Leverage: The 2nd Season
Directed by Dean Devlin et al
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 646 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
MSRP: $ 39.98
Release Date: May 25, 2010
Review Date: May 27, 2010
Put together a team that completes complex capers a la Mission Impossible while pulling elaborate cons on people who have cheated or harmed others like The Sting, and you’ve got the makings for Leverage, a wonderfully entertaining light action series that’s breezy, fun, and filled with both humor and human interest. With a cast headed by Academy Award-winner Timothy Hutton as the mastermind behind the schemes to bring down the frauds and repay their victims, the second season of Leverage is just as entertaining as the first.
Most of the series episodes follow a reliable formula: one or more victims of an unfair or deceitful scheme bring their story to recovering alcoholic Nate Ford (Timothy Hutton) (his problems with booze continue in later episodes this season). He gathers together his crack team of skilled charlatans: for muscle he has Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane), for hacking and tech work, he uses Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge), for femme fatale grifting there is Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman), and for general thievery he has Parker (Beth Riesgraf). Together these five can tackle almost any con job they can dream up. Of course, part of the formula is that halfway through every caper, something unexpected threatens to bring down the entire house of cards they’ve built, and this usually necessitates some quick improv or a go-with-the-flow switch with the game plan changing radically. Like with The Sting, the viewing audience is often not tipped off to every piece of the puzzle so there is almost always a delicious surprise for the viewer as well as a shock for the victim near each show’s end.
While the actors function sensationally as a tight ensemble, Gina Bellman’s real-life pregnancy this season (it’s noticeable even in the season premiere despite the herculean efforts utilized to disguise it) necessitated a replacement midway through the season, and Jeri Ryan’s Tara Cole fit in beautifully with the rest of the team. So effective was she as the girl-of-all-trades that it wouldn’t be shocking to see her return on a recurring basis in future seasons of the show. Among my favorite escapades this season were two that gave Christian Kane opportunities to strut his stuff: an MMA-themed episode found him doing some impressive fighting in the ring while a later episode involving a scam attempting to convince a felon he had a contagious disease found the menacing tough guy empathizing with a small boy being abused by his brutish father. Both stories showed the actor in fine form. The team meets up with another scam team in “The Two Live Crew Job,” one of the most inventive of the season’s episodes and one that promises return visits from some of thwarted experts. The season ends with a two part case which involves the FBI as well as Nate’s long-time nemesis played by Marc Sheppard. Other guest stars making notable appearances this season are Charles Martin Smith, Beth Broderick, Griffin Dunne, Wil Wheaton, Peter Riegert, Luke Perry, and Richard Kind.
Here are the fifteen episodes that are presented on four discs in this second season set. The names in parentheses are the participants for that episode’s audio commentary.
1 –The Beantown Bailout (Dean Devlin, John Rogers, Chris Downey)
2 – The Tap-Out Job (Marc Roskin, John Rogers, Albert Kim)
3 – The Order 23 Job (Dean Devlin, John Rogers, Chris Downey)
4 – The Fairy Godparents Job (Jonathan Frakes, John Rogers, Amy Berg)
5 – The Three Days of the Hunter Job (Marc Roskin, Melissa Glenn, Jessica Rieder, John Rogers, Chris Downey)
6 – The Top Hat Job (Dean Devlin, Peter O’Fallon, John Rogers, Christie Boylan, Chris Downey)
7 – The Two Live Crew Job (Dean Devlin, Amy Berg, John Rogers)
8 – The Ice Man Job (Christine Boylan, Jeremiah Chechik, John Rogers, Chris Downey)
9 – The Lost Heir Job (Peter Winter, John Rogers, Chris Downey)
10 – The Runaway Job (Marc Roskin, John Rogers, Albert Kim)
11 – The Bottle Job (Jonathan Frakes, John Rogers, Christine Boylan)
12 – The Zanzibar Marketplace Job (Jeremiah Chechik, Jessica Rieder, Melissa Glenn, John Rogers)
13 – The Future Job (Marc Roskin, Amy Berg, John Rogers, Chris Downey)
14 – The Three Strikes Job (Dean Devlin, John Rogers, Chris Downey)
15 – The Maltese Falcon Job (Dean Devlin, John Rogers, Chris Downey)
The series is presented on TNT-HD with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio in 1080i, and these downconverted 480p transfers look surprisingly good. Color is nicely saturated, and sharpness is generally very good despite an occasional soft shot, likely in the original photography. There are minor problems with moiré and some sporadic jaggies, but overall, the transfers are very appealingly presented. Each episode has been divided into 5 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound doesn’t milk the rear channels for great impact despite the series having a fair amount of action, explosions, etc. Dialogue is well recorded and always discernible, and there is more than adequate spread across the front channels. There is occasional music activity in the rears and once in a while a sound effect lands there, but it’s not a commonplace occurrence.
There are audio commentaries for every episode in the set. They’re populated strictly with behind-the-scenes personnel (see episode listing above for the names of each episode’s participants), and while some of them contain too many people for conversations that don’t land on top of one another, each one does make a point of explaining where the idea for the episode originated, problems with filming, praise for the local Portland, Oregon, talent on display, and estimations of the quality of the work. With plenty of beer on hand (we often hear cans being opened), there’s a fun and frolicsome quality with the commentaries that is appealing.
“The Creators of Leverage Q & A” is a question and answer session with creators John Rogers, Chris Downey, and producer Dean Devlin. They discuss the origin of the series, the casting of Timothy Hutton, the location shooting in Portland, the stunt and heist work, among other topics. It runs 19 minutes and is in anamorphic widescreen.
Producer/writer/creator John Rogers offers viewers a set tour of the two standing sets for the series: Nate’s apartment/headquarters and the downstairs bar. The anamorphic widescreen featurette runs 3 ¼ minutes.
“Behind the Boom” finds the show’s special effects coordinator discussing the various explosions which were set during one of the series’ principal episodes. It runs 7 ¼ minutes in anamorphic widescreen.
Co-star Aldis Hodge contributes a spoof of Leverage called “Hand Job.” It runs 5 ¼ minutes in anamorphic widescreen.
Composer Andy Lange discusses his original song “Not Sure Yet” which was written for the second season premiere. The 3-minute vignette is in anamorphic widescreen.
The show’s second season gag reel runs 9 minutes and is in anamorphic widescreen.
There are promo trailers for season one of Leverage and the CBS procedurals (CSI, NCIS) and Showtime series (Dexter, The Tudors).
4/5 (not an average)
Leverage had a very entertaining second season. With the actors settling masterfully into their roles and some tight script writing and excellent pacing in these capers, the show has found its voice and is now operating as a well oiled machine. The second season box set has some informative commentaries and other bonus features adding spice to the package. Recommended!