Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Leverage, "The Second David Job": In plain sight

Quick spoilers for the "Leverage" first season finale coming up just as soon as I say hi to my mummy...

I would call "The First David Job" the more satisfying half of this two-part finale, simply because the ideas of Sterling setting up a Bizarro World version of Leverage, and of our heroes having to reverse roles to save the day, was more clever than anything either side pulled off last night. Still, it was fun to watch Kevin Tighe's panic level build throughout the hour -- that's one of the staples of the heroic con artist genre, made especially pleasurable when you have a glowering wonder of an actor like Tighe playing those notes -- and to see Nate's ex-wife more thoroughly integrated into the team.

So here's my question: I think we can all agree that "Leverage," while entertaining, didn't quite live up to the potential of its premise or its cast, so what improvements would you like to see made for season two? Similarly high-concept genre shows like "Chuck" and "Burn Notice" are demonstrating that it only takes a few tweaks between seasons to go from entertaining diversion to can't-miss, so what can the "Leverage" producers do to make a similar leap? Do you want Kari Matchett to stick around? More cases where a member of the team has a personal stake? Less of those? Something else entirely?

21 comments:

tick22 said...

Leverage to me was the biggest surprise this part of the season. As for changes..
Lets NOT get Nate and Sophie together, I would rather Nate not get involved with any of the team that way. A good way to change what they did this season is to have Nate not fully trust her since she pulled a con on the team. have him back away because of that and his ex wife and his feeling for her.
Bring back Nate's ex.. ok, not for the whole season but in some episodes. The two actors do have chemistry and Nate does still have deep feelings for her as last night showed..
I would love more back stories or stories that touches a members because of their past. Some of the best episodes this season had things that deal with a team member's past. Loved the orphanage story line because of how it affected Parker...
And please don't change any of the characters and the way they played them this season, except of course the Nate and Sophie relationship. Just end that one...

R.A. Porter said...

I've said many times that the biggest thing this show needs to really step up its game is for the team to lose sometimes. That's what made last week so entertaining and helped push the finale into a higher gear. If the team is vulnerable and fragile and fighting internally, it will invest us more.

I think an occasional change to the formula would be nice, as well. Usually, we know only a part of what the team wants to do and get the extra-secret bits revealed later. Therefore subconsciously, we expect every setback is a feint. That makes the act outs have less impact, I think.

I'd like them to mix it up more, where about 75% of the episodes we know exactly what the team is up to, so when they have to improvise we know they really are. That would make those other quarter of the episodes more fun with their fakeouts of the audience.

And...yes to more Kari Matchett, yes to more Mark Sheppard + Alex Carter, yes to a return of Lauren Holly. I want to see obstacles next season.

Here's my review of the finale where I *don't* go on about how the show needs to improve, but do note that it's more stylish than it gets credit for being.

Dan Coyle said...

Nate/Maggie 4EVEAH!!!

Ahem.

I think higher stakes might be in order. As the finale showed, the characters can really walk away at any time, maybe some incident could happen that would make them really, really want to stick together, to stick it to the bad guys.

Alan Sepinwall said...

As the finale showed, the characters can really walk away at any time, maybe some incident could happen that would make them really, really want to stick together, to stick it to the bad guys.

That's a good point. The fortune they each made off of ruining Saul Rubinek in the pilot means they don't actually need to work again -- they're just doing this because it's fun, and because it makes the thieves feel better about themselves -- and it makes higher stakes very difficult to create. Maybe they could come up with a scenario where Hardison winds up investing all their cash with a Bernie Madoff type, only even after they get their revenge, they're still broke. That would create some interesting tension between being do-gooders and taking on jobs where they can make some dough.

R.A. Porter said...

That's a good idea. Burn Notice works better when Michael occasionally has to weigh his morality against his need to have large sums of money for bribes and such.

JustJoan said...

Maybe it's just me, but I have never warmed to Gina Bellman as Sophie. Loved her in Coupling, especially loved her in Jeykll, but here? Meh. All her accents sound the same to me, all her interactions with Nate seem uber-arch. So next season, my wish list is small: keep Kari Matchett around some of the time, but de-escalate Sophie's reaction to her and definitely stop with the acting-for-real=lousy, acting-to-con=great switch, because it just does not scan. Overacting is overacting, period.

