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Tag Archive: Gina Bellman


Leverage the last con

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.

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After watching nearly five complete seasons of a TV series you’re fond of you sometimes take it for granted.  For me Leverage is one of those series I watch and enjoy and don’t think a lot about.  Then you focus on two hours of mid-season finale episodes that really blow you away and you want to watch the season all over again.  Just one year ago I raved here at borg.com about the fourth season’s mid-season finale for Leverage, highlighting director Jonathan Frakes’s role in directing some key episodes.  I re-watched that episode, “The Queen’s Gambit Job,” and I’d say the same things on re-viewing the episode as I said last year.  The chemistry of the Mastermind, Grifter, Hacker, Hitter and Thief was completely stirring a potion of fun TV, and Mark Shepard’s on and off again villain Jim Sterling was cemented as possibly the ubiquitous actor’s best recurring role.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Jonathan Frakes has directed nine of the 60 episodes of Leverage in its first four seasons. Leverage is a good series that lacks some consistency, maybe because it has several creators that have been rotated in and out in the ordinary course of the series. Each of the episodes directed by Frakes demonstrates a knowledge of the material, which includes a level of informality and humor between the characters that is rare in episodic television.  You wonder whether he learned it as cast member Commander Will Riker in his seven seasons and four Star Trek: The Next Generations films, a place where he got to work with a close-knit family of actors that reflect their camaraderie on-screen.  If you happened to see this season’s finale, then you witnessed a perfect episode of TV, with a great ensemble cast, and everyone in prime form.  Frakes and me at Comic-Con in 2008:

Leverage is a good series in its simplicity.  It’s a fun show and never takes itself very seriously.  We’ve compared it before to shows like The A-Team.  There is a mission, these are the good guys, they are understood.  They always get the job done.  And episodes are peppered with the best character actors.  And one of our favorites of any series popped up in this season’s finale–Mark Sheppard as Jim Sterling.

This season’s finale, “The Queen’s Gambit Job,” was a great action drama on several fronts:

Academy Award winning actor Timothy Hutton’s Nathan Ford got to revel in his mastermind role, playing a high stakes game of chess in a Casino Royale story with the fate of a nuclear weapon up in the air.

Parker gets to get stuck in a vault, only to figure her way out and end up on the roof of the second tallest building in the world, the Skyspire of Dubai.  And she gets to free fall over the edge because of a parachute packed by Hardison.

Hacker Hardison (Aldis Hodge) and thief Parker (Beth Riesgraf) get closer and become even more of a team, thinking like each other and covering each others’ backs.

Hitter Eliot (Christian Kane) actually loses this round for once, to none other than Sheppard’s Sterling.  Eliot and Sheppard’s verbal sparring rival any actual fighting Eliot has encountered in the series so far, as well as his verbal sparring with Hardison in several episodes.  This episode shows Sheppard at his best–his normal dark and quiet demeanor gets stretched here and he seems to really lose it when engaging with Eliot in the car.

The only character who doesn’t get much screen time this round is grifter Sophie (Gina Bellman).  For the most part her role is the weakest and some focus from the writing team on her character next season is overdue.

There is always a double cross on Leverage, and clues are carefully laid out for the viewer to catch what is really happening before the big reveal.  The team always gets caught, but are they really?  In this episode, even though team members feel a loss, everyone actually wins.  It is a good spin on the normal Leverage story.  The cast has such chemistry at this point you just hope they can keep it up for a few more seasons.  And while they are at it, since this was his second appearance, why not make Sheppard a series regular cast member?

And how about Frakes as the permanent series director?  His other episodes were also top-notch shows: The Lonely Hearts Job, The Wedding Job, The Snow Job, The Juror #6 Job, The Fairy Godparents Job, The Bottle Job, The Reunion Job, The Studio Job and The Morning After Job.

For the fun of it, here is E.C. Bunce and me at Comic-Con where we ran into Mark Sheppard in the Gaslight District in our Chuck meets Alien Nation garb.  Photo courtesy of the gracious Mrs. Sheppard:

BTW, Sheppard said he read this borg.com article on him in a prior post.  Definitely our favorite guest star on nearly every all of our favorite TV series.