Tag Archives: leverage

Why You Should Watch Leverage (and Leverage: Redemption)

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. 

Continue reading Why You Should Watch Leverage (and Leverage: Redemption)

July 2019 Recommendations

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Show Title: Leverage

Episodes: 77

Where to Watch: IMDb TV (included with Amazon Prime)

This isn’t the first time I’ve recommended this show by any means. But now that it’s streaming again on a platform that more people have (albeit with ads), I’m bringing it back as this month’s recommendation. The premise of the show on its own, that a group of criminals would get together to con a bunch of terrible CEOs who are taking advantage of people out of their money and positions, is incredibly cathartic for this particular moment in time. It’s gloriously angry without ever crossing over into despairing and is well worth the time for the individual episode plots alone. But on top of all that is a commitment to character work and this group of 5 people coming together as a family and healing. It is smartly handled and impossible not to love them just as much as these writers and this cast did. Throw in some incredible relationship development and an OT3 that is showrunner-confirmed but ambiguous in the show itself and you have this beautiful show that stole my heart and has so far refused to let it go. It’s an incredible journey with one of the most satisfying finales I’ve seen and I want everyone to watch it and be comforted by it like so many of its fans still are. 

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Book Title: A Duke By Default

Author: Alyssa Cole

Genre: Romance

It’s been a few months since I’ve recommended a book that wasn’t sci-fi or fantasy and it felt like time to once again recommend an Alyssa Cole novel. This time, it’s a contemporary romance and is the second book in her Reluctant Royals series.  I loved Portia instantly. I loved her desire to choose an emotionally healthier life for herself and do better for herself. I loved her willingness to call Tavish out when he was being a jerk and demand that he treat her with respect. Most of all, as with all my favorite romance novels, I love that throughout the book, she learns how to love herself. After years of feeling like a failure, she discovers that she has ADHD and better learns how to work with her brain to get the results she knew she was capable of. She finally has an honest conversation with her sister and they work through their issues. She has a solid group of friends who may be an ocean away but still a present part of her life thanks to the wonders of group texts and she quickly befriends Tavish’s sister-in-law because a trademark of Alyssa Cole books (at least the few I’ve read) is women who love each other and have each other’s backs. On the romance front, I cannot resist a man who is utterly dazzled by the woman he loves nor can I resist him getting a swift kick in the ass when he needs an attitude adjustment. Once he gets over himself, he thinks the world of Portia and it is truly adorable to experience. It’s the perfect book to make you smile and cheer and feel for these characters and exactly what I needed this month. 

 

Best of 2017: Episodes that Didn’t Air This Year

Good television doesn’t stop being good after some time has past. While we are in the midst of Peak TV and there is more new scripted shows on television than anyone can keep up with, there is also a lot that aired in the past that I missed out on the first time. I always try to have at least a couple older shows that I’m slowly working through and this year, they were among some of the best things that I watched. This collection of posts is all about celebrating the things that brought me the most joy this year and these 10 episodes definitely qualified.

Libertus (Spartacus) The last 15 minutes of this episode are such a glorious spectacle that only Spartacus could pull off. Not that the rest of the episode isn’t fantastic but the arena battle has stayed on my mind for the past 9 months. Starting with the most human of the battles, the fight between Oenomaus and Gannicus had so much emotional history behind it. They were best friends, they were brothers in arms, and both slaves to the House of Batiatus. They were also in love with the same woman and Oenomaus’s wife died in Gannicus’s arms. There was pain and anger and betrayal that infused each blow and it was captivating to watch these men fight each other and Gannicus being unable to take that final killing blow. Oenomaus always represented the best parts of Gannicus, the parts that he lost when Melitta died, and it was only right that he gave up freedom to save his brother. Then there was the larger plan on Spartacus’s mind. He wasn’t just going to free his men, he was showing up to the arena that day to burn it all down. Just as far as plotting go, it’s a brilliant move that opens up a whole new future for the second half of the season. It was a blow to the heart of Rome at the hands of the slave rebellion. It also solidifies Glaber’s status as a legitimate villain and not just a bothersome antagonist. Killing his father-in-law and the chilling way he reminds his wife that there is no longer a way out of the marriage she came so close to leaving is really the first time we see him as the monster he is. It’s his personal uprising and he will use his newfound freedom to crush all those who sought to belittle and undermine him. But what made it truly remarkable to me is the deeper level on which this show works. Yes, there is a lot of over-the-top violence and nudity and delightfully campy dialogue in Spartacus, but at its heart, it is a story about oppression and freedom. And in this episode, the oppressed rose up and burned down the institution that was used to justify their enslavement. They sent the message that they would no longer be used for the gain of others. Their bodies would no longer further the wealth of others. It’s a powerful message, not just within the show but also for the viewers. In the spirit of resistance that has characterized much of 2017, I can’t imagine a more mood-appropriate episode to have seen for the first time.

