Review: Leverage 2×1

The hustle's back but not the flow


In the US: Wednesdays, 9/8c, TNT
In the UK: No one’s bought it. Seriously, what’s keeping you guys?

Leverage is one of those shows that’s there purely to entertain. It’s kind of smart, but not brainy. It’s kind of funny, but not laugh out loud funny. It’s action-packed, but not adrenaline-pumping.

Despite its grifter credentials, it won’t convince you it’s the best show in the world, but it’s personable, it’s fun, the characters are enjoyable: it’s an hour of entertainment that won’t make you feel like you’ve left your brain at the door, and it’s clear everyone making it is having a whale of a time.

Like Ocean’s 11 and Hustle, it’s about a group of criminals who pull off confidence tricks; however, these guys do it to help the little people fight the rich corporations. At the end of last season, the gang split up to go their separate ways, but since then, there’s become a whole load more little people, and a whole load of corporations doing suspiciously well during an economic meltdown.

Complete with new explanatory title sequence, the first episode of this second season starts amiably enough, with our heroes discovering they are in fact heroes and not true thieves any more. They like sticking up for the little guy and even though they’ve been apart for six months, the slightest little provocation will get them together again.

In this case, it’s a car accident from which the now-sober Nathan manages to rescue a man and his daughter.

Much of the first episode is business as usual, with the team doing its best to put together a con, even though they’re not really a team anymore. Mixed in is the re-establishment and sometimes advancement of the old character relationships, as well as of a new base of operations.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t gel very well. The routine is a little lacklustre, everyone’s still finding their feet again, and there’s not that much action and excitement. The North London accent Gina Bellman is trying to do during the con – coupled with her appropriation of that Glaswegian classic, “Does your mother sew?” – throws everything out of whack for her character, and the others seem off-form too. The ridiculous smiling benevolently at children is also blunderbuss writing on a par with M*A*S*H‘s constant Korea boys who needed constant head-patting in later seasons.

But maybe all this is deliberate or at least first episode jitters. I’m hoping the latter, because this was just the wrong side of not very entertaining: the next episode might restore it to its former more coherent self. At the very least, it needs a new big bad to rail against, maybe even Mark Sheppard again if they can get him.

However, it looks more likely that big business is going to be the big enemy this time around, with greedy bankers, profiteers and those who are weathering the downturn with record profits going to be the new Sheriffs of Nottingham to our team’s Robin Hood. While this has the potential to be a good thing, giving the show a timely edge, it also has the possibility to burst the show’s bubble of make-believe comedy-drama.

I’m hoping the next episode will get things back on track, but I’m starting to have a worrying feeling. Keep your fingers crossed.

To help you get back up to speed, here’s a first season recap.