Mark Watches ‘Leverage’: S01E01 – The Nigerian Job

In the first episode of the first season of Leverage, I have been given an entire show about heists. No one is more thrilled than I am. Intrigued? Then it’s time to start Leverage.

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Now, I came into Leverage with the knowledge of most of the cast members: Timothy Hutton, Aldis Hodge, Christian Kane, and Gina Bellman. Otherwise, I actually didn’t know the general idea behind this show. They all did… stuff? Together? For reasons? I do my best to come into pilot episodes of shows with a very open mind, but the beauty of “The Nigerian Job” is that I didn’t have to. I didn’t need to be patient to be given suspenseful scenes, emotional attachment, or humor. The first heist presented to us is ridiculous, complicated, and immensely thrilling to watch, AND IT’S JUST THE FIRST OF MANY WITHIN A SINGLE EPISODE. There are somehow 74 more of these to come!!! What have I done to deserve such goodness in my life!!!!!!!!

There’s such a fascinating balance between varying tones in “The Nigerian Job.” When we’re first introduced to Parker, Eliot, Hardison, and Sophie, it’s through these brilliantly funny flashbacks that all toy with the nature of spy work or tropes concerning thieves in fiction. And yet, Nathan Ford’s own flashback? Nothing is about it is funny. He watches his son die because his insurance company denied him coverage, and it’s that sort of gut-wrenching realism that grounds Leverage for us so that we understand the morality at play. There’s a lot of talk of Nathan existing in the world of the black king and the white knight at the same time, and I love that we’re already deliberately graying the playing field. Nathan used to hunt down the four people brought together by Dubenich, and his priorities have shifted enough that he’s had to see them as allies.

That’s intriguing to me! Even the very organization of the team itself makes me want a billion more iterations of what’s essentially the same formula: heists and cons to help those screwed by the system.

Of course, a show that’s essentially a high-tech Robin Hood is going to be right up my alley. The fact that the pilot episode demonstrates the callous nature of an insurance company and a greedy, racist business owner is EVERYTHING I’VE EVER WANTED. But you know what? There are about a thousand things in “The Nigerian Job” that would fall under that category:

  1. Heists. HEISTS. HEISTS. How many times do I need to say that I love heists? You will tire of me saying it, and I could not care about that.
  2. The hacker/computer nerd is a black man. Look, I can’t even think of another example of this, and I think it’s a big fucking deal. This character is almost always played by a shy or socially awkward white man, and I find it particularly refreshing and exciting that the hacker in this show is an outgoing, hilarious black man.
  3. Parker’s character is so unusual and unexpected as well; you’d expect someone like Eliot to be the outlier, the one who is the most intimidating of the bunch, but nope. It’s the blonde woman with a killer smile, and she consistently does things in this pilot that no one else would ever dream of.
  4. I know this may seem silly, but when do we ever see the hard man wearing glasses or being the first of the bunch to offer up empathy/sympathy? It’s Eliot who makes the first significant strides towards friendship with Nathan. Despite that he’s spurned, I don’t think that negates the attempt.
  5. SOPHIE. An actress who is only good WHEN SHE IS BREAKING THE LAW. How? How are we allowed to experience this?
  6. The show completely acknowledges the idea that breaking the law DOES NOT MEAN A PERSON IS IMMORAL. That’s not because the show ignores the reality of law enforcement or the legal system itself. Hell, the team are arrested in the first episode! (And that particular escape was just… my own heart cried tears of joy. SO BEAUTIFUL.)
  7. I’m also into the idea that the narrative inherently validates anger and the need for revenge, especially since it’s about gaining revenge within a system that might normally ignore injustice. On a larger level, I wonder how Nathan will ever deal with his anger towards the insurance company he used to work, as I suspect we’ll see that at some point. But within “The Nigerian Job,” Nathan is enraged by the fact that Dubenich came to him and crossed him in a way that exploited his “good” side and the death of his son. The revenge that he enacts on Dubenich is never questioned here, and in the end, Pierson gets their own form of justice as well.

There’s certainly a whimsy here that is completely unlike virtually everything I’m watching or have been watching for this site. It’s different, and I enjoy it. I enjoy being able to laugh so much at this show, to feel a sense of genuine joy because this isn’t the saddest thing I’ve ever seen. Which doesn’t mean I dislike the stuff on Supernatural or The Sarah Connor Chronicles, because that’s not the case. It’s… I get recommended to watch and read things because they have a maximum sense of emotional devastation to them, and that translates really well to what I do. While I’m not saying that Leverage will avoid being serious (come on, Nathan’s son!), I got to feel a happiness here that wasn’t ironic or unfortunate. Goddamn, y’all, this was a lot of fun, and I just want to see these goobers interacting with each other forever. FOREVER.

The video for “The Nigerian Job” can be downloaded here for free until I finish the first season of the show! After that, it’s available in my store for $0.99.

Mod note: Mark is watching the DVD order of this season, which is different from Netflix or airing order.  The Master Schedule has episode titles so you can check which episodes Mark will be reviewing on which days.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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