Leverage (2008-2012) is one of those rare shows, which managed to bow out exactly the right moment. After five seasons the arcs of the five main characters could be brought to a satisfying conclusion. I was honestly not sad to see Leverage go, because it felt to me like the show had run its course. Well, at least I wasn’t sad until I saw the season finale. It made me wish for a spin-off called Leverage International.
For those poor souls who missed out on Leverage, here a short summary of the premise: A team of criminals is taking on the powerful and corrupt in order to “provide leverage” to ordinary people who won’t get help elsewhere. Leader and Mastermind of the team is Nathan Ford, who used to be a insurance detective. When he lost his son to cancer after the insurance refused to pay for an alternative treatment, he lost his footing. His arc is mostly about dealing with his grief, his alcoholism, his complicated relationship with his criminal father and his feelings towards grifter Sophie Devereaux. Her arc is mostly about finding herself, after she played one role after another her whole life. Eliot Spencer is the hitter of the team, an expert fighter who has to battle the demons of his past. Alec Hardison is the complete opposite of him, a genius and hacker, who wants to learn enough from Nate to eventually lead an own team. And finally there is the Parker, played by Beth Riesgraf.
Female thieves are usually portrayed as sexy in TV. And while Beth Riesgraf is really not hard to look at, the first adjectives I would attach to Parker are more along the lines of “crazy, impressive and totally badass”. She is odd, but not the kind of odd which makes you smile indulgently. Even when you can’t help but laugh about her love for money, her strange remarks, her into-the-face opinions, and especially her attempts to act “normal”, it is always connected to a certain sadness. Parker is a broken character, abused as a child by her foster parents and finally being trained up to be the best thief of the world. She is a walking dichotomy, confident as a thief, but in a lot of aspects still a little child. And I don’t mean it in the way some people embrace the child in themselves and don’t care, if they are considered as odd. A part of Parker was stunted early on and grows up during the series. She learns how to deal with people, with feelings and above all she learns how to trust. When all is said and done, she is the one who surpasses all the other members of her team, becoming a decent grifter as well as a talented leader. Considering that most character arcs attached to females (if they get one outside of romance at all) are limited to slowly falling apart because of traumatic experiences, it is refreshing to see a show going into the other direction, leaving the trauma in the past and allowing the character to go forward without dwelling on it.
Even her romance with Hardison is exemplary well written. There are no contrived problems, no unnecessary derails. The writers of the show were smart enough to recognize that there was no need to add any of this because Parker in itself is already complicated enough to make any relationship a challenge. They also avoided making the romance some sort of healing experience. The romance does not happen in order to “cure” Parker of her craziness, it happens after she learned to form and trust emotional attachments, first in form of friendships. The romance is just the next logical step.
And still, when all is said and done, Parker is still Parker. A happier, more balanced Parker (as long as you keep her away from chocolate and tazers), but still someone who marches to her own tune.
Best Leverage Episode: 3.11 The Rashomon Job
Best Parker-centric Episode: 1.11 The Juror #6 Job
Best thing stolen: “Okay, let’s go steal ourselves a Parker.”
Best Quote: “We have to convince them that they need us. It will be tough, and they might shoot you a little.”
If you like shows about conmen and successful heists, Leverage is the show for you.
If you have a problem with criminals being portrayed as heroes, than you might better skip it.
If you are neither, it depends on if the humour in the show clicks with you. In any case, it is one of those shows you either watch not at all or from start to finish. I promise, the final episode makes it worth sticking around until the very end.