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TV Review: LEVERAGE ‘The Three Strikes Job’

V Review: LEVERAGE – SEASON TWO – ‘The Three Strikes Job’

It didn’t seem possible to top last year’s two-part finale, but the first half of Season Two’s wrap-up is bigger and more ambitious than ever

Grade: A-
Stars: Timothy Hutton, Christian Kane, Aldis Hodge, Beth Riesgraf, Gina Bellman, Jeri Ryan
Writer(s): John Rogers
Director: Dean Devlin

Release Date: February 10, 2010By CARL CORTEZ, Contributing Editor
Published 2/11/2010 (Source)

There’s immense pleasure to be derived from a TV series that hits its stride and keeps hitting it out of the park week after week, and LEVERAGE has proven with Season Two that it’s been “on” all season.

Even with the addition of Jeri Ryan thrown into the mix as the mysterious Tara while Sophie (Gina Bellman) is off finding herself, it’s proven to be just the right ingredient to add more spice to the storytelling and new directions for the characters and their interactions.

For the better part of the year, the Leverage crew have been trying to define who they are and what they’re doing. If they’re reformed thieves, then what does it say for their continual breaking of the law to do good?

And Nate Ford (Timothy Hutton) – poor old Nate ended last season in a major drunk funk only to find himself back on the wagon as Season Two began.

Well, all good things come to an end. Starting with the exceptional “The Bottle Job,” Nate fell majorly off the wagon and has been spiraling out of control again as we enter “The Three Strikes Job” – Part 1 of the two-part season two finale.

When a good cop (who they’ve helped with tips throughout the season) is gunned down and on life support under nefarious circumstances, Nate decides to take matters into his own hands. Mind you, it would make sense for them to just tip off the police and Feds with the info they have, but Nate has to go and complicate things, sending the team on con that’s literally impossible to win.

This involves a corrupt mayor (Richard Kind) and convincing him that Nate and Tara want to buy property on the waterfront to build a ballpark and Eliot (Christian Kane) pretending to be a ballplayer to plant the seeds that the local baseball team might be moving to another city.

It’s a labyrinth of maneuvering that finally gets the better of the team (like it did during last season’s finale), resulting in the discovery that the Mayor is actually a snitch with Nate and Tara set up by his double-dealings.

To make matters worse, they’re now on the run and decide to hole up at the Governor’s Hotel (where all the feds are using as their base quarters) until they can find a way out of this pinch.

Smartly scripted by John Rogers and perfectly directed by Dean Devlin, “The Three Strikes Job” is one of the biggest episodes yet and does a great job of mixing the intrigue with the wonderful character humor that’s become the backbone of the show all season.

I particularly loved how Eliot professes his hatred of baseball (because you can’t score on defense) and then ends up a de facto baseball hero that has other ramifications later when he has a difficult time performing a con with Hardison (Aldis Hodge). The Japanese energy drink commercial starring Eliot’s “cover” is also one of the funniest gags all season.

It’s also nice to see Nate literally falling apart at the seams while trying to prove to everyone around him that he’s perfectly fine. It’s great watching Hutton play these scenes, as he gives them amazing gravity and weight – plus we fully understand the stakes and Nate’s need for control is sending him in 50 different directions and that can’t result in a positive outcome for anyone.

The interaction between Parker and Hardison, while brief, is still playing perfectly to their little thief-crush and Tara has firmly ingrained herself into the fabric of the show, so much so, it’s going to be odd when Sophie does finally return to the mix.

Next week is Part 2 of the finale, and I can’t wait. LEVERAGE is one of the smartest crime shows currently on television. With a great cast, superb writing and energetic direction, it’s a mini-movie every week. And the supporting players are becoming just as rich as our core group, so when Jim Sterling (Mark Sheppard) appears at episode’s end saying he’s with Interpol and he’s going to handle Nate and his team, you can’t help but jump up with excitement waiting to see where all this leads into the home stretch.