Review: Leverage 1.01 – “The Nigerian Job”
Original Air Date: December 7, 2008
Screencaps from swizzmizz.com
Nathan Ford is an honest ex-insurance investigator who seeks vengeance on his old employers for denying his son coverage for an “experimental,” potentially life-saving procedure. The son dies as a result. So when Victor Dubenich, an airplane designer, approaches Nate with a plan that will screw his old company as well as net him some money, it takes little convincing to get him to sign on.
Dubenich has also hired three thieves to pull off a heist to steal back some stolen aircraft plans from a rival company. We meet the thieves while they are on the job with Nate as the mastermind. Alec “Age of the Geek” Hardison is the hacker. In a flashback, we see security officers burst in on him in a hotel room surrounded by women dressed as slave Leia and wielding light sabers. He is registered as Mick Jagger, but he clearly is not him. “This is not the room you’re looking for,” waves a “Jedi” Hardison before security takes him away. What an introduction! Hardison almost makes Leverage a genre show. He makes references to obscure sci-fi that no one else (with one exception) actually gets. He truly is a geek.
Elliot “I don’t even know what you do” Spenser is the hitter. In a scene from his past, we see him approach a group of armed mobsters and tell them he is there to collect the goods. Cut to the outside with guns flashing and making noise. Cut back to the inside: only Elliot and one man are left standing with the others all dead. Elliot has no weapon of his own. The man slides Elliot a baseball card. Can you say “bad ass”? Elliot refuses to use a gun, but he can handle himself in a fight with or without any other weapon. He’s only met his match a couple of times in the show, but that’s a topic for another review!
And finally there’s Parker (just Parker) — “twenty pounds of crazy in a five pound bag.” Parker is the incorrigible thief (and quite possibly my favorite character). In her flashback, a man we assume is her father yells at her for finding a stuffed toy bunny that she is not supposed to have. He tells her she needs to be good or to be a better thief. We then see her leaving the house with the bunny tucked lovingly in her arms as the house explodes behind her. Apparently she chose thief. In an interesting twist, Parker is the only one who understands Hardison’s geeky references. Potential romance brewing there? Perhaps!
Back in the present, the job goes down more or less according to plan (if you count Plan G as going according to plan) with each participant doing what he (or she) does best. The team parts ways, never to work together again. Or so they think. Unfortunately for them, Dubenich has set them up to be disposed of. He tricks them into meeting together in an abandoned warehouse. After a brief conversation about where the money went, they realize they were set up. They escape the building just as it explodes behind them. They nearly end up in jail, but Nate fakes their way out.
Needless to say, the team wants revenge (and the money they were promised), and Nate has a plan (he is, after all, the mastermind). But they need one more member to pull of the scam: Sophie “this is not her stage” Devereaux. Sophie is the grifter. She can pull of any accent, any nationality, just not on the actual stage. On stage she is quite possibly the worst actor you’ve ever seen. Her Lady Macbeth has to be seen to be believed (and that’s not a compliment). Off stage, when pulling off a con, however — perfect! I’m constantly amazed at the way she seamlessly switches between her normal British accent and everything from South African to Southern.
And thus begins the con (and the premise of the entire show). The team pulls a scam on Dubenich, convincing him that a group of Nigerians (yes, actual Nigerians!) want him to invest in their airport. Meanwhile, they have told the Nigerians the same thing. Dubenich “knows” that he’s being scammed, so when he calls the FBI to expose the team’s fraud, he’s sure he’s in the clear. Unfortunately for him, the team has been scamming him in a way he (and the audience) hadn’t anticipated. After a series of flashbacks that fill the audience in on the parts of the con that we didn’t see (this will become a staple of the entire series — the twist revealed through flashbacks), Dubenich is taken into custody on suspicion of bribery, and the team has managed to successfully work their first scam together. The team parts ways (again), never to work together again (again).
Of course there wouldn’t be much of a show if it ended there. Each member approaches Nate, offering to work with him again. When Sophie tells him he gets to pick the jobs that screw the bad guys, Nate agrees. The final scene shows us the preliminary interview of their first client. “We can’t pay you,” says the father of a girl whose death was caused by a corporation. “We work on an… alternative revenue stream,” Sophie replies. “What are you gonna do?” the father asks. “We provide… leverage,” is Nate’s reply.
I adore this show! I first got wind of it because of Christian Kane’s involvement (thank you, Whedonesque!). I decided to check it out and fell in love with the writing and the characters. If you enjoy Ocean’s 11, Robin Hood stories, or even — dare I say it? — Joss Whedon’s quirky writing, you’ll enjoy this show. There are genre cameos galore (this episode featured Warehouse 13‘s Saul Rubinek as Dubenich) and many of the main actors themselves are quite well known. In addition to Christian Kane (Elliott), you have Timothy Hutton (Nathan Ford) and Gina Bellman (Sophie). I won’t spoil any of the future cameos, but trust me, there are some really great ones. Fun characters, quirky (and often geeky) dialogue, and plots with a twist make this show one of my current “must watch immediately” shows. Can’t wait till it comes back in January!