During the Trump White House administration, my husband and I found the original series “Leverage” comforting. I hadn’t wanted the series when it was on TNT from 2008-2012, but became familiar with it via streaming services. Of course, we were eager to see the 13-episode revival that began shooting during the pandemic in August 2020, but there is little that redeems the effort still under the guidance of the original producer, Dean Devlin. Out of five stars, I wouldn’t give any of these even four.
Writers John Rogers and Chris Downey wrote 13 episodes for the first season of Leverage where we came to know this five-person team that was helmed by a former insurance investigator, Nathan Ford (Timothy Hutton). For a one-shot job (“The Nigerian Job”), he brings together The Thief (Parker) who is “twenty pounds of crazy in a fie-pound bag, The Hitter (Eliot Spencer) who is a former black ops soldier and The Hacker (Alec Hardison). The foursome are betrayed by their client and then re-group with the addition of The Grifter (Sophie Devereaux) to take revenge.
By Episode 2, “The Homecoming Job,” the team comes together under the front of “Leverage Consulting & Associates” to get justice for a wounded veteran.
Nate Ford (Timothy Hutton) had been on the verge of an alcoholic fall into perpetual unemployment having lost his son when his own company refused to bank a potentially life-saving procedure for his terminally ill son Sam. Divorced, and the son of a numbers runner, Ford had been a star performer for his insurance company. Ten years earlier he had tracked down Sophie (Gina Bellman) and they’ve been attracted to each other. Throughout the series, Sophie and Nate had an on-again off-again tempestuous relationship complicated by Nate’s alcoholism and his resistance for being an outlaw while trying to achieve justice for those who the courts have failed.
“Age of the geek, baby” Hardison (Aldis Hodge) is a man who is fine with electronics and takes particular pride in his geek mobiles (Lucille and Lucille 2.0), but isn’t comfortable in the outdoors. His sci-fi and indoors personality clashes with the rough-and-ready Eliot (Christian Kane) as evidenced in “The Gone Fishin’ Job.”
Hardison: Man! Hey, man, did you see that mosquito? That thing had a beak, man. What’s that smell?
Eliot: It’s fresh air.
Hardison: I don’t like it.
While Eliot is a ladies man, Hardison has a slow and often awkward courtship with Parker (Beth Riesgraf) who, due to her abusive family life, has problems expressing her feelings.
Season 5 ended with Nate proposing to Sophie and them leaving Hardison and Parker trained and ready to lead not only their team, but other like-minded teams so Leverage was going international.
The 13-episode revival was announced by IMDb on 22 April 2020, during the pandemic lockdown and amid Timothy Hutton’s damage control for the March 2020 rape accusations made by Sera Johnston. Filming began on 10 August 2020 in New Orleans and wrapped up in March 2021. Bellman tweeted that 16 episodes were made.
The problem is that without Hutton, the Nathan-Sophie playful seduction is absent and with the quick departure of recurring Hodge, the quirky romance of Hardison and Parker which has become a partnership of crime is also gone. There are no developments in between (i.e. kids for either Sophie and Parker) nor have Hardison and Parker seemed to have tied the knot.
In this new teaming, two additional players have been added, the reliable and sympathetic Noah Wyle as guilt-ridden former corporate lawyer, Harry Wilson, and the less well-established Aleyse Shannon as Hardison’s genius hacker foster sister, Breanna Casey.
Sophie becomes the big-sister, den mother, but also slightly ruffles Parker’s feathers. Parker’s been the grifter and the planner of the team. Both Harry Wilson and Breanna Casey are the newbies with some special gifts between them. Harry Wilson brings in the legal issues that former insurance agent Nate Ford used to provide, and Breanna Casey becomes the kooky girl in need of guidance that Parker once was. Still, there is an emotional center lacking. Harry Wilson’s guilt of his legal machinations doesn’t equal Nate Ford’s angst over the death of his son, the disintegration of his marriage, his welcoming the siren song of alcohol or his attraction to Sophie.
