In the sixth episode of the fifth season of Leverage, the team helps an old ally. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Leverage.
Goddamn, this was such a sweet episode of the show. That’s not unlike Leverage, of course, because this show has always given us a lighter take on the world. It’s not that the show is consumed by optimism; there have been plenty of darker moments along the way. But as I’ve said plenty of times over the course of these reviews, this is all part of a fantasy about our world. It gives us a version of reality where justice can be found, and I won’t deny that this makes me feel good while watching the show.
So what role does optimism and cynicism play within the Leverage universe? I think you can see an exploration of these issues within the story of “The D.B. Cooper Job,” since it’s all about hope and obsession. When Parker brings McSweeten’s “case” to Nate, it’s because she believes that they can help. She believes in that power, y’all! Is that the same Parker we met at the start of this show? No, I’d argue that that’s not the case. (Which is important, and I’ll talk about that at the end of this.) The Leverage team deals with some of the worst people in the universe, and they still find ways to bring about goodness from them.
You can see this same outlook within Pete McSweeten. He believed so wholly in the goodness of humanity that he made it his life’s mission to see others as best as he could. That kind of optimism might seem weird to someone like Nate, but it worked for him. So even though Pete was consumed by his desire to find the real D.B. Cooper, it wasn’t out of malice. It wasn’t out of hatred, either. He just wanted to leave the world a better place. Hell, isn’t it totally obvious that Agent McSweeten got his demeanor from his father??? HE MAKES SO MUCH MORE SENSE NOW.
While this isn’t a new theme for the show, there was a huge challenge in pulling off an episode like “The D.B. Cooper Job.” Namely? How was the show going to address a real mystery that’s currently unsolved in our own world??? A great deal of the details here – the text of the note, the tip, the bomb, the flight from Portland to Seattle, the release of all the passengers, the second flight to Mexico, the door with stairway – are represented here faithfully. There are only a few inconsequential changes to actual history (and one huge one). So how does the show answer a mystery that’s captivated people for decades? It’s not like this is the only time a show or a book has tried to do this, either, so the show was already facing a number of challenges right from the start.
What makes this such a satisfying story is a combination of the thematic symmetry within the script and the decision to give us a flashback like the one in “The Van Gogh Job.” While I certainly prefer the flashback sequences within the former episode, I think it was still smart of the show to put the main cast into the past in “The D.B. Cooper Job.” It personalized the experience for us, a challenge they faced by giving us a history of characters we’d never met prior to this episode. On a purely superficial level, it was also AN EXTREMELY LARGE AMOUNT OF FUN. From the set design to the utterly ridiculous buddy cop montage courtesy of Eliot and Nate, this episode was perfectly fine with its sense of humor. And that’s fine because it didn’t clash with the more serious story that was being told. The audience is engaged because we get to see these actors have a lot of fun, but it also helps us to connect to what’s happening. Would it be as meaningful to see Pete interacting with a young Todd if we didn’t already know how close Nate was with his own son? Would we have sympathized with D.B. Cooper/Steve if we didn’t associate him with Eliot? Our minds drift to Eliot’s normal characterization, and it makes Steve Reynolds feel familiar to us. So when Nate compels Todd McSweeten to free Steve, we understand why. We’re more prone to have sympathy for this man, to see the good he did in the world rather than the bad that he did.
This journey is so important, though, because of how it affects Nate. I’d like to think that “The D.B. Cooper Job” sheds some light on Nate’s decision to do… well, whatever it is he’s working on privately with Hardison. I don’t think that the show is being super secretive about Nate’s plan to leave the Leverage team; I feel fairly comfortable stating that this is his endgame. At the same time, we’re being eased into the decision after that shocking end to this season’s premiere. We’ve seen him test the other members of the team to see if they’ll be able to work without him. In this episode, he comes to terms with the fact that his work on the Leverage team is causing his cynicism to burn stronger than ever. And I don’t blame him! As he says to Sophie, he’s spent years within the minds of the most despicable people on the planet. Wouldn’t anyone start to believe in the inherent greed and evilness of humanity after an experience like that? I think Nate prefers being optimistic more than not, and he wants to preserve that. He wants to go out in life believing as Pete McSweeten did, you know? And if he’s going to do that, that might mean leaving all of this behind.
I DON’T WANT THIS TO END, FOR THE RECORD. Gods, and it feels like it’s actually happening. NO, THANK YOU.
The video for “The D.B. Cooper Job” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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