Filed in Article Leverage

The Steranko Who Knew Too Much

LEVERAGE: “The Inside Job” and “The Scherezade Job”

By Tyler Weaver, Guest Contributor
Follow him on Twitter.

303: The Inside Job

Parker’s in trouble and it’s up to Nate and co. to bail her out. Taking a side gig from her “father,” Archie Leach (a deft nod towards the true name of Cary Grant), played by the always awesome Richard Chamberlain, she tries to outwit the Steranko (another nod towards LEVERAGE creator John Roger’s comic book writing), a big mean bastard of a security system as she tries to steal a canister of wheat-killing germs, which turns into Nate and co. going after leverage against the head scientist, the evil sexy Dr. Lady, played by Lisa Brenner.

Whew.

The writing in this show never fails. Each episode is ridiculously clever, with wonderful little nods towards influence, and a perfect mix of drama and comedy in the vein of the best con movies of old, like THE STING and my favorite, PAPER MOON.

While the first season of LEVERAGE was geared towards the “con of the week” and Nate’s arc of revenge, the second did the “con of the week,” with a bigger focus on character, leading to Nate’s ultimate acceptance of who he is (the final lines of season two, “I’m a thief.”) Season three takes the con of the week, adds more individual character moments (this Parker-centric) episode, gives just enough insight into the individual, then leaves you wanting more. Then on top of all of it, they have added the “Crime World” – Damien Moreau storyline, plus a healthy dose of Nate (who has become similar to House in many regards, but more on that in the next episode’s review).

Richard Chamberlain was a fascinating kinda foil for Nate, his struggle with accepting who Parker has become vs. what he made her a great character arc for a character that I hope we see again. Chamberlain always classes up a room – even when the show’s already a classy and fun affair. Must be the scarf.

 

304: The Scherezade Job

The overly-ambitious, diamond smuggling, arts patron brother of an African leader has designs on being his brother’s successor, and Nate and co. jump in to help a journalist with a story to tell and a country to save. Along the way, Hardison plays a violin, Parker does Parker-y stuff, and Elliot kicks some ass. So simple – and so pleasurable!

If 303 had its nods towards influence, 304 wore them on its sleeve, with the climactic heist taking place at an orchestra performance, the explosion timed at just the right moment in Scherezade so that no one would hear it, echoing a similar device in Hitchcock’s THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH. No Bernard Hermann though.

Last episode was Parker’s episode, this episode it’s Hardison’s, as his violin-playing ability was front and center, taking him out of his comfort zone (the van), and onto the orchestra stage. His arc, from fear to confidence (and playing really, really well) was a fun one to watch – even if Nate kicked him in the balls at episode’s end. Aldis Hodge always brings that something something to every episode, his slips in and out of “Con Character” always fun to watch.

While not as much fun (or suspenseful) as 303, this episode definitely had its moments – the aforementioned orchestra heist, Nate’s hypnosis revelation to Hardison (and subsequent House-ification of Nate ending the episode with a notable, “wow, what a dick!” moment), and Nate’s GODFATHER-esque fear of getting Luca Brasi-ied (GODFATHER fans will know what I’m talking about) should he go on a dinner date with “The Italian.”

While Nate is the lead of the show, the glue holding the entire team together is Gina Bellman’s “Sophie Deveraux,” (which isn’t her real name, and apparently we, the audience, like Nate, have to earn the right to know – which I appreciate). Each and every episode, she turns in a fantastic performance as some new identity (the PR-rebrander of dictators in this, and Emily Peel (wink wink) in the previous). Her chemistry with Timothy Hutton is palpable, and she always makes every scene she’s in light up. The void left by her absence in the second half of season two was as much a loss for the viewer as it was for Nate, Parker, Elliot, and Hardison.

For all of you who watch the show (and if you’re reading this, you probably do), I can’t recommend enough LEVERAGE creator John Rogers’ blog, Kung Fu Monkey. Each week, he pens posts filled with wonderful insight into each episode, and paints a deep portrait of how a show works. Well worth the RSS.

Another great back-to-back night of episodes, making for the most pleasurable (and oddly difficult) reviewing experience I’ve had. There’s a break next week for fireworks, then it’s back to business on July 11.

Until then…

Tyler Weaver is a filmmaker, writer, critic, and the founder and EIC of Multi-Hyphenate. He’s currently making new things and yaks about that and more on Twitter under the creative guise of @tylerweaver.

 

Source: Pulp Tone

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Filed in Article Leverage

TNT’s 2-Hour Leverage Block Wraps with Orchestra-Timed Heist *spoilers*

Published: June 27, 2010

The latest client to approach the Leverage team brings a whole country of political intrigue with her. Her concern is well-founded, because the man in line to buy the next election in this small African country is the current president’s brother — only without the scruples of his statesman sibling. He’s a diamond smuggler with blood on his hands. He’s also in tight with the CIA because he provides names of potential Al-Qaeda terrorists.

To defund the man’s campaign plans, Nate (Timothy Hutton) plans to steal his prized possession — an original Stradivarius violin. But the vault, according to Parker (Beth Riesgraf), is impenetrable unless the sonic detectors are turned off, which they only are whenever a particularly loud concert is played in the hall upstairs. So, as Nate would say, “Let’s steal us an orchestra.”

