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Leverage

Season Three Premiere
Cast: Timothy Hutton, Gina Bellman, Christian Kane, Beth Riesgraf, Aldis Hodge
Regular airtime: Sundays, 9pm ET

(TNT; US: 20 Jun 2010)

Review [9.Dec.2008]

We Help Guys

The world of Leverage is populated by thieves, bullies, and cheats, most occupying positions of power. In this world, only skullduggery and courage can lead to justice. This is where Nathan Ford (Timothy Hutton) and his team of expert law-breakers come in. As team member Alec (Aldis Hodge) puts it, their mission is simple: “We help guys nobody else helps.”


Last season ended as Nathan himself looked in need of help. He sacrificed himself to the FBI in order to save the others. While his incarceration is the initial focus of the Season Three premiere on 20 June, the episode quickly heads back into familiar territory, as Nathan takes on the case of fellow inmate Billy Epping (Edwin Hodge), unjustly incarcerated after transporting beer across state lines. As always, the regulars are then called on to show off what they do best, and order is restored.


This time, the regulars must first convince Nathan to break out of prison. There’s no question that he will be freed, as viewers know his crew has the requisite skills. But at first he rejects their rescue plans, even resisting the temptation of learning Sophie’s (Gina Bellman) true name, a reward dangled in front of him for compliance with those plans. In fact, Sophie has already told the others her name and sworn them to secrecy until Nathan has earned the right to know, allowing them all the chance to tease him incessantly. This doesn’t exactly make for tension, but it does remind us of the team’s easy camaraderie.


Only when the team alters their plans to include Billy in the escape does Nathan agree to come along. Billy has been assigned an unusually long term for a relatively minor crime, and Nathan learns that the privately run prison is involved in a shady scheme to make a profit. Not only does the business get paid for an occupancy rate, it makes money through the labor of the prisoners. “One in five office chairs and desks are made by convicts,” the warden informs Alec, who is pretending to be interested in starting a similar operation overseas. Meanwhile, Eliot (Christian Kane) has taken over as the prison doctor, in place for when Nathan and Billy need some muscle.


Although largely predictable, the episode does introduce a new character who will interfere with Nathan and his crew this season. “The Italian” (Elisabetta Canalis) is a sexy mastermind who dwells in shadows, inserts herself into the prison situation, and then informs Nathan that he now works for her. The team will likely spend much of their time trying to learn The Italian’s true identity and freeing themselves from her interference.


In the real world, the FBI would have such a massive manhunt underway for Nathan that his friends would be unable to move. Here, no one seems concerned about that possibility. Instead, Sophie expresses concern over Nathan’s drinking, to which he replies that he has been a drunken honest man and a sober thief, so now he wants to try being a drunken thief. This is what passes for originality in this latest episode of Leverage, which is disappointingly familiar. That said, what the show offers, it does well. The cast has a good rapport, and the writers have a clear grasp of each character’s function. Now, everyone should stretch a bit, beginning with an intriguing new storyline.

Rating:

Michael has been writing for PopMatters since 2000. His primary focus, aside from queer culture, is television reviews and commentary, and his article Male Bashing on TV has been reprinted in two college textbooks. He currently lives in Louisville, KY, and is a Lecturer of Communication Studies at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, IN. As a teacher, he has an interest in the study of contemporary political rhetoric and argumentation. He and his partner Jim have been living in un-wedded bliss since 1995.


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