Besides the romantic tension, what is also gone is the witty, snappy and sometimes snippy dialogue. The team bickering between Harrison and Eliot is missed. Harry Wilson seems to have a family, but that’s kept under wraps and there are some security breaches that don’t seem logical. The tone also is uneven with one of the solutions (Episode 8, “The Mastermind Job”) plunging into parody, something worthy of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” but out of place in TOS “Leverage” and seven out of eight episodes of “Leverage: Redemption.”
Episode 1: The Too Many Rembrandts Job ⭐︎⭐︎
The first episode must explain the absence of Nathan Ford. Nate and Sophie had settled down to live in a beautiful large house, but Nate died a year before. In the cold opening we flash through scenes involving none of the former cast in order to introduce Noah Wyle involved in a headline art exhibit and ending up with a gun to his head.
Three days earlier, Sophie is alone in a palatial house. Sleeping on one side of the bed, she looks longingly at the empty bed on the other side. She gets a text from first H (Hardison), then E (Eliot) and then P (Parker). She still sports a huge engagement ring on her finger. They meet at a cemetery in front of a large, but strangely simple stone: Nathan Ford, Beloved Father, Husband & Friend (no dates).
According to the exposition there are now 12 active teams making up Leverage International. Elliot and Parker do most of the traveling so that Eliot can check on his gourmet food trucks where he gives veterans jobs right out of the military. Hardison is working refugee groups, coordinating food drops and other supplies.
Sophie bumps into Wyle’s character, lawyer Harry Wilson, and Sophie quickly deduces that he’s planning an art heist of a Rembrandt. This was infamously stolen 2002 in London before the man of questionable reputation, Fletcher Maxwel (Reed Diamond)l. Maxwell and his Fletcher Maxwell Foundation is sponsoring “The Dutch Masters” exhibition. Wilson forgets to check for weight triggers and Parker, Eliot, Hardison and Sophie take an unconscious Wilson out.
Six months earlier, Wilson was telling how to protect $100 million from the opiad scandal. Maxwell’s company misled doctors and patients about the addictiveness of his family’s opiad products. Wilson will protect most of Maxwell’s wealth providing that Maxwell agrees to settlements with the families dealing with the addiction. Wilson tells Maxwell, “I’m not on anybody’s side; I’m a lawyer.” Wilson works for a New Orleans law firm having been educated by Harvard. Once Maxwell’s money is safe, Maxwell decides not to make the payouts. Instead he’s going to litigate for years because “Millions I have; years they don’t have.”
Eight museums have major paintings donated by Maxwell and it’s all he talks about. The Leverage team are going to lure him with a “lost Rembrandt,” which is a “hero level donation” that will wipe out all the bad press. However, if that Rembrandt turned out to be a fake, that would damage the donor’s reputation forever in the art world.
“Let’s go steal and stolen Rembrandt,” Sophie says. Parker has been the grifter for the last eight years and begins the grift. Wilson is the inside man. The first bait is a Rodin Minotaur once owned by Claude Monet. Eliot gets to play the son of a Boston gangster (Tom Skerrit played Nate’s father, Jimmy Ford in Season 3 “The Three-Card Monte Job” and Season 4 “The Radio Job.” Jimmy is killed by Victor Dubenich (Saul Rubinek) in the latter. Victor Dubenich is the double-crossing client from the first episode of TOS.)
This episode introduces a new villain, a security firm called RIZ. What that stands for is not clear. RIZ is headed by a woman dressed in black who “works in the field of violence” who auditions her four hitters. Although our favorite hitter Eliot takes all four people down, but the woman, Bligh (Lucy Taylor) tells him, “I’ll be seeing you.” According to IMDb’s listing, she appears in four episodes this season, including the last two episodes.
In the end, the museum’s Rembrandt is burned, the museum’s video is scrubbed and Wilson ends up where we first saw him, on the floor with a gun to his head. Wilson is fired by his firm, but when Maxwell, goes to the museum, he learns that his Rembrandt in “The Dutch Masters” exhibit is fake. Eight museums, eight master pieces swapped out with digitally printed fakes.
