In the final episode of Leverage, we say goodbye. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to finish Leverage.
Trigger Warning: For death, blood, grief.
In the end, it seems fitting to me that Leverage conned us. It’s a meta-fictional end to a show that taught us to question perspective or point-of-view, right up to the point that they used it against us. I think this would be an interesting episode to re-watch because I’d like to track the points where Nate lied to us, the very people he’d gotten to trust over five seasons.
I suppose I could start at the beginning.
One Month Ago
Is anything at the start of this episode real? If we accept that “The Long Goodbye Job” was the writer’s attempt to view the audience as the mark, then I think that you could easily discard the entire premise with Dr. Giallo. It’s fake, isn’t it? It’s just a means to an end. It’s part of a story meant to draw us in because it promises closure to Nate Ford, giving him the one thing he’s never been able to get throughout Leverage: revenge on the system that allowed his son Sam to die. I realize now that things were never this simple, nor was this quite Nate’s goal to begin with. But it drew me in all the same, and I was caught, hook, line and sinker.
The team was going to get that drug released, and they were going to save lives.
There are a ton of callbacks to the first few episodes of the show, from the Steranko system to the dual building approach of the con. I’m realizing now that those aren’t just finale-worthy inclusions, but they’re part of the con on us. We question none of them because they feel so right. That’s why the scene with Parker and Nate on the roof of the theater works so well. On one level, it’s clearly meant to foreshadow the eventual evolution of the Leverage team, but it also keeps our attention elsewhere. We think we’re seeing the true story, unaware of our own manipulation.
That is, until Ellen Casey returns.
And asks Nate one question.
Does he remember how his friends died?
It was a bluff. It had to be. She couldn’t be telling the truth. This was an attempt to get Nate to reveal the details of the con and implicate them all in the process, right? Right???
Look, there were no bodies. I’m savvy enough to know that I needed to see some sort of body or confirmation of death to start freaking out. I knew that Nate could have easily been bluffing his reaction to his friends’ “death.” At the same time, this was a series finale, and it was possible, I suppose, that this would be the show’s final act. So I didn’t expect what came next. I watched the con go down. I felt an exhilaration watching this team do what they do so well, my reaction informed by the knowledge that this was the last con I’d ever see them pull off regardless of the outcome. Even when the unexpected variable – the police radio – came into play, I knew the team had faced worse countless times before.
And then Parker got shot and Hardison fell and his leg was bent the wrong way and this wasn’t right. It wasn’t. The team had been injured; we’d seen it. How many times had Eliot or Nate been shot at? How many times had they been stuck in seemingly impossible situations? All the fucking time. But Hardison’s fall was not something they could con themselves out of; Parker’s gunshot wound was not a simple abrasion.
It was worse than just bad. With Hardison nearly unconscious, Parker rapidly losing blood, and the team without what they needed, this con was already a bust. So that’s precisely when the writers drop the worst thing in our laps: Eliot gets shot through the back, plunging into the van, and this is not something you can come back from. Did I ever think I’d get to see Eliot screaming for Hardison and then holding his hand in joy, knowing that he got in the van, only to watch my OT3 to end all OT3s IMMEDIATELY DIE TOGETHER???
I was so ready to tell this show to fuck off forever.
Then the confirmation comes through. The body bags. The identification of the corpses. The video evidence of Eliot’s gunshot wound. It’s all there and I can’t deny it anymore and I am fucking upset. It’s at this point that the writers begin to erode away that very same certainty that I gained. It’s a brilliant move because it prevents the audience (YES, I’M INCLUDING Y’ALL BECAUSE IT MAKES ME FEEL BETTER) from stewing in grief and anger for too long. The details of the “first” con begin to erode. Why is there red plastic on the roof? Why didn’t Nate ever reveal the use of the Shanghai tunnels? Why did the team start their con a full month before the heist?
AND WHY THE FUCK IS NATE BEING HELD INSIDE A FAKE HOSPITAL WITHIN HIGHPOINT TOWER?
The Real Mark
Aside from us, there never was an attempt to release the drug that Dr. Giallo needed. Did she ever exist? I’m guessing she didn’t, as it would make sense that Nate would hide the truth within a fiction that sounded like the truth. Who would doubt Nate’s attempt to help the very doctor who helped Sam Ford? No one, including us.
