In the ninth episode of the fifth season ofÂ Leverage, good fucking god. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watchÂ Leverage.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of terrorism, Islamophobia, disease.
So, I didn’t expect an episode like this one. There’s a number of reasons for that. First of all, after a Parker-centric episode, I assumed we’d return back to “normal” and have a story with the whole cast, but “The Rundown Job” instead focuses solely on Parker, Hardison, and Eliot. Where were Nate and Sophie? Maybe this is like the combo of “The Girls’ Night Out Job” and “The Boys’ Night Out Job,” and we’ll get to see their half of the story next. Regardless, this was a pleasant surprise coming off the last episode.
AND THEN IT SCARED THE SHIT OUT OF ME.
This is an excellently plotted thriller, one that eschews the normal mark/con/heist format to instead throw these three characters (the holy OT3, let’s be real) into a hellish situation and see if they can get out of it. Well, I suppose that’s not precisely right; there’s a clear point where they allÂ choose to get involved. I think that’s a vital moment here in “The Rundown Job” because it fits in so well with this season’s motif. How many times so far have these characters had to think about their past and its relevance to the present times? In this case, Eliot is drawn into a potential assassin by someone he used to do jobs for. While the show has always been rather ambiguous about what Eliot used to do, this one makes it pretty explicit: Riley wanted Eliot to gun down the person at the head of the 911 system in D.C. He refused, unsurprisingly, but knew that by turning it down, Riley would just hire someone else.
And thus begins the escalating suspense of “The Rundown Job.” The opening sequence where the team devises a manner to save Teresa Darnell is one of the most thrilling scenes in the show, AND IT’S JUST THE BEGINNING. Through the use of numerous suspense techniques, the writers put the audience through the wringer alongside the three main characters. We’ve got the timestamps, which give us a sense of how short this entire job is. The mystery of the terrorist attack on D.C. gets continually more complicated and frightening. That’s partially because the scope of this job deals with THE ENTIRE WORLD, not just a local case.
That’s why I said that I didn’t expect an episode like this one. The show has certainly done suspense many times before, but the action in “The Rundown Job” unfolds like a motion picture. It’s brutal, expertly filmed, and the stakes are absurdly high, far higher than normal. And yet? It still feels likeÂ Leverage to me. It’s got that attention to character detail to keep it personable and understandable. We care about this case because we can tell how much it means to Eliot. And then, when it morphs into something even more horrifying than it was before, Eliot becomes the emotional rock for everyone else. It’s amazing to me to see how Eliot becomes like Nate â€“ the one able to see the big picture â€“ after Parker did the same in the last episode. But this is also his world! Assassins, terrorists, and convoluted conspiracy theories that actually hold weight.
So how does he help his friends through this? Initially, he thinks that pushing them away is the best chance to protect them, but Parker has to remind Eliot that they’re all in this together or they’re not in it at all. If anything, “The Rundown Job” solidifies the friendship between these three characters. Look at how much affection there is jammed into this episode! We’ve got the three instances of Hardison asking for a kiss of luck, whichÂ utterly destroyed me when Parker actually gave him one at the end. We’ve also got that moment of physical affection from Eliot towards Hardison when Hardison begins to panic about the scope of the terrorism attack. It’s rare for Eliot to show affection like that, but that’s something I mentioned before. Why do it here? In that specific scene, Hardison needed confidence, and Eliot offered it to him. As much shit as these two give one another, they’re clearly in awe of the other’s skills, and they know that when it comes down to it, they’ve got each other’s back. Hardison needed to be reminded of that, just like Parker had to remind Eliot that they always stick together.
And shit, what aÂ case, y’all. I was (unsurprisingly) worried once the show seemed to be putting a stereotypical image of a terrorist on my screen, and then HOLY SHIT, WHAT.Â IT’S ACTUALLY A WHITE DUDEÂ DRESSED UP AS A SCARY ARAB TERRORIST. Plot twist?!?!?! Look, I don’t think this counts as like, ~radical activism~ or anything, but there’s an aspect of white entitlement and rage to Dr. Udall that I can’t see. The man is so convinced that his bio-terror research will be the savior of humanity that he â€“honestly â€“Â plans a terror attack to prove that the world needed his research. Not only that, but he can’t even take credit for it; his plan was to utilize Islamophobia in order to shift the blame to Muslims and rely on that specific kind of bigotry to send the world into chaos. Like, yes, spreading the 1918 flu around and killing 150 million people? Undeniably awful and horrendous all by itself. Blaming it on Muslims by dressing up as one so that the Western world could wage an endless war on the Middle East due to harmful cultural stereotypes?Â WHAT THE FUCK, y’all. Because you know that would have happened if the Leverage team hadn’t caught him, right? I mean, look how quickly Colonel Vance was willing to use the name Acmhed like a slur when referring to Dr. Udall’s disguise! (I bet Adam Baldwin got a particular thrill out of that. Fuck Adam Baldwin, by the way. He’s awful.)
UGH I HATE DR. UDALL SO MUCH.
I adore this episode, however. I know that I had to totally ignore all the very clear signs that this was set in Portland, but it was so easy when everything else was so goddamn incredible. That explosion at the trailer! The chase sequence in the subway tunnels! The standoff with Dr. Udall in the train car!!! ELIOT BEING SHOT TWICE AND STILL PUNCHING THE DAYLIGHTS OUT OF DR. UDALL. Oh my god, Parker setting the bomb off so she could burn it on impact. That scene was absolutely not okay, good lord.
Bravo,Â Leverage. Five seasons in, and you’ve still got it.
The video for “The Rundown Job” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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