The Queen’s Gambit Job (Leverage) Narrowing this down to one episode of Leverage was nearly impossible because there are so many that I love. There are three things about this episode that make it one of my favorites (four if you count Sophie’s especially fabulous outfits). First, Sterling is such a compelling antagonist and his relationship with Nate is fascinating. These two have an underlying respect for each other even if it is coupled with a lack of trust. There is no one else Sterling would have gone to in order to get his daughter back and no one who would have understood why he needed a con to do so better than Nate. Second, there are few things I love more than Eliot Spencer being a disaster when it comes to his feelings and never has that been more apparent than in this episode. Only he would unthinkingly hug Hardison and then immediately be annoyed that he did and try to pretend that Hardison initiated the hug. The lingering effects of the drugs lowered his inhibitions and walls and his instinctual response was to be as affectionate as Hardison would probably prefer. But he won’t let himself have that because he doesn’t think he deserves it and attachments are dangerous and whatever else he needs to tell himself to maintain that grumpy facade. Finally, Hardison is one of the best fictional boyfriends in the history of television and this episode is the reason why. He lets the hug thing slide and recognizes that Eliot would probably feel better if he beat some people up and finds some for him while they rescue Sophie, which is delightful on its own. But where he really comes through is with Parker. When we’re at our least confident, we revert back to old and familiar tendencies. So when faced with a heist that made her doubt her ability to get the job done, Parker lashed out and yelled at Hardison about things weighing her down (physically and metaphorically) and killing her. And he responds with understanding and kindness. That was true for much of Parker’s life and he’s never expected her to resolve her past issues immediately. He knows that trust doesn’t come easy for her. So he reassures her that she’s not alone any more, that’s he’s got her back and will be looking out for her. He calms her and refocuses her, not just in training but in the middle of the heist when she starts to doubt again. He plans ahead and makes sure he’s not leaving her without an escape route so he gives her a parachute and the opportunity to jump from one of the tallest buildings in a row. It’s the best gift he could have gotten her and one that comes out of the deepest understanding of who she is. They aren’t just words to him, he’s gonna back it up with his actions and do whatever it takes to help Parker feel safe and comfortable. I need more men like Hardison and more relationships like this one on TV because they are perfect.

Punchline (Take My Wife) I was really mad when I watched this for the first time because I didn’t watch it in time to include on my end of the year list for last year. This episode wasn’t the primary motivation for starting this new list but it was certainly on my mind as I did so. I love everything Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher wanted to do with this show and this episode in particular. In 22 minutes, they talked about the Bury Your Gays trend, the proliferation of rape jokes in comedy, and misgendering issues in bathrooms all while being funny and in love and Cameron meeting her fictional celebrity crush. In the midst of all of the greatness, there are two moments that stand out for me. The first is Cameron telling Rhea that she loves hosting their show with her and that she loves her. These two are wonderful together. They have so much love and admiration for each other and that naturally bleeds into the fictional versions of themselves and their relationship. It’s authentic and sincere and still not something we see very much of on television. The second is the Me Too moment that comes near the end of the show. I watched this episode a few months before the Harvey Weinstein article came out and raised the cultural awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment. It wasn’t something that was being widely talked about at the time and was (and would continue to be if someone wanted to pick up the show and put the first season back online) a powerful and important moment to see on screen. As a whole, this is an episode I couldn’t get out of my head and a show I loved with all my heart. It was special and its voice will be missed.

Continue reading Best of 2017: Episodes that Didn’t Air This Year

What to Watch (and Read): Summer Recommendations 2017

Now that summer has started (at least in terms of TV seasons), it’s the perfect opportunity to start the shows you missed out on over the year or already canceled shows you’ve been meaning to get to but don’t have time to watch over the regular season. It’s also an excellent time to catch up on some reading and discover new favorites. I started these posts last year as a way to share some of my own favorites with you (and I stand by all of those recs if none of these appeal) but this year, it’s also given me a chance to examine what it is that I’m looking for from my fiction right now.

