(This review includes spoilers for the last season)
In my opinion, there are two kinds of shows one can enjoy. Those that are both masterfully crafted, with great performances, that manage to thrill you in many ways; and those that perhaps have less than loftier goals, but still manage to steal your heart. Leverage will surely be on the latter group for me. This isn't to say that Leverage isn't necessarily masterfully crafted, or that it doesn't have great performances, but its approach is light compared to the likes of, say, Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones.
Perhaps being on that latter group is what made me go "Aww, man!" when I realized that the show had been cancelled after closing its fifth season. I've been watching it since 2010 or so, and loved it since. For those that don't know about it, the show follows Nate Ford (Timothy Hutton), an insurance investigator that retires after the untimely death of his son. Eventually, he becomes the mastermind in a group of con artists that dedicate themselves to help people by conning big corporations (sorta like a more modern A-Team).
The team is comprised by Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman), an actress/grifter who becomes Ford's love interest; Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane), a former military/mercenary skilled in beating the shit out of everyone; Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge), a young and smart hacker; and Parker (Beth Riesgraf), a thief and cat burglar with little to no socializing skills. One of the strengths of the show is, in fact, the chemistry between the cast. From the first season, you actually believe their relationships. From the brotherly banter between Eliot and Hardison, to the love relationship between Nate and Sophie, or the innocent romance between Parker and Hardison. That's what holds the show together for me, so kudos to the cast for their performances.
Other than that, the fast pace and light approach are part of its assets. The show flows with an Ocean's Eleven-like vibe, it never takes itself too seriously, and the humor is always present. There are several running jokes among the characters to amuse regular viewers, and the action is solid. Also, for the most part, the cons are ingenuous, even if by later seasons, they've grown more ludicrous and implausible.
This season, its fifth, saw several changes in the show. Most notably, the team moving to Portland, and the relationship between Hardison and Parker, which was being hinted at during the last seasons, is formal. I have to say that, by the middle of it, I wasn't that crazy about the season. Not that it was bad, far from it. But it was more on the average side. The episode that changed this for me was "The Rundown Job". Probably one of the best episodes of the show, it had only half of the team (Eliot, Parker, and Hardison) in New York trying to stop a potential nuclear threat.
I felt like that episode really elevated things, and the ones that followed were pretty good. It all led to the finale titled "The Long Goodbye Job", where we find out the real reason for the team moving to Portland. Plus, the return of recurring character James Sterling (Mark Sheppard), a former colleague of Nate that now works with Interpol, added to the impact of it. For the first 20 minutes, the final episode seemed to raise the stakes with one of the most intense cons the show has had. However, once the truth behind it all is revealed in the latter half, it kinda felt like a cheat at first. But when you think about it, since most of what was happening was being shown through Nate's "story", it works better. Plus, the reveal of the true con had me smiling, and the ending capped that smile with the endearing goodbye of the team.
Overall, I can acknowledge the show's weaknesses. But then again, I don't think the show aimed to be a very thought-provoking one. What it succeeded for me was in being a damn entertaining one. It also succeeded in creating a connection with the characters. Which, like I said, led me to feel sorry for its cancellation. Still, I think five years is a good run for any show, let alone one that maybe doesn't have the respect or praise that other more known shows have. Farewell to Nate, Sophie, Eliot, Hardison, and Parker. You'll be missed.
(All pictures belong to TNT and its affiliates)