My other wish is that TPTB keep the Parker-Hardison chemistry going, but only if they keep Parker clueless about it. Adorable.

Anonymous said...

We (my children, 15 & 11, who love to watch Leverage with me) want to see Nate STOP DRINKING. He needs to find a more responsible way to deal with his pain. We get that he's trying to escape it & we see that alcohol isn't helping. Frankly, I don't think his guzzling & seeing him function half drunk adds anything to the show.

Beyond that, it was exciting to see them fail in the first half of the finale, but we really enjoyed the 2nd half too. We loved the ways they outsmarted the museum team.

And do NOT get Nate & Sophie together.

Antid Oto said...

What would make me like it better? Honestly? More original capers. I only watched a few episodes this year, including the last two, but I pretty much felt like every single time I'd seen the idea executed more successfully in another movie or caper show. The last episode, for example, included a combination of gags seen most recently in Hustle and The Thomas Crowne Affair, and done better there.

reuben said...

i agree that the first part was excellent and last night seemed anti-climactic. I think for next season Kari Matchett is an excellent addition, as she and Tim Hutton worked great together on Nero Wolfe too. the supporting cast is uneven -- the tough guy is not believable when he plays roles like the professor. parker is amusing when allowed to be quirky. giving sophie more of an edge like in part 1 would be good. and sometimes the plots allow the marks to be conned too quickly. some of the cons were quite involved and worked like the pilot and the trial episode. others fell flat. also, Hutton is excellent actor but they need to decide if he's in charge or vulnerable due to drinking etc. also, Aldis Hodge was very strong this year. in all a fun show that could either grow into must see or just as easily fall by the wayside not with a bang but a wimper next year.

Cameron Hughes said...

I'd like an investigator like Nate used to be to start hunting them. They really need an enemy to keep them on their toes, like Michael on Burn Notice

Chris said...

I thought Leverage was a bit average at first, but really jumped out as the season closed out. By the finale, the show seems to have really found its footing, having developed its characters just a little bit. What I enjoyed most beyond the well-done caper (I really enjoyed the twist at the end of the finale based on Nate's earlier bragging to Blackpoole) was the fact that the characters are a bit more settled and you can start to see a little more from them than just the archetypes they represent (The Thief, The Hacker, The Muscle, etc.). For example, I love the awkward flirting between Hardison and Parker. The humor in this situation is built upon the established foundation of their characters, in particular Parker's social awkwardness. I imagine there will be more of this type of loose, fun interplay as the writers settle into the nuances of the characters. I enjoyed Kari Machett's character, though I'm not sure that she should be a regular - she seems to have her act together which would be an odd combination with this band of exceptional misfits.

Leverage seems like a very good fit with the rest of TNT's original programming - entertaining and well-produced, but ultimately lightweight. I regularly watch Leverage and The Closer, and I watch Monk from time to time. While these shows are entertaining, I imagine that ten years from now, I won't necessarily remember them like I expect to remember shows like "It's Always Sunny..." or "The Shield" or "Mad Men."

mosaica said...

My biggest wish for this show is for them to get Sophie a dialect coach. Man her accents (or the lack thereof) bug me.

Other than that, I'd love to see th wife back as the chemistry between her and Nate was fun to watch and it actually got him invested again. I'd like to see him really take the lead on some of these and show what he can do instead of just being a stage manager.

But I have to admit that I was really happy to see that it would be back this summer. I think if they could tighten up the stories a bit, up the investment of the characters and figure out a clever way to inject some uniting tension into the team - it could quickly become a can't miss show for me.

BigTed said...

What I want is more intricate details of the scams -- and better scams themselves. The intricately detailed heists are what make the "Ocean's" movies work (to the extent they do) apart from the star power. And it's largely the technicalities of Michael's spy work that makes "Burn Notice" so much fun.

I realize that it's hard to write an entirely new, highly detailed caper each week, but that's kind of the whole point of this show. If they did that better, everything else would fall into place.

