Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Leverage, "The First David Job": Separate ways

Spoilers for part one of the two-part "Leverage" season finale just as soon as I figure out what Fienberg would do in this situation...

That was fun, wasn't it?

"The First David Job" is the sort of thing any good genre show should be capable of doing by the end of its first season if it has any kind of ambition and/or learning curve. It builds on what we know about the characters and the way they work, sometimes by undercutting that knowledge (Elliot runs into a guy almost as tough as he is), sometimes by flipping it around (Sophie temporarily becomes Parker, Elliot becomes Hardison), and it raises the stakes significantly. We have the return of Mark Sheppard as Sterling, the introduction of both Kari Matchett as Nate's ex and the great Kevin Tighe (who can play a role like this in his sleep) as the man Nate holds responsible for his son's death, the team taking its first real beating, and even the destruction of Leverage Consulting & Associates headquarters (though not before Hardison was able to salvage the wonderful painting of Harlan Leverage III).

A very well-executed episode, and next week's "The Second David Job" is just as entertaining. I think "Leverage" as a whole has been uneven this season, but if this is a sign of the level they're aiming for going into year two, then I'm definitely on board.

What did everybody else think?

18 comments:

Toby O'B said...

I've been with the show the whole season, and this is my go-to show when I get home from work each morning; a great way to kick back and relax and enjoy an hour with characters I really like.

Losing their home base like that isn't just disruptive to the characters; it shakes up the audience as well. It's a less drastic way to keep them out of their comfort zone than killing off a regular... and far less messy.

So I have to figure the stakes must be really raised for next week, because "The First David Job" could have stood on its own as a cliff-hanger for the season-ender!

Before they go for the hiatus, though, I hope we do get an explanation as to how Maggie couldn't know the details behind her son's death. That just doesn't play right with me, not without knowing more from Nate.....

And I'm glad Hardison saved the painting. I still say "Harlan Leverage" looks like Bruce Davison and I hope they bring him on sometime in some role for a comparision.....

Toby O'B said...

Damn. I should have specified each Wednesday morning. It's not like I watch it every morning. I'm not that committed to it.....

R.A. Porter said...

I loved this one, and I agree that this and the finale make a nice capper to the season. I've enjoyed the whole season, but it has been a bit uneven. With these two, I can envision a second season that's almost on par with the first season of Burn Notice and that's pretty high praise from me.

My one real complaint was that they didn't give Alex Carter enough to do. Having seen his chops facing off against Jeffrey Donovan, we know he can hold his own in this cast.

What's really striking about this episode is that it plays around with time more than the show usually does. In general, the through line is chronological with occasional detours - always clearly indicated with that blue, muted palette - for con explication or little character bits. Last night they jumped around quite a bit in the opening scenes to set up the con. I would suggest people keep last night's recording around to rewatch before the finale. They'll be rewarded.

More of my thoughts in my review.

Chaddogg said...

One thing bothered me/excited me about this episode: it seems that the whole thing was joined a bit too much in media res. In other words, it all seemed a bit rushed -- the planning for the job, the job itself, etc. Like we're MISSING a piece of what was going on here....

Now that could be sloppy story-telling....but I prefer to think that this is actually a hint that we're witnessing a FAR bigger con. Nate's wife is in on it (you don't think they would have done their homework to know she was working for Kevin Tighe?)...Sophie's betrayal (re having the Second David) was an "act" meant to throw-off the "always ahead of them" Sterling...

In fact, I'm more convinced than ever that EVERYTHING in this episode was, to a certain degree, DESIGNED to be caught by Sterling and Kevin Tighe, just to entrap them further and pull off an even BIGGER con. I mean, really -- Kevin Tighe NEVER would have fallen for Nate having the Second David given their past, right? Of course he'd assume that this was all a con/trick/revenge....so why would Nate and Co. go with that plan UNLESS they knew they were being watched the whole time and were playing "one-step" ahead of Sterling...even falsely luring Sterling into a sense of "success" by miraculously escaping, albeit without the Davids and at the alleged "cost" of having everyone know who they are....

I have a feeling that the finale is setting us up for a HUGE backwards look at what happened BEFORE Nate's "intervention", where the REAL plan was set up....

Anonymous said...

It may be because I frequently watch them back to back, but Leverage reminds me a lot of NCIS. Same kind of slightly nutty (and slightly non-sensical) plot with good dialog and fun cast interactions. It is for heist shows what NCIS is for crime-scene procedurals

I am looking forward to the finale & next season.