The name of the series centers on what Hardison tells Wilson. Wilson has worked a long time on the wrong side and like Eliot, he needs to work on making things right in the world. Hardison says, “Repentance, redemption is a process.”
With Nate dead, fans have a happy ending, but there’s no chance of Hutton jumping back in unless there’s a flashback or the writers find some convoluted explanation for his death.
Episode 2: The Panamanian Monkeys Job ⭐︎⭐︎
At the end of the previous episode, Wilson reveals that Maxwell has one place where he still has money: Panama. That’s where he’s going now that his other assets have been frozen.
Harry Wilson attempts to visit his old office, but his desk has already been cleaned and his files are already in a safe (that Parker cracks). So now the team has a list of names of all the people that Wilson helped evade justice and they must prevent Maxwell from getting his last stash of cash in a facility that specializes in hiding illegal funds (“beyond the reach of common decency”).
In Panama, the crew finds they are being watched by a drone (that Eliot takes down). Don’t worry. the drone is controlled from a familiar Brick & Basil food truck. Inside, we find Hardison’s foster sister, Breanna Casey (Aleyse Shannon). She’s on the run and this is our meet-cute for the quirky female computer/tech geek. Are all female tech geeks kooky?
If you’ve ever been inside of a food truck, you’re going to think that the mobile control center is suspiciously bigger inside than it should be. Just how are they making all that food and does anyone inspect food trucks?
The job is breaking into the vault to prevent Maxwell from getting his cash and escaping justice. How are they going to break into the vault? They need to do some drilling and to cover up the noise, they arrange for a loud concert next door.
How things work out, I won’t tell you here, but Hardison gets Wilson to help him fix up their base, but this is a farewell. Hardison has to head off to Sri Lanka to sort out his humanitarian efforts. Wilson joins as the inside man and Breanna is the newbie.
Episode 3: The Rollin’ on the River Job ⭐︎⭐︎
In the cold opening, two Black women (grandmother and her 15-year-old granddaughter) have their home threatened with eviction. Their loan was sold a suspicious White man (Owen Hart) informed them at their door, but the granddaughter, Eva, who pulls a gun, wants to know: “What kind of bank sends a thug to deliver paperwork?”
This, of course, is a good question. That White guy with an earring leaves the house and we see that other homes are also under pressure and he tells his boss (Piter Marek): “Little mice don’t put up a fight.”
At the New Orleans bar that now serves as a headquarters, Parker is trying to teach Breanna to be a pickpocket using a jacket with many bells on it. Sophie reminds Parker that they have to help Breanna grow, “like we did with each other.” Eliot is there, but he won’t be singing “Rollin’ on the River,” but he will be boarding a steamboat casino and eating carrot cake made by his security bud (Ritchie Montgomery). Yummy.
The guy who’s buying out the houses wants to use the land to expand his riverboat casino to land. He’ll need a gambling license so he’ll have to impress a gaming commissioner while using dishonest tactics to acquire the land. And there a humongous pearl that someone will be tempted to steal.
Harry Wilson gets to join Sophie in a little “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” scam to get info. And yet, wait for the twist. Someone is bankrolling the man with the earring. Parker gets to shine because “sometimes the best way to hide is to blind them with your brightness” and Parker and Sophie decide to “trust the newbie.”
The food stealing bit worked much better in “The Office Job” (Season 4, Episode 12). Always make sure you can swim in your Sweet Sixteen or other ballroom gown.
Episode 4: The Tower Job ⭐︎
This particular episode might be a little too topical. There was a building that collapsed three years earlier. The architect married well and his rich wife, who attended an art university in Europe, is keeping him afloat. He had confidence problems, but his shoddy construction three years ago found another scapegoat. Mateo Navarro (Demi Castro) was one of the people who didn’t survive.
