This isn’t exactly what I’d describe as “appointment television”, I don’t seek it out week by week; but when the summer television drought rolls around, it’s one of the shows that I catch up on. It started out as a pretty shameless US version of the BBC series Hustle, which I lost interest in after a couple of seasons and unfortunately it seems like Leverage might be going the same way.
One of the problems that Leverage has in common with Hustle is that each episode is predictably unpredictable. Sooner or later in an episode, usually timed neatly for a dramatic cut to adverts, the gang’s plan will go awry; although sometimes this awryness is actually part of the plan, which is later over-explained in flashbacks. But if you know there’s a twist coming, it’s not really much of a twist; and if you act all smug about the twist when your audience actually saw it coming, then you just look like an idiot.
The bigger problem however is that the show has had to make a decision about what to do with its characters. They initially, for the sake of simplicity I figured, started out as very simple stereotypes – the cat burglar, the hacker, the hitter, the con artist and the brains. On top of that, almost like a game of top-trumps each character had an issue – socially dysfunctional, overconfidence, drink problems, trust issues, sudden flashes of conscience… all pretty basic stuff. This season it felt like there was an opportunity to pick a direction, whether to make the characters grow, fleshing out back story and making them more rounded or to make them more caricature than ever. Unfortunately the writers chose the latter and too often this pushed characters like Parker outside the realms of believability.
Overall Leverage is still an entertaining show, but I couldn’t help but be disappointed with this season. In a show where the plots are all about people not being what they seem and playing on people’s pre-conceptions, it would have been really nice if that were also true of the show itself. Instead, it really is “what you see is what you get”, and while what you see is entertaining, I can’t help but think they’ve missed an opportunity to be something special.