LEVERAGE: THE 4TH SEASON
MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
Four years ago, I was sent the first season of “Leverage” to review. I hadn’t seen the show before on TNT, but I enjoyed watching it. Still, it was quite fun, albeit a little green. The “Oceans Eleven” meets “Robin Hood” feel to the premise was fun, but the characters hadn’t fully gelled yet. Timothy Hutton was a commanding leader, but Aldis Hodge and Christian Kane were trying to overcome their roles as not-Will-Smith and not-Brad-Pitt, respectively.
I didn’t get the second or third season of the show to review, and I missed watching them in their broadcast run. However, I was happy to have a chance to get “Leverage: The 4th Season” for review. This wasn’t just because I enjoy the show, but also because I was curious to see how the series had come together. (Of course, I could have always DVR’d the show on TNT, but I never remember to do that sort of thing.)
I was pleasantly surprised as how well the show flows now. There were some rocky moments in the first season, as there always are, but those character elements had smoothed out nicely. The team had become an actual team, which had been a source of conflict in the earliest episodes. Now, they work together almost flawlessly, and even Hodge and Kane have found ways to make their somewhat derivative performances their own.
Most of the episodes are fun, especially when they stick to the formula. Now with everyone knowing their place, the characters can work together and do their jobs as they need to. In this fourth season, there is some interpersonal drama. Nate (Hutton) and Sophie (Gina Bellman) have started sleeping together, though they don’t want anyone to know that. Similarly, Hardison (Hodge) and Parker (Beth Riesgraf) are getting closer to becoming a couple, so they have some things to work out as well.
Elliot (Kane) has blossomed the most, turning away from his earlier brooding status to a more comical side character. His performance and handling of the character reminds me of Ronon from “Stargate Atlantis,” who started out as morose muscle but soon became the teddy bear of the group.
The best episodes lean towards the standard heist jobs where an eventual double-cross at the end puts all the elements into place. The show gets points for trying some creative things, though they don’t always work out to be the best episodes. For example, “The Van Gogh Job” tells the story in flashback with the actors playing characters from the 40s. This is commonplace in cable shows, but it results in an overly cheesy deliver that was a bit of a turn-off.
Similarly, “The Office Job” was a fun spoof of “The Office” television show, but the nauseating cinematography proved that it takes more than a guy with a video camera and some shaky movement to pull off the style.
What often bothers me the most about any series is when the first and last episodes of the season turn into what I refer to as “shit gets real episodes.” These deviate from the natural flow of the season, up the stakes and put the characters in more peril. However, the season finale of “The Last Dam Job” was brilliantly done, bringing in some fantastic bonus characters (including Parker’s dad, played by Richard Chamberlain, and Hodge’s nemesis, played by Wil Wheaton) and having more fun than angst for your standard “Shit Gets Real Job.”
Overall, “Leverage: The 4th Season” is even more enjoyable than the previous episodes I’ve seen. I might just have to DVR season five, now.
The four-disc DVD set includes commentary on all episodes, deleted scenes from select episodes, a gag reel and a behind-the-scenes featurettes on the season premiere. Additional features include “Writers’ Room Job” and “The Office Job Parody.”