Leverage has always been a show about going after the rich and the powerful and turning the tides of privilege, access, and accountability. Knowing the ending, it’s clear that Nate wanted his final con to not only be a work of grandeur and absurdity, but to be a chance to guarantee that there could be a future where these ideals could still be supported. The Black Book – the list of all the rich people who embezzled money and were responsible for the market crash that ruined people’s lives in the early 2000s – was the real aim of the heist. Why? Because it was the ultimate list of Leverage-style targets. Because it was the ultimate list of injustice. Because those who were supposed to protect the powerless and marginalized turned a blind eye to these crimes so that the world could “go on,” despite that it more or less ended for the millions of people who footed the bill for these monsters.
It’s the perfect way to go out.
The Real Heist
I don’t think I’ve ever been so thrilled to discover that I’ve been lied to and manipulated in my entire life. The reveal that not only is everyone alive, but that Sterling basically let them into the server room, was one of the most victorious things I’d experienced in a long, long while. Jesus christ, y’all! I know that the team often uses their opponents weaknesses against them, but this is just ridiculous. They take advantage of Interpol’s ignorance, particularly Ellen’s unfamiliarity with their team’s style. In Sterling’s case? They play off his certainty, well aware that Sterling would be steps ahead of them from the beginning.
This reveal was a spectacle, y’all. Now we know why there was that scene tacked on to the end of this season’s premiere: Nate’s secret was that he always wanted them in Portland to get the black book. But it’s not fantastic solely because it’s a positive outcome; the writers imbue these scenes with an emotional weight. When we see what really happened at the theater, it matters because SOPHIE WAS THE ONE GIVING THE PERFECT PERFORMANCE AS LADY MACBETH. Oh my god, she was so fucking good. It was Sophie’s coaching that enabled Nate to grift Ellen and get her (and us) to believe that he’d led his friends to their deaths. It was the Leverage team’s work in “The Queen’s Gambit Job” that influenced Sterling to let Nate and his friends go without prosecution.
There’s no redemption given to Sterling here, though, and I think that’s a fitting choice for his character. The Leverage team sought to act in the name of justice for people whom rarely got justice, and that was always a choice. There’s no neutrality in that act, and I think that was a vital point for this episode to make. Over the past five seasons, these characters went out of their way to choose to bring justice to this world. You can’t wait for it to arrive. You can’t hope things will better. You have to do the difficult, exhausting, and sometimes emotionally painful work to undo injustice in this world. It’s hard for me not to relate this to a lot of the things going on in my country because I know too many people who aren’t willing to do any sort of work at all. Or, possibly worse, they demonize those who are trying to bring justice to their communities.
The work that Leverage has done is not ending, though there’s closure here in “The Long Goodbye Job.” From Nate’s proposal of marriage to the passing of the torch, this final episode closes a huge chapter in all of these character’s lives. Nate and Sophie are out, but only because it’s the right time. Nate’s been grooming Eliot, Parker, and Hardison to do this job on their own. Why else does Sophie ask Parker if she’s okay with them leaving? Because she knew the influence she had on Parker’s life over the years, and she didn’t want to abandon her best friend.
But the time came for Nate and Sophie – er, Lara (!!!!!!!) – to move on from a life of capers, heists, and cons. It’s kind of sad, sure, but I like the idea that they’ll be able to build a life together. I love the fact that this episode ends much like Leverage started. There’s the overhead shot of the team splitting. There’s the deliberate framing of the trio as the new Leverage team with Parker in Nate’s place. There’s the head tilt and the word “leverage” spoken with purpose.
There’s too much injustice in the world to stop now, right?
On Monday, I will resume my reviews/videos of The Legend of Korra. You can read my reviews of the first season here; the videos for those episodes (and all future episodes of The Legend of Korra) can be downloaded here. The first review of season two will also contain information about how these reviews will be scheduled due to complications from my European tour and my move to New York City this summer. As always: I cannot thank this fandom enough. For the past few months, the Leverage community has consistently downloaded more videos than Supernatural and Star Trek COMBINED. You’ve commented in droves; you’ve sent me wonderful shit over Twitter and Tumblr. And y’all have helped me get through one of the darker and more frustrating periods of my life. I will be forever thankful for the joy and brilliance you gave to me even when you didn’t know that I needed it.
Thank you, Leverage. Thank you to this cast and these writers and the producers and everyone who brought this show into my life. It means everything to me.
You can downloaded the video for “The Long Goodbye Job” here for $0.99.
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