One reason you shouldn’t write a “best of the year” list before December 31 is someone might slip in something better in the last few days of the year. Something like the series finale for Leverage.
When Leverage executive producer Dean Devlin was planning this year’s season five finale for the TNT network series Leverage, there was already the possibility the series would not be renewed for a sixth season. Devlin went forward with the series finale concept that he and series creator John Rogers had planned from the first episode. Lucky for fans, because the series did not renew. And instead of a typical season-ending cliffhanger, the story of five loner criminals that formed a team had an honest to goodness finale to tie up every loose end. In fact, of all the series finales this year, including The Closer, Chuck, House, M.D., and In Plain Sight, Devlin & Co. slipped in a finale by year end that was probably the best of all.
Would the series producers really kill off the team in the last episode? The episode, “The Long Good-Bye Job” begins with a typical scene of team mastermind Nate Ford (Timothy Hutton) accepting another hard-luck case. Quickly we shift to Ford, exhausted and out of sorts, getting interrogated after being told his team all died in a botched job—attempting to steal a black book with the secrets to everything about the wealthiest of the world’s individuals in a Portland skyscraper.
And then we see the hacker and geek extraordinaire, Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge) fall down an elevator shaft. Thief Parker (Beth Riesgraf) is shot, then tough guy Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane) is shot in the back as he tries to join Hardison and Parker lying bloody in the back of a van. Nate Ford is then joined by grifter Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman) as they attempt to jump a raised drawbridge, with their three friends lying bloody and dead in the back of the van. A true ending for the team.
The episode then backtracks in its usual methodical and twisty fashion of each step taken to get to the single most botched job of the 77 past jobs handled by the Leverage crew. Where did they go wrong, after surviving so many tougher challenges? The episode goes through it all one more time, pointing out details viewers missed, including surprises and quite possibly the best storytelling, despite a bit of an unreliable narrator concept, in any episode of the five-year run. To top it off Leverage brought back fan-favorite character Sterling (Mark Sheppard) for one last hoorah. Fans couldn’t hope for more–ending a series at its very best, with a final scene that no one could have seen coming.
Leverage had a great five-year run. It had its own formula, and the formula worked for the most part. It was at its best when it left its characters to banter apart from the main episode plotline–the cast had real chemistry. It even had some great episodes directed by Jonathan Frakes and had several interesting guest stars, including Jeri Ryan.
After watching the finale it’s hard not to ask how the network execs could have watched this episode and not have been compelled to renew the series. What would the situation at the end of the episode have meant for the series if it had continued for another season? We’ll never know. But it was a fun ride while it lasted and we’ll be anxious to see where each of the actors turns up next.