Leverage is a TV series that came out in 2009. It ran for five years before it was canceled in 2012… But I began following it when it was being rerun. 🙂
Leverage is an amazingly funny show about former insurance investigator Nate Ford (played by Timothy Hutton), who is down in his cups after the death of his young son. He and his wife have split up, and Nate is not doing so well. When he is not working (and he has not been for some time), he is drinking his sorrows away.
Then a friend hires him to steal “intellectual property” another company stole from him. The man also hires a team for him. This team consists of “retrieval specialist” Elliot Spencer, a former U.S. black ops agent who “retrieves” items from other people – usually by beating them up to get to the merchandise. Elliot prefers to use his hands or nearby objects in combat instead of guns, though this preference is never explained. And he rarely deals with his opponents in an – ah – lethal manner.
The other member of the team is Alec Hardison, a hacker able to get in and out of complex computer systems in minutes. A con man, Hardison is clever but tends to overcomplicate his plans. Intellectual and a “geek of the first order,” Hardison at first has no respect for Elliot, whose style of business revolves around beating people up. That is hardly a smart thing to do!
The final member of the team is Parker. A “master” thief who was raised in abusive foster homes, she has a hard time understanding emotions and how to express them properly. Also, she is completely unselfconscious. She has a love of stealing that goes way beyond that of the clinical kleptomaniac, though her only apparent reason for thieving is to get quick cash!
Nate agrees to lead the op and the team walks away with the merchandise, handing it over to their employer. But the next day, they are not paid as agreed. Things get even worse when the four are almost killed by a bomb rigged to get rid of them. Turns out they were not retrieving stolen merchandise, but tech specs that belonged to the other company, which is a rival for the one Nate’s “friend” owns.
Nate talks the three into helping him right the wrong, gaining a fourth member for their team in Sophie Devereaux. Sophie is a “grifter” who cons wealthy people out of whatever she wants. Sophie and Nate have a bit of chemistry and have met before. Though Nate – in his previous work as an insurance investigator – has bagged all of the members of his team when they were working solo, Sophie and he never quite “got over” each other.
The first episode sees the team return the stolen tech and sink Nate’s former friend and his company. Hardison plays with and tweaks the stock market so that they all make an insane amount of money off of the company’s downfall, and the team parts ways, seemingly set for life.
Except that Elliot, Hardison, and Parker have all had a taste of being Robin Hood. And they like it. They fall in behind Nate, who does not seem to have any interest whatsoever in being their “Black King,” since he used to be the “White Knight” who would take them and their “kind” in to face the consequences of their illegal activities. Sophie – who has also been bitten by the Robin Hood bug – talks him into it, telling him they will follow the “Black King/White Knight” wherever he leads.
Thus begins the saga of Leverage. Hardison sets up a legitimate company front for the crew, using Nate’s funds (with his permission), and the five begin working. Nate selects their “clients” – those who have been wronged by the rich and powerful and have no way to get justice, either for lack of money or proof. The team then cons the scammers, thieves, et al who are rich, powerful and famous, and either regains the stolen loot or gets justice for the crime. Meanwhile, they make sure their “clients” get a little something extra from their heists: usually extra money or a “bonus” piece of justice. Often, it is a satisfying combination of the two!
Robin Hood meets the A-Team in Leverage, and it is quite a mixture of the good, old-fashioned tale of “rob from the rich, give to the poor” for the modern TV viewer. The series is fun not only for the characters and stories, but for the glimpse of how easy it is for real-life criminals and others to use sleight-of-hand tricks to fool the unobservant. Most of the cons work simply because the Leverage crew knows how to behave as though they really are who and what they claim to be.
Sophie and Nate have no trouble passing themselves off as millionaires, lawyers, campaign financiers, or anything else. Hardison and Elliot do not lack such chameleon skills and neither does Parker. They all slip in and out of regular everyday roles as easily as honest people change clothes, and then disappear as though they never existed. Which, in a way, is true: if they want to stay free, they cannot exist – at least, not in a normal way.
This is one reason I enjoy the Leverage series. I also believe it might not be bad to view the show with an eye to looking out for such scams in one’s own life! Though we cannot always stand up to hackers or “retrieval specialists” in a toe-to-toe situation, as long as we stay aware, we can make their job harder. For real-life us, that is a good thing; for real-life crooks, that might make them consider a career change to something more honest. You never know!
And, on some level, I admit that I wish there really was a Leverage-like crew out there. It would be nice to have some real-life Robin Hoods or A-Team types righting the wrongs that happen far too frequently these days. At least, I think it would be nice! Maybe I am wrong.
The Mithril Guardian