Mark Watches ‘Leverage’: S01E05 – The Mile High Job

In the fifth episode of the first season of Leverage, the team tracks down assets being liquidized by a corrupt company, but is trapped alongside them in the worst place imaginable. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Leverage.

Trigger Warning: For airplane crashes.

It’s true that the vast majority of things that I cover for Mark Reads and Mark Watches are science fiction and fantasy. I tend to gravitate to those genres because it’s a lot of fun to pick apart and analyze works that come from that sort of creative space. So it’s always a bit of a challenge experience to force my brain to think about criticism differently whenever I watch or read something that isn’t from those genres. Truthfully, Leverage exists in our world completely, and that means it doesn’t have to do the sort of worldbuilding I’m used to. That’s not to say that it doesn’t ask us to suspend our disbelief, though. This episode surely does in its climactic scene, and we’re constantly expected to accept many of the hacking concepts outright with little explanation of what these people are actually doing.

But that’s not a bad thing at all. What’s fun about Leverage is how it shows us the methods the team uses to exploit social awkwardness or foolishness in a way that allows them to get access to anything that they want. There’s a technical angle that’s hard to ignore, but that’s not what the show is best at. No, it fires on all cylinders when Hardison exploits people’s perception of his skin color in order to distract them from what he’s actually doing. Oh my god, I could write AN ENTIRE REVIEW devoted to the way in which this show engages with gender and race to point out people’s prejudicial treatment of one another. (Already! I’ve only seen five episodes!) EXCEPT THAT LEVERAGE USES THOSE WEAKNESSES IN OTHERS TO GIVE THE LEVERAGE TEAM AN ADVANTAGE. Sophie hits on others to disarm them; Hardison speaks in Spanish excitedly to make people look down on him; Parker refuses to allow people to see her as a silly, airy blond. These are all conscious things in practically every episode so far! I don’t feel like that’s something that’s coming out of the writers by accident.

I feel like it goes hand-in-hand with the team’s progressive view of American society, at least in terms of how the show casts villains. In “The Mile High Job,” corporate America is in the crosshairs again. While the trope of a corporation covering up knowledge of a deadly product is nothing new (in our world or in fiction), I was floored by how far the show took this concept. At the heart of this is the idea that to Haldeman (and by extension, most of GenoGrow), everything is a cost-benefit analysis. When the Jameson’s lawsuit gets too close to the truth, he reasons that it’s cheaper to CRASH AN ENTIRE PLANE REMOTELY than risk losing in court. If you don’t think that the basis for this plot is something all major companies consider, then this might seem like a ludicrous premise. But it is, again, something the show did not need to invent. It’s already a real practice.

That’s part of why this is such a disturbing thing to unfold. As the Leverage team tries to find out what assets Haldeman is having sent to the Caymans to liquidate, we’re also dropped into a BOTTLE EPISODE on a plane and IT’S LEGITIMATELY SUSPENSEFUL and PARKER NEVER FAILS TO BE ENTERTAINING. (I see that I was wrong about my perception of her character. She actually is pretty direct, often going for the cutting remark rather than small talk or sugar coating… well, literally anything.) It’s an absurd plot at times, sure, but I actually think that Hardison’s role in “The Mile High Job” is a lot harder to believe.

And yet? It’s so perfect. IT IS A SPECTACLE, PLEASE TELL ME ALDIS HODGE IS IN EVERYTHING. How could you not adore him after this? He’s a wonderful comedic actor, no doubt. But in this episode, while he’s back at the office supporting the team, he finds himself having to run an entire con job by himself. At the start of the episode, of course, he’s goofing around with Hot Pockets and snooping on Nate’s computer, which is a clever way for Hardison’s later doubt to make an appearance. We have to remember that these people have only known one another in a professional sense for a few weeks, if that. They’re not quite a super team, they get on each other’s nerves, they disappoint one another, and sometimes, they doubt themselves. After Hardison weasels his way past the front desk with his brilliant janitor routine, he then embeds himself within the massive GenaGrow employee population. I think part of his role here is to act as an agent of parody, since the early scenes with him poke fun at corporate culture. But when he needs to, he finds ways to pull Haldeman out of his office or hack a plane remotely. HACKING AN AIRPLANE, Y’ALL.

And yet, this doesn’t mean that Hardison is a perfect hacker, and there’s that genuinely scary moment when he has no idea what to do to help. It’s a rare glimpse of vulnerability from this character, and it also shows us how Nathan truly works as the team member who keeps this whole ship together. When Hardison freaks out (and understandably so!), he doesn’t berate him or insult him. He tells Hardison that he believes in him, and even if he is silly and sassy, he always comes through in the end. And that’s what matters most, right?

Then we’ve got Sophie and Nathan, whose past relationship is explored EVEN MORE THAN BEFORE. With each episode, I come to understand just how close these two were. This was not a short fling or some sort of disposable relationship with one another. I’m confident that these two loved one another, and fiercely so. There’s some humor here, but it’s still something that the show is treating seriously. Sophie is never quite sure if Nathan feels the same way about their past as she does. Which makes me wonder if either of them are entertaining a relationship again, or if this is all just nostalgia. It’s fun to reminisce about the good times (OH MY GOD WHAT HAPPENED IN PARIS AND WHAT HAPPENED IN TUSCANY), but is there meaning beyond that? (I’m sure the fanfiction says there is!)

I feel not an ounce of desire to criticize the unreal nature of landing a plane on a bridge, so I’m just gonna say I loved this episode.

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

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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