Harry Wilson was the corporate lawyer who helped the man responsible, Jason (Andy Favreau), escape justice so now he seeks redemption by attempting to con the developer out of an entire luxury apartment building. Jason’s wife, Krista (Kim Matula), comes from money and is extremely proud of her one year at the Royal College of Arts in London.
This requires one person impersonating a building inspector while other team members take the real inspector on a ghastly tour.
Harry Wilson is taken to task by Sophie because while their jobs might be personal, they don’t keep secrets from each other and Sophie declares, “We don’t work for you Mr. Wilson; We’re not your private crusade team”
Episode 5: The Paranormal Hacktivity Job ⭐︎
Four days before Halloween, Tina Reynolds (Gillian Saker) is talking to her mother at the house she inherited from Aunt Mildred when the lights go out. Then writing appears on the mirror. Tina hears footsteps accompanied by the clump of a cane. She believes that the house is haunted and her angry dead aunt wants her out. Running into the street, she’s hit by a car and Parker comes to her aid.
Sophie and Parker decide the only way to convince the woman she was conned by men who set up ghostly effects is for her to see them try to do the same to Sophie under the guise of a woman who recently inherited the place from her father, “Big Daddy.
The real estate scammers seem to be complete amateurs and soon the team discovers that there’s a heavier criminal element behind the buying up of property in the area. Sophie, Parker and Breanna must convince the scammers and their money lenders that the haunting of Leverage headquarters is very real. Yet who is behind the real estate scammers and what is their goal and why are they in New Orleans? Someone wants to rain on a Halloween parade.
This isn’t exactly like “The Girls’ Night Out Job,” but most of the action is between Sophie, Parker and Breanna with Harry Wilson coming in at the beginning for some legal analysis of the documents.
This episode made me question the team’s planning ability: Do you ever invite someone into your secret headquarters?
Episode 6: The Card Game Job ⭐︎⭐︎
This episode begins in a park near a large fallen tree. A father tries to save his daughter, Jenna, who desperately needs a certain overpriced drug that is a treatment, but not a cure. The father says, “They were supposed to be close to a cure, years ago, but nothing happened.” Sophie notes that a cure you only need once; treatment you need for a lifetime. The treatment went from $30 a month to well over $3000.
The original drug company was bought up by Cordocorp, a hedge fund based in New Orleans. The vulture capitalist Jim Cordozar (Max Sheldon) of Cordocorp has a yes-man, and key man, artificial intelligence expert Carter (Kunal Dudheker), and Breanna goes in as a temp. Breanna learns that Cordozar owns a certain castle and property linked to a fantasy collectible card game. The Springer’s castle ground holds an annual festival where Spirits RUSE fans meet and cosplay, but also participate in a card game. Cordozar has played the game, but that was in middle school where he finished second in a tournament. That’s a sensitive point for him.
A RUSE is a real-time strategy video game where players can use decoys and ruses to trick their opponents into traps which are called ruses.
This particular game was created by Derek Springer (French Stewart) who considers himself a poet and philanthropist. He created the game in the 1990s. He considers himself an artist and not a businessman. This is a quest game with magic cards and spirit cards of water, fire and earth. Eliot defines it as basically rock, paper, scissors. Everyone is looking for the Queen Ziel card.
At the tournament, Parker looks for the vault where the Queen Ziel card is with Harry in tow. Sophie dresses as the poet mistress of the game and along with Eliot try to delay Springer from meeting with Cordozar. Breanna participates in the quest game, hoping to face off Springer. He tells her she lacks a killer instinct because she’s trying to be too nice. Springer, of course, is cheating. He used his friend Carter who made an algorithm to find the Queen Ziel card and during the tournament as he faces Breanna, he’s listening to Carter in an ear piece as Carter runs an algorithm to tell him what card to play.
I wish Springer had taken a stand for geekdom instead of geekdom asking him to stand with them.