Forrester said...

Chaddogg may be right, but I certainly hope the breakdown of the plan is NOT all part of the plan. If the characters are infallible, then they would be boring.

Most of the earlier cases were wrapped up way too easily IMO. I was looking forward to the team being challenged for a change.

Chaddogg said...

@Forrester -- but doesn't something just seem, I don't know, "off" about the whole episode? I mean, it just starts with apparently drunk Nathan putting a gun to Kevin Tighe's face (after headbutting a guard), they then hatch a deal for the Second David (while Kevin Tighe just so conveniently happens to show Nathan EXACTLY where the first David is, along with all the security), Nathan/Sophie/Elliot almost blow their covers MULTIPLE times, Nathan's ex-wife shows up (oh, and she didn't RECOGNIZE any of these robbers she supposedly helped Nathan put away/catch/recover stolen art from?)....

I mean, it just ALL seemed too pat. I think a show about con-men, where we're trained to see beyond the facade, should suggest to us as viewers (as I believe this episode did), that Nathan and the gang are one step ahead of Sterling. I mean, they did EXACTLY what he thought - namely, split up....so, CLEARLY they're up to something MORE than what appearances would suggest.

I'm not suggesting infallibility (in fact, it'd be great to see that they did, indeed, have to improvise certain specifics, like Sophie thinking like Parker/Elliot thinking like Hardison)....but rather that they were always working a bigger plan.

Hoosier Paul said...

I agree Alan, this episode was a very entertaining end to a very uneven season. The writers should use this episode and a few others as the quality benchmarks for Season 2.

Alan, I also wanted to ask your opinion on how the use of Elliot has evolved over the season. He started out as just muscle (I can't watch this show without thinking of your hilarious Aquaman/Superfriends analogy), but in later episodes they've started to use him more and more as one of the main players in the gang's long cons. I think this is a much better use of Christian Kane's acting skills, and gives the character something to do during those long spaces when there's no need for punching.

JustJoan said...

The minute I saw her from the back I yelped, "That's Kari Matchett!" One of the joys of the "Nero Wolfe" series, beside the pleasure of Timothy Hutton's Archie Goodwin, was the repertory company of players they employed, none more charming than Kari. I loved to see her trot out all her charming tricks, including everything Sophie tries to do -- the accents, the seductions, the slyness -- only better. From the get-go I have wished that Kari were playing Sophie, and now we have Sophie wondering if that is going to happen. Bliss!

Chaddogg said...

Wait, was this the season finale? Because I'm pretty sure they still have one more episode to go....

Alan Sepinwall said...

Yeah, one more episode to go, the aforementioned "The Second David Job."

Chris said...

Does anyone know why the sonic attack that was used to turn the tables in the Leverage offices didn't affect Hardison?

Alan Sepinwall said...

He didn't have his comms in.

Carl Weathers said...

..."I have a feeling that the finale is setting us up for a HUGE backwards look at what happened BEFORE Nate's "intervention", where the REAL plan was set up...."

Yeah, and notice how they didn't give us any of those "how they really did it" flashbacks toward the end.

amysusanne said...

I assume that they didn't do any flashbacks or explanation because it was set up specifically as a two parter. Next week won't rewrite what happened this week, it'll continue it. I think that it being a more elaborate con would just be too much. I haven't had a huge problem with things coming together so easily for them this season partly because it's a total popcorn show and partly because they're supposed to be the best. But, even the best falter and I'd feel cheated if next week reset what we saw this week. I think it's way more interesting to see them get taken down and rise back up.

Also, while "What Would Parker Do" would no doubt get you killed in real life, it would be a lot of fun to follow that philosophy.

Beebo said...

Did they name this character Parker as a salute to Richard Stark's thief Parker?

Also: Insane has never been so sexy. If only she were also homicidal...

latenac said...

I really liked this episode. I felt the series had finally hit its stride so I hope it is a sign of things to come. I really love how far Parker and Elliott have come in the series. And after seeing so much criticism of Sophie nagging Nate so much it was nice to see her not be so nice. I'm so glad this show was renewed.

Liz said...

I love this show, and I'm really glad it got renewed. One of just a few that I watch religiously (Lost and BSG among them). It's smart, it's funny, quirky and dark all at once, and the characters are very watchable.

And the over-the-top flashbacks we get every so often just crack me up. Eliot's are especially good.

I liked how this episode didn't end with a cliffhanger, but still with knowing more was coming. Is it Tuesday yet?