Mark Watches ‘Leverage’: S01E02 – The Homecoming Job

In the second episode of the first season of Leverage, the team assists a disabled veteran when he believes a contracting group caused his injuries. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Leverage.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of ableism, war.

Unfortunately, a lot of what is in “The Homecoming Job” is how the world works.

Like the pilot episode, this story tackles something that is very real in the United States and abroad. I don’t necessarily want this show to be a projection of my own personal politics, and I understand that we should also look at the focus of the narrative. While it’s important Corporal Perry’s case is about the poor treatment given to disabled veterans in the United States, it’s not really the focus of the episode. The commentary here on ableism and warmongering is clever and competent, but it’s not the most revolutionary thing imaginable. So I don’t want to cast this show as being perfect or immune to being criticized, but I also want to acknowledge how goddamn satisfying it is to watch this unfold, with the antagonists as people who we should view as antagonists.

It’s true that our country has a terrible problem serving veterans, with many veteran hospitals hundreds of miles away from the homes of the respective patients. It’s also true that there are mercenary firms and private contractors who secure no bids contracts with the U.S. governments (through bribes and lobbying), all to exercise unbelievable power that most traditional armies do not have. These are real things that I urge people to research and familiarize themselves with! It’s with this sort of background that “The Homecoming Job” unfolds, casting us into a world of corruption, bribery, and deceit.

As I mentioned, it really IS great to me that the show tackles lobbying the way it does here, especially since it contrasts it with the sort of crime that the bulk of the team has done. I appreciated that the opening moments of the show confirmed that the team HAD split up to go live their lives, awaiting the next call from Nathan. They’re still criminals, and the writers don’t ignore that. But note how they’re all disgusted by the treatment of Perry and the actions of Dufort and Jenkins. I know it’s a little thing, but I loved that detail. Why? Because it toys with the notion of what we consider a “big” crime. How often do you hear news stories about lobbyists and their revolting behavior in Congress? How often are they major news stories or brief, forgettable ones? How frequently does our nation attempt to disrupt the relationship between elected officials and lobbyists?

But let’s look at this in terms of characterization instead of politics, which I don’t want to focus on for too much time. If these characters are disgusted by this behavior, what’s their payout for a job like this? From the beginning, they all accept that this little “team” they’ve assembled has been worth it. I mean… $32 million? Each? They’re already set for life. But that’s the language these people speak, ESPECIALLY Parker. Sure, they’re doing something good for Corporal Perry, but at the end of the day, they want to be paid. So it’s unsettling to them that Nathan already spent all his $32 million, giving nearly ALL of it away to a charity for a children’s hospital. That’s not something any of them would do. Does that mean they are despicable people? No, but it causes them alarm. It makes them rethink what they’re doing. As they aim to pit Jenkins and Dufort against one another, all so they can spill their secrets, they have to also accept that the job they’re on is one that probably isn’t going to get them a lot of money.

Which is then immediately challenged after they discover that Castleman Security has been hiding HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS of Iraq reconstruction cash in the Port of Los Angeles. (I feel like this is barely fiction; didn’t this actually happen in Iraq? I’m having trouble finding a story to confirm this, but I recall that we truly did lose billions of money over in Iraq that’s never been recovered.) Yes, it’s incredibly funny to watch Parker react the way she does to that container full of cash. But Nathan has to remind them all that the job here isn’t to steal the money for themselves; it is all for someone else. He deliberately invokes the use of the “good guys” justification. They’re not here to break the law for the sake of it or for personal gain. That’s not the point of Leverage Consulting & Associates. (I LOVE THE OFFICE SO MUCH, THAT PAINTING WILL NEVER NOT BE HILARIOUS.) I have to say this again, but they’re Robin Hood, and the people they’re conning are the Sheriff of Nottingham. They’re stealing from the “rich” and giving to the “poor.” In this case, they’re exposing the money laundering perpetrated by Dufort and assisted by Jenkins, all of which benefits from the very war that indirectly led to Perry’s injury. They benefit from the scheme, while Perry and his friends get shot for it.

So it’s interesting to me to see how Nathan acts as the moral agent for the entire group. Yes, these are not immoral people, but even their own personal sense of gain and worth is tied to a different set of rules than Nathan’s. As they watch the overjoyed look on the faces of the disabled veterans and Dr. Laroque, is this really something they can give up? The world doesn’t work this way most of the time, and that sort of cynicism is something I appreciate being acknowledged. At the same time, there’s a joy in watching Nathan say that maybe it’s time to change the world instead of just accepting how awful and terrible things are.

And throughout “The Homecoming Job,” I’m SO ENTERTAINED. Above all – the politics, the reversal of a power dynamic between the veterans and the rich men who profit off them – this is just a thrill to watch. The con was so good that I fell for it. The characterization is so distinct and hilarious that I find myself already getting a grasp for who these people are, and I haven’t even watched two hours of this show. I like that they’ve consistently shown us that Eliot hates guns. I like that they’ve introduced Hardison’s attraction to Parker. I like that we’re well aware of the fact that Nathan once had some sort of affair with Sophie. I like that these little moments don’t feel little to me. They may happen in passing, but I can still recall them in detail. I just… I just like these people so much. ALREADY. That’s a damn wonderful thing.

The video for “The Homecoming Job” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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