Episode 7: The Double-Edged Sword Job ⭐︎⭐︎
Libby’s abusive ex-husband Reese Johnson, a police officer, has found her and her daughter Frankie. Four years ago, Hardison, Parker and Eliot helped Libby and her daughter escape, giving her a new identity. Eliot has an algorithm that scrubs the internet of all images, but somewhere there’s an algorithm that much better and it seems to be in Arlo, Louisiana were Reese Johnson is based.
The small town cops have high tech cruisers and security cameras everywhere. In this plan, Eliot goes to a coffee shop with a grand theft and bail jumping bench warrant for his arrest. Making his arrest is tough gal, a US Marshall (Andrea Navedo), but she’s also there looking into the weird drop in crime in Arlo.
The crime drop is due to Joseph Cheng (Lawrence Kao) and his facial recognition software that not only can identify people from even the blurriest photographs, as in the case of Libby, their client, but also predict what kind of crime they will commit. That doesn’t mean the algorithm is correct. It predicted Eliot would rob a bank.
The software makes Breanna, and naturally endangers career criminals Parker, Hardison, Breanna and Eliot, but also all of their international crews.
The double-edged sword of software, is that you can fool it by changing your biorhythms and doing other things to make Cheng’s computer-run home become the house of hell. Instead of the small modular Alexa, we have an almost adult heigh Alay-Na. Alay-Na is connected to a camera in Cheng’s glasses.
I hope we’ll see more of Navedo who you might remember from “Jane the Virgin” as Xiomara or from “Law & Order” as Detective Ana Cordova.
Episode 8: The Mastermind Job ⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎
In the cold open, we see Sophie declaring that her cover has been blown. She meets Eliot who warns of professional thugs following him. Parker with a long, thick braid and a gold bunny statue drops in via rope. They are trapped until a mysterious hat-wearing man tells them he knows what they can do alone but also what they can do together. This isn’t a memory, this is a criminal’s imagining of a non-fiction book he has an advance copy of: “The Mastermind: A Team of Criminals Take Down the Criminally Rich” (McPherson Pratt Publishing, LLC.).
Someone has written about the original team, minus, Sophie and is calling himself, the Mastermind (“We steal it back; we provide an advantage”). Sophie declares, “Let’s go steal our lives back.”
The Mastermind (Joey Slotnick) turns out to be who used to work at Nate Ford’s old company. Ford used to drop by and regal him with stories about the team’s deeds. Does that sound like something a wise mastermind would do? Who hasn’t heard: Loose lips sink ships?
In the book, Parker is disappointed that she’s portrayed as “nothing short of legendary in my field” while Eliot reads himself as “all I do is hit people and flip my hair.”
Someone else (Nick E. Tarabay) gets his hands on an advance copy and needs something stolen from his ex-wife (Rasha Zamamiri), but he’s forcing fake Nate to do the deed while holding Harry Wilson hostage.
Fake Nate was told by the real Nate that everyone has a super power (I know I have one), but the one that Fake Nate has is too silly and mars what is probably the best episode of the eight.
First Eight Episodes
There were segments I did love. Sophie analyzing Harry Wilson’s first heist was fun in “The Too Many Rembrandts Job.” Eliot jousting on a dragon was priceless and his sword work fun (“The Card Job”). I always love when he disarms a gun (“The Double-Edge Sword Job”). I did love Parker as a rich Southern lady who is a crack shot in “The Rollin’ on the River Job,” but I didn’t like the pearl theft.
Besides the scripting and the lack of an emotional center that I discussed above, this version of “Leverage” also suffers from some production values. You’ll miss the 360-sweeps and other smooth transitions. The costuming can sometimes be distracting and the lighting isn’t as consistently good as in TOS. I dislike the graphics of the beginning credits and I’m not impressed with the new series’ overall sound design.
“Leverage: Redemption” has few redeeming qualities and you can’t redeem your time wasted. But fans of TOS “Leverage,” we did wish for it and you don’t always get exactly what you wish for. Will the magic be back in the next eight episodes? We’ll have to wait a few more months and see.
“Leverage: Redemption” premieres on IMDb TV beginning 9 July 2021 with the first eight episodes.