Anonymous said...

I think the show could benefit from more inclusion of the client into the con. We meet these people five minutes in and then they dissapear until there are five minutes left.

I would also like to see them open up the thieves world a little more. Nate's wife is a good start to that, in that they could possibly bring her in if they needed help on another art-related case, but I'd like to see them occasionally outsource a task to another conman/thief/computer whiz. Right now it feels like these five live in their own universe, only popping into ours when the computer flags a new client.

me said...

The writers and producers can put Hustle in on repeat and find out what this show's really supposed to look like.

M.A.Peel said...

I agree that The First David Job was the more thrilling of the two in plot and scope, and visually, with Parker and Sophie jumping off the roof.

I thought Hutton in Nate's confession to Maggie was terrific.

I like the show a lot. I hope they can find a way to distinguish themselves beyond a Hustle wannabe.

Chinie said...

Yes, PLEASE do not let the Nate/Sophie romance continue.
It is just so forced. There is zero chemistry between them, and it makes Sophie seem clingy and irritating.

There is much better chemistry between Nate and Maggie.

amysusanne said...

I kind of loved it. I prefer the first part, like most people, but the acting on the last one was fantastic. Hutton and Matchett were awesome from start to finish and that scene on the bench just killed me. I loved Mark Shepphard's laughter and amazement at the end when Nate was explaining how things were going to happen. I thought Gina Bellman was great showing the insecure side of Sophie (and I liked Eliot being upset that she came to him last for her "I'm not apologizing" apology). And as always, I enjoy every interaction between Eliot and Hardison.

I would love to see more Maggie next season, but not in a regular role. I'd prefer the core five stay the core five and other people come and go as necessary.

All the "they need to watch Hustle" stuff is puzzling to me because (ignoring the fact that most of the writers do watch that show) if the show tried to be more like that one then we'd all bitch about what a rip off it is. I think they need to keep what they're doing and work on the character relationships. Better and more interesting cons are definitely needed, but I stuck with it because I grew to like the characters and the way the actors played them, so I think that as long as they try to tighten things up there (and avoid future weird contradictions of character)then they'll be okay. No huge retooling is needed, just some little tweeks here and there.

Liz said...

I think it was John Rogers in his blog who said that First and Second David work best when viewed back to back as a two-hour finale, and after testing it out on my DVR, I have to agree.

One thing that many viewers might not be aware of with this season is that the episodes were shown out of the order that the writers intended. So the progression of character and relationship development might not have come through as clearly. The DVD will supposedly have the shows in order. I'd like to check them out that way, see how it works.

Other than that, I just hope to see the show continue to improve, and I expect that it will. I never really had any complaints about it -- had a hell of a good time watching in fact.

amysusanne said...

We've talked about the the eps being reordered before. I think that might have caused some of the continuing storylines to suffer (if only very slightly), but I actually *don't* think it hurt the evolution of the relationships that much. The continuity issues wrt character development in season one weren't really a result of a mixed schedule, it was a result of what looks like season one growing pains. Most can be wanked away (example: Eliot saying Hardison lived with his mom could have been an insult rather than canon), but once you reach a second season your goal should be to avoid things that force the audience to fanwank at all. I grew to enjoy every character on the show, but there were weeks where, using the pilot and what we learned there as our jumping off point, little things didn't seem to "fit" where they might have fit the week before.

I actually found it kind of interesting to scan through the marathon the other day and see that not only were the eps still not in order, but they weren't even in the order in which TNT aired them the first time. That was kind of weird.

Test said...

One late one here for the statarazzi that nobody has mentioned. We've had comment of Mark Sheppard and Alex Carter both having roles in Leverage AND Burn Notice this season (even together in the same episodes on each show).

Seen here as the museum creator and also in episode 2 of Burn Notice this season as Nefzi the counterfeiter, you can add Erick Avari to the least of Burn/Leverage double acts this season.

The man sure is getting about a lot himself lately - yes that was him last week as the bird fancying expert on Life as well.

I think maybe he and Zeljko Ivanek are having some kind of private contest :-)