In the opening moments of Leverage we are introduced to Nathan Ford (Timothy Hutton), a man close to the end of a downward spiral. He has suffered a horrible tragedy indirectly due to the insurance company he used to work for. When a desperate man (guest star Saul Rubinek) seeks Ford’s help in stealing back some documents he only agrees when he is told that it will also cause harm to his former employer. Knowing he can’t do this job alone, he assembles a team of criminals, each with a particular skill. There’s Parker (Beth Riesgraf), who scales skyscrapers as calmly as she repels off of them. She may also be clinically insane. Cool and confident Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane) can incapacitate a group of tough guys frighteningly quick. For the computer hacking needs of the operation there is Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge). And lastly, but certainly not least, there is professional grifter Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman) who also is an aspiring actress…a bad one. Once together these loners have to figure out how to work as a team or if they even want to. Then the double-cross starts.
Leverage is a prime example of what TNT excels at, great characters and what they do in dramatic situations. What the premiere episode doesn’t do is start off with the normal situation and setting of the show. That doesn’t happen until the second episode. What it does do, and it does this very well, is introduce us to the characters. As the episode, and eventual caper, progresses we see each character’s strengths play out as well as their personalities. This happens organically in tandem with the plot and not gratuitously rushed, which is not always easy to accomplish in a first episode. It’s also refreshing that the story is self-contained. Who the characters are, what made them who they are and what evil-doer they take on next is what will compel you to tune in for each subsequent episode in this thirteen episode run.
A few things stand out after the episode is done. The script by John Rogers and Chris Downey is well paced with some great dialogue. Aldis Hodge nearly steals the show almost upstaging the rest of the cast, including Hutton. Dean Devlin makes his directorial debut look like the work of a veteran director. This pilot episode does it’s job and does it well. The “Modern Day Robin Hood and His Merry Men” conceit that’s at the core of the show doesn’t feel worn out at all. In fact, with these characters and script it feels new again. This is a fun show and well worth checking out. Do the quality and premise hold up through to the second episode? We’ll answer that on Tuesday.