Jeri Ryan, Mark Sheppard
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All photos © TNT
Reviewed by Will Harris
hen “Leverage” first made its debut on TNT, it was hard to immediately fall in love with the show because it bore such a profound resemblance to a British series called “Hustle.” Not so much in its premise – “Hustle” is all about con men who use their abilities to grow ever richer, while “Leverage” is about former con men who are now utilizing their gifts to help those who have been screwed over by the system – but, certainly, the execution of both shows is undeniably similar. In addition, when “Leverage” first kicked off, there was a certain amount of ridiculousness to it all that made it hard to fully embrace the series. As the season progressed, however, an interesting thing happened: the characters became more familiar, the interplay between them felt more natural, and that which once seemed ridiculous was now simply…fun.
When we last left Nate Ford (Timothy Hutton) and his motley crew of con men, they’d taken their gains from Season One – since, y’know, even people who do the right thing still need to get paid – and returned to their old lives. Predictably, however, they all realized that they’d had way too much fun doing what they’d been doing with Nate, so when he attempts to help a car crash victim who’d being trying to exposure bank fraud, it’s an excuse to go through the old “let’s get the band back together” routine. No complaints here: that’s always a fun piece of work, and this is no exception. The team itself has changed very little in the intervening months – Sophie (Gina Bellman) is still a better actress offstage than on, Eliot (Christian Kane) remains a badass, Hardison (Aldis Hodge) is still a master of computers, and Parker’s (Beth Riesfraf) skills at cat burglary are tip-top – but Nate’s a brand new man, in that this is the first time we’ve seen him sober. After spending Season One in an alcoholic haze, he’s cleaned up his act in an attempt to better himself, and it provides him with the opportunity to lead the group without any chemical hindrance getting in his way.
The team dynamic changes somewhat midseason, owing to Bellman’s real-life pregnancy, but in a stroke of creativity, the relationship between Nate and Sophie is seen as being a bit sketchy throughout the first episodes of the season, making it seem far more reasonable when she decides to go on hiatus. In her stead, we’re given someone who’s equally easy to watch: Tara Cole, played by Jeri Ryan. Her introduction into the series is done in a manner which works perfectly for “Leverage,” and her departure…yeah, actually, that works pretty well too, given the characters we’re dealing with.
“Leverage: The Second Season” is full of plenty of enjoyable adventures, including callbacks to Season One episodes ("The Zanzibar Marketplace Job" results in the return of Nate’s ex-wife, Maggie) and plenty of excellent guest stars, including Luke Perry as a fake psychic, Peter Riegert as a corrupt lawyer, Richard Kind getting a chance to play a mayor rather than a mayor’s press secretary, and a Bizarro “Leverage” team of sorts – one which features Wil Wheaton as the other team’s resident computer geek. The season wraps up with a two-parter that finds Nate arrested and being thrown into prison. What do you want to bet Season Three kicks off with a jailbreak?
Special Features: Clearly, the cast and crew of “Leverage” not only enjoy what they do but also enjoy talking about it, as this is now two seasons in a row where they’ve offered up commentaries every single episode. In addition, the show’s creators sat down for a Q&A about the series, John Rogers takes viewers on a tour of the set, Andy Lange discusses the process of writing music for the show, and Aldis Hodge pretends to perform cons in real life on the mock featurette, “The Hand Job.” There’s also a look into how they produce the explosions on the show (“Behind the Boom”) and lastly, a gag reel produced for the Season Two wrap party. In short, it’s an appropriately fun collection of extras.