In less than a month, my most anticipated media of the year will be debuting on IMDB TV and I will get my beloved Leverage team back in my life with new content. It’s something I have not let myself think about too much because I will reach an unfunctional level of excitement and I am an adult with things that need to get done. I watched the original show at the start of 2017 and knew by the 2nd episode that I had found something that would stay with me forever and since then, have been very loud about my love for the show on both Twitter and Tumblr. This is a post that is four years in the making and now that the show will be getting a second life became something I needed to write so I can drag as many more people into this fandom with me as possible.
So, starting extremely basic. Leverage is a heist show. It is a modern day Robin Hood-esque band of criminals who steal from the rich and powerful for the benefit of those they have harmed. That means we get 77 episodes (plus 16 new episodes this year!) of heist goodness along with the catharsis of seeing bad people suffer the consequences of their own greed and callousness. It is a glorious fantasy that has only continued to be more compelling as time goes on, especially as it becomes increasingly clear to anyone paying a modicum of attention that it normally doesn’t happen that way.
It’s a show that understands the world it was created in but also says that we don’t have to accept it as it is. John Rogers, the creator and one of the two showrunners for the original, described it as “an uncynical show made by cynical people” and he’s not wrong. The targets and their crimes are all at least loosely based in reality, sometimes after being toned down because the actual crime was too unbelievable for television. As a result, there’s an anger that simmers under the surface of the show. It exposes our broken systems for what they are but never in a way that feels hopeless. It is a show about taking back power and doing what you can to make the world work a little closer to the way you want it to work. It is driven by the belief that change is necessary and the hope that it can be possible, even in small ways.
It finds a really wonderful balance between a fun heist-of-the-week show (which would still have made it a solid show, this team of writers understands grifting and cons extremely well) and having something to say if you’re willing to look beyond what we’re taught this format should be. It loves the fact that it’s largely non-serialized and especially as the show goes on, revels in getting to play with format and structure. But what makes this show continue to stand out is that it understands that nothing matters if you don’t care about the characters. That they shouldn’t just exist to make the plot happen. That it should be them driving the story, not being wildly steered around at the whims of a story that doesn’t fit.
For five seasons, we get to see those characters grow and change and make each other better. They start alone and thought they were happier that way but realize they were wrong. They learn to make space for each other and understand the quirks and pain and scars that have made them who they are. It’s not always smooth sailing but it never feels like manufactured drama because we needed something for ratings or because the writers just completely missed the story they thought they were telling. Conflicts happen for a grounded, character-based reason instead of being solely for shock value. And part of me hates the fact that these things seem remarkable at all but it’s 2021 and anyone reading this blog has been through at least one show that has completely missed the mark on this in the past 5 years. Probably more than one.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably also suffered through a show that has utterly fumbled its relationships in some way, whether through incompetence (on the nicer end of the spectrum) to outright antagonism on the part of the creator (on the asshole end of that spectrum). Well I have good news for you, Leverage doesn’t want any part of that. Because when you love and understand your characters (and don’t hate your audience, another thing that should never need to be said but does), you naturally build very solid relationships for them. And those relationships come in all forms, not just romantic. We get mentors. We get antagonists who approach the world from very different perspectives but understand who the other is with perfect clarity. We get FBI agents that are really fond of two agents that don’t really exist and you’ll love them for it because the solid relationship building also happens to recurring characters, not just among the main cast.
But if you are a romance fan, even though it is not the main focus of the show, you are in for an absolute treat. Maybe you want two people who know and understand the other even when they don’t want to and think they have opposing goals before learning that maybe there is more to themselves that they gave themselves credit for and therefore open up the space to meet in the middle and be on the same side. Who want to stop running and chasing and somehow find themselves because the other person has shown them who they can be. Or maybe you want a relationship that on it’s own, would be one of the best canon relationships on TV between a guy with a whole lot of love to give and a woman who doesn’t know what to do with any of it. One that is slow and gentle and doesn’t push in the way that a lesser show would and comes with a couple top-tier ship moments that I can and will yell about at length when I’m not trying to avoid specific spoilers. If you’re me, you want that relationship plus the other guy that takes that beautifully constructed dynamic, adds his own (different but equally perfect) dynamic with each half of the pair, and when all three are together, create something solid and real and good (and canon-ish, it was 2012 and we weren’t getting a polyamorous relationship on TNT but the subtext is clearly there in the finale and it’s creator-confirmed for as much as that is worth). The OT3 owns my entire heart and I have no sense of perspective but it is everything I could want in a romance and I want everyone to experience that joy.
This has been a lot of words to say that Leverage is a well-constructed show made by people who know what they were doing, who loved these characters and valued their viewers. It is a show for people who enjoy competence and watching people be good at what they do, both in front of and behind the camera. It is a show that somehow has more passionate fans now than it did when it went off the air because new people keep discovering it and are enthusiastically welcomed into the fandom and if that isn’t the best endorsement of a show, I don’t know what is. In an age where little seems to last beyond the couple months of excitement around a new season release, people are watching this show that ended 8 years ago, still want to talk about it, and find people to talk about it with who are just as excited now as they were then. And now that it’s coming back, it is the perfect time to jump in and join the fun.