Leverage: “The Beantown Bailout Job”

leverages2e01Bad things happen to good people. And on TV, interesting bad things happen to and/or near main characters. Timothy Hutton – and by extension Nate Ford – only has a few years on me; perhaps in the next decade or so a sabotaged car will career toward me and flip in the air, landing feet away from me. I can hope.

Significantly, while the inciting event for the second season premiere of TNT’s Leverage stretches plausibility, everything that follows is organic and believable. It doesn’t matter how outlandish the start as long as the succeeding drama is real. ((Alright, maybe a little stretchy, but close to believable.))

In my preview of the new season I discussed the general situation of the Leverage Group: cast to the four corners at the end of last season, they’ve all been adrift and purposeless. The thieves no longer get a thrill from crime, having been infected by Nate and his push to do good. As for Nate, he’s on the wagon (and living above a bar) about to take a staid and very boring job at a Boston insurance firm when he runs.

Just as the rest of the team has been cursed to want to do good, he’s been cursed to seek out the thrill and can’t stomach the thought of cube life. On his way to drown his sorrows, Kerrigan’s sabotaged car flies toward him. Nate doesn’t move. He’s consigned to his fate, whatever that might be. But when the car lands he jumps into action, alive and still kicking.

When the team shows up they know just which buttons to push – and just as well, when to ignore him and work around his reticence – to bring him onto the job. Surely Kerrigan’s daughter pleading with Nate + the assault in his apartment were enough to get him intrigued but something still held him back. Funny how discussing the case and discussing the right con to use to break it open finally sucked him in. Clearly Nate’s happiest in the game now, even if he doesn’t realize it.

Casting perpetual nebbish Charles Martin Smith ((How nebbishy? When I see him my first thought is still that he was the poor mark Greg tried to sell his beat up car to on The Brady Bunch. Fortunately for him, Greg was too decent to “covet his eruptor.”)) as the crafty and shifty banker, Leary, was a brilliant move. As an audience we are conditioned to expect him to be playing a certain type, particularly in contrast with the rough Irish mob guys. This made the turn midway through Act 4 actually come as a surprise to me. Perhaps others saw the twist coming but I did not see Leary as the evil mastermind. I saw him as the bureaucratic support.

Using their various strengths, the team worked together as smoothly as if they’d never separated and now Nate is the one reluctantly agreeing to do “just this one” job in an echo to the start of the first season.

When all is done, Nate is back in the fold, Hardison is his new landlord, and the Leverage Group is back in business working above a Boston bar. A good start to a second season that promises to be at least as fun as the first.

Some other thoughts:

  • I really do like the new opening credits, short as they may be. They’ve got a fun retro feel to them that hearkens to the show’s spiritual antecedents.
  • As you can probably tell, Gina Bellman was already pregnant at the time the premiere was filmed. She’s currently about four months along and in the second half of the season will be taking a more passive role in the cons. Sophie will not be pregnant, however.
  • I love the thought that Sophie thinks she sings, “not as well as she acts.”
  • I got a nice chuckle out of Eliot’s comment about Nate living above the bar being “very Catholic.”
  • Some really hinky stuff’s been going on in Pakistan…
  • Hardison and Parker’s identities as state police were Costigan and Costello in the season’s first bit of clever aliasing.
  • I imagine Nate will often need to play himself now that the team is operating in his old hometown. I suspect we’ll get a good deal more of Nate’s history because of this.

What did everyone else think?