensemble cast. Since they're probably my favorite part of Leverage, I enjoyed the gag reel quite a bit.
Season Three of Leverage is about to start up on TNT, and it's the perfect kind of show to watch in the summer. It's light and fun and totally entertaining, and though Season Two is somewhat uneven, it remains enjoyable even in the worst episodes. The two-part finale is some of the best stuff that Leverage has ever done, raising the stakes and setting the stage for what could be a pretty great third season. I, for one, am looking forward to more of this show. It's gone from a show I didn't have time for to one I'll be making time to watch.
Review content copyright © 2010 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 646 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentaries
* Gag Reel
* Official Site
* Video Clip: Tap-Out Job
* Video Clip: Future Job
* Video Clip: Top Hat Job