To put it simply, all of these shows make me feel hopeful in some way. Many of these stories involve people fighting back against oppressive or unjust systems. Many involve characters figuring out who they are and learning to love that person. All of them show that we’re better with others, that vulnerability and connection are our best strengths. Those are the messages I want to hear. I want to remember that we can all make a difference and leave the world and people around us better because we’ve been there. I hope you all can find something to enjoy and potentially try in this list, and if you do, I’m always here for discussions about them either in the comment section or via Twitter.

Shows

Sweet/Vicious You could isolate a lot of the different components that make up this show and it would still be good. Jules and Ophelia being paired together as roommates or lab partners who become friends would still have been an entertaining show. The concept of women teaming up to be vigilantes who target men who assault women is still appealing even if the only focus was the job and not on their friendship. The story of a young woman recovering and beginning to heal from her own sexual assault would still have been powerful and compelling on its own. To combine all of those elements into the same show and to blend them so well is nothing short of masterful. It was a show that could make you laugh, make you cry, and make you angry (at the characters, not the writing) all in one episode and it is better for it. It tackles rape culture head on and does so through these compelling characters and their relationships with each other. It was a special show and deserved more than one season but it achieved a lot in only ten episodes. It will be a show that stays in my head for a long time to come.

Leverage This show was everything I could have asked for in one beautiful package. It was only supposed to be one job. They were hired for a purpose and that was gonna be it. Seventy-seven episodes later (with more cases implied that we never see), Leverage came to an end. There were heists and cons and trying to bring bad guys (often the heads of corporations) to justice. People fell in love and discovered the person they wanted to be. They found acceptance and family and purpose in each other and in the acts they did. It was a remarkably consistent show, even in later seasons as it played around with its general format. As a showrunner, John Rogers understood that people are often there because they’ve become invested in the characters and he rewards that investment. This show doesn’t lose sight of who they are and the emotional payoff is truly wonderful. It is one of my favorite pieces of media I have ever consumed and I would love for everyone else to see and enjoy it too.

Queen Sugar  If a show can make me cry in its first episode, I’m probably gonna be sold and that’s exactly what Queen Sugar did. This show is beautiful, both in its cinematography and its content. After losing their father, the Bordelon siblings come together to save his struggling sugarcane farm. It is a story of perseverance, of rebuilding after varying struggles. It’s about coming to terms with who you are and reclaiming your history and your story. In addition to saving the farm, each member of the family (along with their Aunt Vi) has their own personal journey to undertake. This is a show of incredible empathy that it extends to each of its characters. It understands that people are never just one thing and are more than the mistakes they’ve made and the hurt they’ve caused in the past. They are allowed complexity. They have strengths and flaws and sometimes those are the same thing. While more dramatic (and a little faster paced) than Rectify, it shares a similar core of humanity that touches me deeply.

Superstore Nothing on TV makes me laugh harder than this show. That would be enough for me to recommend it since there are very few shows that actually make me laugh out loud, especially not multiple times an episodes. But it’s merits don’t lie solely in the comedic moments. From the first episode, it’s shown a willingness to wear its heart on its sleeve. It’s those moments of beauty that drew me in but it’s the characters that keep me invested. They can be completely ridiculous, as many comedy characters are, but they are more than just caricatures. They feel lived in and real in a slightly over-the-top way. This is the show you should start if you need more laughter in your life, and really, who doesn’t?

Legend of Korra I watched Avatar: The Last Airbender last year and fell in love with this universe. The beautiful animation, worldbuilding, and wonderful characters have made it a show for both children and adults to love and much of that is continued in Legend of Korra. Though they occupy the same universe and events in Avatar are referenced and certain characters make an appearance, you don’t need to have seen Avatar to watch Korra. The series is quick to catch new viewers up on any important mythology and quickly establishes a tone of its own. The characters in Korra are older, as was the intended audience, and it’s reflected in the topics it takes on (though Avatar didn’t shy away from heavier topics either). It looks at prejudice and oppression throughout the series and spends the best arc of the series looking at healing from trauma and reclaiming your power and identity. This is a female-centric show that shows us so many different types of women all with their own strengths and abilities in a way that few other shows do so if that appeals to you, I would encourage you to try out the show even if you’re not typically a fan of animated shows.

Continue reading What to Watch (and Read): Summer Recommendations 2017