One of TNT's best shows returns to DVD with Leverage Season 3. The first season of the show was excellent (though DVDTalk writer David Cornelius didn't enjoy it quite as much as I did), and the second was okay. This third year's worth of episodes is a step up from season two, even if a couple of the shows are hit-and-miss. Happily, there are far more hits than misses.
Nate Ford (Timothy Hutton) was an insurance investigator who was excellent at retrieving stolen art objects for his company. That all ended when the same company wouldn't pay for his son's medical treatment and the boy died. His son gone and his marriage dissolved, Nate started drinking, and was a step away from being homeless when a job opportunity fell into his lap: he started to run cons with a group of top-rate thieves. They don't just steal from anyone though, they target the rich and powerful who have used their position to hurt innocent people and hide behind the law. A sort of modern day Robin Hood and his Merry Men.
The group consists of Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman), a wanna-be actress who is absolutely horrible on stage, but once she's involved in a con becomes the greatest grifter in the world, Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane), the 'retrieval expert' and the group's muscle, Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge) the expert hacker, and Parker (the incredibly intoxicating Beth Riesgraf) who is a pick-pocket, a safe cracker, and totally crazy. Together they prey on the weaknesses and vanity of the corrupt and unscrupulous to help the down trodden. As they say in the show's opening every week, they "provide a little leverage."
At the end of the previous season Nate was arrested and taken off to jail. As this season opens he's locked up in the slammer, and though his team mates have a plan to help him escape, he turns them down. He did illegal things, and he deserves to pay the price.
While in jail however, he discovers that the warden and several judges are conspiring to lock up people who have committed minor crimes for long stretches in a for-profit prison. He can't allow that to happen, especially when a new-found friend is targeted by the guards for assassination. With the help of his still free friends, Nate manages to escape, set up the warden for a hard fall, and get his friends case looked at once more.
That's not all however. The team is literally walking out the door, getting ready to leave the country (Nate's a wanted man after all) when a mysterious European woman appears in Nate's apartment. She lets him know, privately, that the whole jail scenario was a test for Nate and his crew. She wants the team to take down an international crook named Damien Moreau. Moreau is so powerful that no one government can bring him down, but this mysterious lady is sure hat Nate can. She'll make sure that the cops stay off his back for the prison break for six months. If, in that time, he manages to take out Moreau, he'll be free. If not, he'll go back to jail and the rest of his crew will have fatal 'accidents.' Nate decides that they'll continue working as usual, helping people who can't help themselves, but they'll select their cases so that they get closer and closer to Moreau.
It's nice that this season had an overarching theme, even if it was forgotten a lot of the time. The main problem with it was getting over the implausible way that they were alerted to Moreau's existence. I mean really, who pictures the group rolling over just because someone threatens them? If you can chose to ignore that plot hole, the rest of the season is pretty good.
Standout episodes include The Inside Job, where Parker's mentor and trainer is in trouble and she goes to his rescue, The Rashomon Job, where the team encounters an artifact and realizes that they all tried to steal it in the past, on the same day even, but have different recollections of what happened, and the season finale.
The show continues to flesh out the characters slowly, revealing little bits about their past over time. It's a nice way to delve into their history without the background dominating any one episode. They are some of my favorite scenes in this season, such as the time that Parker reveals that she started stealing cars when she was 12... and that before that she was a getaway driver. The scene of an 10-year-old blond girl speeding through the streets with the cops on her tail was hilarious.
Like the previous seasons, there's still a good amount of humor in the show but that doesn't hamper the action or twist-filled plots. The only problem is that viewers do have to be willing to suspend their disbelief to a greater extent than many action shows, but that's not too hard to do when the program is so fun and energetic.
The 16 episodes that make up this season come on four DVDs that are stored in a single width keepcase with a slipcover.
The show has a DD 5.1 English soundtrack that suits the program. The infrequent explosions and gun fights make use of the whole soundstage putting the viewer right in the middle of the action. The rest of the time the track does a good job of throwing incidental sounds to various corners of the room, such as when a helicopter flies over head or when a car zooms by. It's a good solid soundtrack.
The anamorphically enhanced 1.78:1 image looks very good, as a recent show should. The likes are tight and the colors are bright. The level of detail is nice, though there were a few scenes where the characters were far away that I was wishing the show was in HD. There was some minor aliasing, mainly in the background, but that's the only digital defect worth noting.
The set comes with some nice bonus material. First off each episode has a commentary track by various members of the cast and crew, which is quite nice. The video extras start off with On Set with Colton and Aboud: The New Writers of Leverage, a very amusing interview with the new blood on the show. Leverage: What Does a Producer Do? is a look at just what the guy who handles the money does, and Inside the Leverage Writers' Room gives the guys who make up all the words and scenarios a chance to explain how they craft the show. There are also deleted scenes for four of the episodes, and a gag reel that has some good moments in it.
The few times the show misses this season, it's just okay (like in The Gone-Fishin' Job) but when it hits on all cylinders the program is superb. Full of action, adventure, and a good dose of comedy, this season of Leverage comes Highly Recommendation.