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Leverage: The Complete Second Season

Other // Unrated // May 25, 2010
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted May 23, 2010 | E-mail the Author
The Show:
TNT's successful crime/adventure show Leverage returns for a second season.  The first season was a great, light-hearted show that was a lot of fun, and there was some concern that the creative team wouldn't be able to keep up the quality level.  This season is a step down from the first, the writing was a bit sloppier and the plots had more holes than usual, but the characters are still as enjoyable as ever and the cons are just as exciting.
Series background: 
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 he died.  Nate divorced, 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 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 actress 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, 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.
This season:
At the end of the last season the group separated (for no real good reason).  Several months have passed, when the group runs into each other at the opening of a play Sophie is staring in.  Nate is sober now, and the others actually plead with him to get back together.  After experiencing what it's like to do charitable work, going back to their old way of life just didn't offer the same level of satisfaction.  With a little coercion Nate agrees and they take over his loft apartment (above a bar) as their new headquarters.
Things go back to the way they were, with the team getting revenge for people who are helpless.  A lot of the early cases are based on current events, which didn't work as well as it could have.  They help a banker who discovered that his bank is conning the government out of bailout money, and they con a Maddof-like character out of some hidden cash as well as prevent another Maddof-like criminal from escaping from his FBI-monitored house detention with a boat load of money.  (The latter episode features FBI Special Agents Taggert and McSweeten the lovable but bumbling agents from the first season.) 
The writers were faced with a problem this season.  Actress Gina Bellman was pregnant in real life and so she's temporarily written out of the show.  Her place is taken in the team by Tara Cole (Jeri Ryan - interesting trivia:  Jeri was once married to Illinois politician Jack Ryan.  He was running for the US Senate as a Republican, but when their divorce records were released in which Jeri claims he enjoyed taking her to sex clubs and having sex in public he was forced to drop out.  The seat was won by the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama) another talented grifter who has been recommended by Sophie but is only with the gang for the money.  The second half of the season has Tara trying to find her place in the group and getting them to trust her.
This season was pretty good, but not as entertaining or fun as the first season.  The initial set of shows was a lot like Ocean's Eleven, an ensemble cast of interesting characters pulling off impossible jobs.  This season is Ocean's Twelve, not quite as fun and a bit dumb in parts, but enjoyable never-the-less.
The problems mainly have to do with sloppy writing.  When Sophie leaves, the excuse is really lame:  She needs to 'find herself'.  Isn't that what pretentious rich college grads do instead of getting a job??  It was pretty unconvincing and when the rest of the group calls her (over the rest of the season) asking for help it's a bit callous of her not to return.  Surely they could have come up with something better than that.
There's a few minor plot holes (when a character's death is faked in one episode the name she's buried under changes between the beginning and end of the show) but the bigger ones are more troublesome.  There's a twist in The Lost Heir Job that's unexpected, but if you think back to the beginning of the show, knowing what the twist is, part of the beginning doesn't make any sense.  It's things like this that keep the show from reaching the heights of season one.
The good news is that the show is still carried by the characters that are as interesting and engaging as ever.   Eliot still kicks ass, and Parker, my favorite character, is just as quirky as ever.  I loved the part where Hardison ask the diminutive Parker to take a trip to Japan with him.  She asks what they're going to steal, and when he says that it'll be a vacation she gives him a blank stare and asks what the point is.
One of the best episodes in the season is The Two Live Crew Job, where the Leverage team is up against another group of criminals who are out to steal the same painting that they've got their eyes on.  The competition between the two teams is very funny.  I hope that at least some of the characters return in future seasons.
The DVD:

The 15 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.  There's also a Q&A session with the creator from a screening of the 2nd season premier episode which was interesting, a tour of the set, and a behind the scenes featurette that focuses on the creation of the special effects in the series.  My favorite item was easily The Hand Job, a spoof of the series with actor Aldis Hodge showing viewers how to pull cons and scams in real life.  The object of his plot is to get the producers to get him a pony. 
The bonus features are rounded out with a music video and a gag reel (that starts off a bit lame, but there are some great scenes at the end.)
Final Thoughts:
Though this season is a bit of a let down after the first one, Leverage is still a very good show.  This character driven program has some truly enjoyable characters and some great stories.  It comes Recommended.
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