In the twelfth episode of the fifth season of Leverage, the team attempts the impossible con. Intrigued? Then itâ€™s time for Mark to watch Leverage.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of gaslighting, nonconsensual drugging, ableism.
I donâ€™t know that I like this episode all that much, and part of it is because itâ€™s so much more disturbing than usual. I donâ€™t even know if I accept the solution to this con because Iâ€™m not sure if I even believe it.
Now, this show has fairly liberally used a number of techniques seen here that Iâ€™ve addressed before. From gaslighting, drugging, and manipulation, nothing here is necessarily new. But what makes this feel so uncomfortable is that the mark â€“ who has certainly done some awful things â€“ clearly has a problem rooted in his mental state and not his morality. So the approach here is confusing becauseâ€¦ is Dodgson even a bad guy? I understand that this is meant to seem like an utterly impossible con, and it certainly comes off that way. The team is dealing with subconscious urges and desires, and thatâ€™s not something they can control in any real way. My concern this whole time?
What if they made Charles Dodgson worse?
Thatâ€™s something that I never felt like â€œThe White Rabbit Jobâ€ ever addressed or acknowledged. The threat of a failed con was certainly there, and Dodgson got closer than ever to selling off his company all because of what the team had done. But no one ever seemed to think of another eventuality. The mind can be a fragile thing, and these people could have broken Dodgson, no?
Thatâ€™s not to say there isnâ€™t anything here to be entertained. There are a ton of nerdy references to Alice in Wonderland and Inception and Doctor Who. (I hope that Sally Sparrow reference was to Who.) We get to see the main cast act absurdly for forty minutes while they manipulate Dodgsonâ€™s dream world. (ELIOT, OH MY GOD.) And I like it when this team is challenged!
I donâ€™t know if Iâ€™d go so far as to say the climax of the episode â€œsavesâ€ the whole thing, since thatâ€™s not really how Iâ€™m thinking about this story. But itâ€™s Parker who provides both Dodgson and the story with some much-needed humanity. After the teamâ€™s spent so much time toying with Dodgsonâ€™s perception of reality (seriously, this is the most intense gaslighting theyâ€™ve ever done), Parker is the first one to approach Dodgson with his humanity in mind. I wonder, then, if theyâ€™d just allowed her to do that in the first place, then maybe none of this could have ever happened. I mean, if the team had just done some more research instead of invading the markâ€™s mind, they might have been able to determine the source of Dodgsonâ€™s grief and guilt.
Itâ€™s Parker who does, though, and I do love that the show gives this to her. Dodgsonâ€™s sense of isolation is tied to the responsibility he feels for his sisterâ€™s death, but Parker hones in specifically on his loneliness. Itâ€™s a gut-wrenching scene to watch because we know that itâ€™s only since she joined the Leverage team that she was able to feel like she wasnâ€™t alone. How long had she gone without that feeling? A decade? And here she is, sitting in front of a man who is brutalizing himself over loss and grief, willing to let his fatherâ€™s company plunge into non-existence in the hopes that he might be able to escape what heâ€™s feeling.
Itâ€™s just a shame that this episode takes so long to get to something thatâ€™s so real. I suppose thatâ€™s an ironic comment to make, given that the point of the con here was to create a believable â€“ but untrue â€“ version of reality. But I expected a bit more sympathy from the team because the show has certainly offered this before. Weâ€™ve had antagonists who arenâ€™t black-and-white-evil, and I think that Dodgson should have been treated that way. Iâ€™m not saying his mental illness or his circumstances meant that he should not have been held accountable; thatâ€™s not fair either. His behavior was costing people their jobs and their livelihood, and this was definitely the kind of case that the Leverage team should have taken. I just wanted a bit more nuance, if that makes sense.
The video for â€œThe White Rabbit Jobâ€ can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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