In the ninth episode of the first season of Leverage, this show destroys me with Parker. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Leverage.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of child abuse.
This hurts. AND IT’S SO GOOD.
Lord. I’m having so much fun with the recurring jokes and gags in this show, and that’s definitely true for Sophie’s acting ability, which only appears to work if she’s on a job. How her brain works is a mystery to me, but seeing her as a nun (HOW LONG HAVE Y’ALL BEEN WAITING FOR ME TO SEE GINA BELLMAN AS A NUN, OH MY GOD) in a film about werewolves was just the icing on the cake. Nearly every episode, this show gives me a chance to see these characters in ridiculous outfits while on the job, and it never gets old. NEVER. Seriously, Timothy Hutton was also incredible here as Nate AS the director. HIS HAIR!!!
This was such an uncomfortable premise that only got worse as the episode went on. In hindsight, it’s kind of amazing to me how this particular episode straddled the line between humor and horror. I’d gotten lost in all the bad “acting” and the parody of Hollywood, and then WHAM. Orphanages as a front for gun running, which is child abuse as far as I’m concerned. But “The Stork Job” ends up being a dual con with two targets, though it takes Parker to bring the team to that point. Well, that’s complicated. I think that if the team had listened to Hardison in the first place, they would have kept the orphans as part of their plan.
But this had to test their morality, and I understand why they all turned Hardison down, especially Parker. (I’ll devote most of this review to her in a sec.) The line between good and bad is always blurred on this show, but it’s generally pretty easy to tell which side these characters fall on. But they’re all pragmatists at heart, which is why they work so well together. They understand that they might have to do strange or discomfiting things for the job. At the same time, they have to know when to put aside any personal issues. As much as they might want to save those orphans, they recognize that they’re out of their element here, having stumbled upon something horrible. For Hardison, though, it seems obvious. They can’t leave all those kids behind, and he can’t fathom a future where they don’t help those kids.
It’s important, then, that Parker’s past (and part of Hardison’s) plays so heavily into this narrative, both for the growth of these characters and to get us to understand why they would act the way they would. As someone who was raised by a foster parent, Hardison is drawn to saving the kids that Parker finds in the orphanage. Like I said, there’s no reluctance on his part. He knows that he needs to do this, no question.
Parker, however, moves through various emotions: shock, horror, revulsion, and then sadness. When she refuses to help those children, it’s not because she doesn’t care. Parker just isn’t used to people caring about her. She’s not used to trusting the system that she was a part of because it abused her, spat her out without the childhood she wanted, and now she’s… well, she’s different. Her social awkwardness is often funny, but it’s not here. You get a sense that she wishes she could be normal, that she could act like everyone else.
Look, this is a deeply uncomfortable conversation to have, and I think my country has a severe problem when it comes to foster care and adoption. I was in foster care before I was adopted, and I think I’ve touched on being a transracial adoptee a few times in the past. It can be a nasty, painful world for some of us, and the narratives around adoption don’t make this any easier. I’ve been told that I need to be thankful for having been adopted because I could have been abandoned. But that’s a dismissive technique meant to silence me because it’s a whole lot easier to ignore me than have to hear about the problems that come from this system or from adoptive parents. It’s easier for Parker to dismiss those children (at least at first) than have to cope with the idea that she may have put them in the same system that messed her up.
There is a romantic angle, briefly so, in this story, but I’m glad that Hardison’s comment about enjoying how Parker turned out was not the focus of this story. In the end, Parker made a difficult, foolish choice to try to save those children all by herself. It was reckless and silly, and she didn’t care. She couldn’t abandon them; she probably wished she’d not been abandoned herself. It’s a projection, sure, but it’s a powerful one. Notice how she grimaces when Nate says they’re dropping the children off with the World Health Organization. Even when she’s helped change these children’s lives for the better, she still can’t quite trust the system at all. And I’m thankful that the show doesn’t make her. Unless you’ve dealt with adoption or foster care, you have no idea what that can do to a person. Parker does, and it’s an important part of the puzzle of her characterization.
The video for “The Stork Job” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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