The original Leverage was a welcome remix of the crime procedural formula: a show that followed a similar problem-of-the-week structure, but had zero respect for cops or authority figures. Starring a team of con artists, each episode involved an Ocean’s Eleven-style caper tackling some kind of systemic injustice: corrupt politicians, predatory corporations, etc. Running from 2008 to 2012, its lighthearted tone and lovable cast earned a dedicated following. Those fans will be glad to hear that the revival, Leverage: Redemption, is better than ever. Simple and goofy, yes. But perfectly formed.
RELEASE DATE: July 9, 2021
SHOWRUNNER: Kate Rorick
STREAMING: IMDb TV/Amazon
The beloved crime caper dramedy Leverage returns for a revival, adding a couple of new characters to the team. Funny and fast-paced as ever, this new show leans into the show’s political themes and is, if anything, even better than the original.
Easily accessible to new viewers, Leverage: Redemption embraces the original team dynamic while replacing a couple of characters. Strategic mastermind Nate Ford (Timothy Hutton) is gone for good, likely not to be missed. This leaves grifter Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman) in charge, reuniting with Parker the thief (Beth Riesgraf), hacker Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge), and martial artist Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane). Sadly, Aldis Hodge was too busy for a full season, but he returns for long enough to introduce his replacement: Hardison’s little sister Breanna (Aleyse Shannon). This puts the older cast in a mentorship role while Breanna gets to be more fallible as the eager-to-please newbie, a charming addition to the crew.
Our other new character is Harry Sullivan (Noah Wyle), a former corporate lawyer who wants to make up for his evil deeds. Hence the revival’s title. Keen to avoid too much overlap with Nate’s mansplainy leadership role, Sullivan is introduced as a rather hapless figure: a guy who tries hard but doesn’t share the criminal skills of his new teammates. Wyle, a veteran of the similarly ridiculous Librarians franchise, is happy to play the wide-eyed straight man to the madcap Leverage team.
As ever, the show has a great skill for gently poking fun at its own characters while remaining relentlessly sincere. In one scene, Parker blithely explains the strategy she and Hardison developed to help her navigate undercover jobs: a series of cue cards following an if/then map of potential conversational outcomes. Throughout the show, Parker has always been implicitly characterized as autistic. This might have gone horribly wrong given Leverage‘s cartoonish tone, but this scene illustrates what the show gets right.
After years of working together, these characters have all learned some of each other’s skills. But Parker isn’t able to pick up on social cues like Sophie, so Hardison used his computer programming skills to find a different solution. It’s easy to imagine a more mean-spirited version of this scene in something like The Big Bang Theory, but here it’s an affectionate story about Hardison’s love and understanding for Parker, and Parker’s excitement over finding an imaginative new way to do crime. And in the end, Sophie—a con artist who relies on her fine-tuned social skills—is forced to admit that Parker’s cue-card method works pretty well.
For the first couple of episodes, Leverage: Redemption feels virtually indistinguishable from the show we watched ten years ago. Then things kick into a higher gear. With Leverage showrunners John Rogers and Chris Downey sticking around as consulting producers, the formula remains the same but a few details are upgraded for the streaming era. The main characters get more of an arc this time around, and the political themes are more explicit than ever. In the first eight episodes, we get storylines about crooked real estate developers, surveillance technology, and an obvious nod to pharma bro Martin Shkreli, leaning into the idea that inequality has become even more pronounced in recent years. The Leverage team’s Robin Hood antics are pure self-indulgent fantasy, imagining a world where the top dogs of capitalism actually get their comeuppance.
If you go into Leverage: Redemption with an open heart, you’re sure to enjoy yourself. So what if it’s clearly filmed on a shoestring budget? We’ll just agree to pretend that this clapboard office is the lobby to a luxurious Panamanian bank, or this Louisiana ferry is actually a high-end floating casino. Plenty of other shows are visibly swimming in money, but squander it on thin characters and slow scripts. Not so for Leverage, whose creators understand what we want: heists that border on the absurdity of Scooby-Doo or 1960s Batman, coupled with heartwarming teamwork from a group of people who genuinely enjoy each other’s company.
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