Plotwise, this one seems a straight-out heist, but as always there are unexpected wrinkles in the way. This time, the focus is on hacker Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge), who has dreams of running his own crew someday, only to be dismayed when Nate tells him he doesn’t have what it takes. But that’s not Alec’s most pressing matter: he’s grifting the mark (Giancarlo Esposito) pretending to be a violin prodigy from the home country, which thrusts him into the spotlight when he’s got 24 hours to prepare to play the closing solo of “Scheherazade.”

Elisabetta Canalis also makes an appearance this episode as the mysterious Italian who has blackmailed the Leverage crew into working a larger con for her over the course of this third season. And Oakland Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha takes on a role as a bodyguard, which makes for some fun fight scenes between himself and Leverage‘s hunky heartthrob hitter, Elliot (Christian Kane), a fight also uniquely timed to the music playing above.

In the grand scheme of the Leverage series, “The Sheherazade Job” has more than its share of disappointments, but to list them here would spoil far too much of the plot, and particularly would give away the big reveal. However, it’s a small failure of the writing, and certainly nothing that gets in the way of this ensemble cast doing what they do best — conning the audience into believing that the impossible can be done with just a little planning and a well-trained crew.

Leverage, “The Scheherazade Job” premieres Sunday, June 27, at 10pm (ET/PT), wrapping up a two-hour block that begins with “The Inside Job.”

Source: The Trades

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Two Cents and Five Questions for Aldis Hodge

You’ve probably seen him on a dozen different TV shows without knowing it – from Supernatural to Friday Night Lights – but Aldis Hodge has made his mark as wisecracking hacker Alec Hardison on TNT’s bustout hit Leverage.

Beginning its third season June 20, Leverage has already spawned its own convention and has even been the answer to a question on Jeopardy!. Hodge was kind enough to sit down with me exclusively on Friday to talk about what a ride it’s been and where he might be headed in Season 3.

TheTwoCents: This is what could be called your “breakout” role – describe what that’s been like for you.
Aldis Hodge: The show’s been great. I love my job, love what I do. It’s just a great opportunity to learn and to plan for what’s coming next. There are a lot of great people to learn from – Dean Devlin, John Rogers.

TTC: Talk about having to work with those mouthfuls of technical dialogue.
AH: It forces me to enunciate and speak clearly. John Rogers is a physicist so ninety-five percent of what I say, he can actually do. None of that bores me. I just try to make it as exciting to the audience as I can. Because the spy stuff – that really is interesting. It’s just getting it out tere.

TTC: What’s been your biggest challenge with this role so far? Is there anything you’d like to tackle that you haven’t yet?
AH: My biggest challenge was playing the violin. They wanted to write [that into an episode]. They didn’t tell me how difficut the piece was that I had to play. I’m still a novice with my instrument and the piece was pretty difficult. I practiced a lot. I think you might see that on our premiere night or our second episode.

TTC: In Season 3, are we going to see more of Hardison stepping out of the traditional hacker role like he did briefly in Season 2 (with “The Ice Man Job” and “The Lost Heir Job”)?
AH: Possibly. Hardison is on a bit of a different mission now. In the first season he was like why is he doing this job. [Now] he’d like to maybe run his own crew, so he’s taking his job a bit more seriously. He’s paying more attention to what everyone else does.

TTC: What’s ahead for the Hardison/Parker and Hardison and Eliot dynamics in Season 3?
AH: We have one great episode where Hardison and Parker go back and forth on their feelings. He’s been there with the puppy dog eyes trying to kick in her door and find out what she’s about, and she won’t let him. But there starts to be some understanding, and that maybe there’s something there for her, too.

[With Hardison and Eliot] I’ll just say there’s an episode where Christian and I are forced to be together the entire time. I was excited when I read it. I went to him and said, “I have some ideas,” and he was all “Let’s roll with it.” The audience knows they’re going to see us coming at each other and arguing and fun times. We enjoy doing it because we know what the audience likes.

TTC: Talk about the fans and the show’s explosion of popularity.
AH: We were all very surprised at that. We had a great time. We just had our first convention, which is something more for sci-fi shows, and we’re a spy show. We had the opportunity to meet our fans. We have a lot of people who support us, shooting in Portland, which is amazing. With a TV show it’s kind of a crapshoot, you hope that it works or you go on to the next one. But we have a lot of people who support us.

TTC: If you could play any other role on the show, which one would it be?
AH: I don’t know. I dig Hardison. He can break into people’s bank accounts and steal all the money he wants. Maybe Parker. Since she gets to do all the acrobatics and stuff.

TTC: So no more hanging you off anything in Season 3?
AH: You never know.

Leverage begins its third season Sunday, June 20 on TNT. The second-season DVDs are available now at all major retailers. Go pick them up – you won’t be disappointed. And a special thanks to Aldis for taking the time to chat with me about one of cable’s hottest series!

Brittany Frederick – Staff Writer
brittanyfrederick@thetwocentscorp.com

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