Leverage: The 3rd Season
Directed by Dean Devlin et al
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 680 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: June 7, 2011
Review Date: May 31, 2011
Put together a team that completes complex capers a la Mission Impossible while pulling elaborate cons on wealthy, established 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 third season of Leverage is just as entertaining as the first two especially since we’re seeing much more humanity from the characters now as more about their past lives becomes known to the others.
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 which were heavily focused on during the first two seasons are not a problem at all 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 we’re left with cliffhangers at almost every commercial break, so this usually necessitates some quick improv or a go-with-the-flow switch with the game plan changing radically. As 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.
The third season finds Gina Bellman back full-time as a member of the team after taking half of the last season off for real-life maternity leave. There is also a kind of season-long story arc involving the team choosing jobs that will lead them closer to crime kingpin Damien Moreau as orchestrated by a Moreau enemy played appallingly by Elisabetta Canalin. Once again this season, two of the best escapades are jobs that gave Christian Kane opportunities to strut his stuff: in one he must sing a country song for record executives (helpful since Christian Kane had a CD about to debut) and in the other, he and Hardison are fending off a team of mercenaries in the woods without the usual support from their teammates. An especially entertaining caper involves thief Parker taking on a job through her old protégé played by Richard Chamberlain but getting in too deeply and having to rely on the team to come to her rescue. And the reappearance of a former nemesis, Chaos played with great glee by Wil Wheaton, makes for a terrific Christmas episode. The season ends with a two-part case which involves the final confrontations with international bad guy Damien Moreau (Goran Visnjic), but unlike the two previous seasons which saw the team split up or their leader sacrifice himself to the police for their sake, the cliffhanger this year is much more audience-friendly. Other guest stars making notable appearances this season are Ayre Gross, John Schneider, Tom Skerritt (as Nate’s dad), Bruce Davison, John Billingsley, James Frain, and Dave Foley.
Here are the sixteen episodes which are contained on four discs that make up the episodes for season three. The names in parentheses are the participants in that episode’s audio commentary:
1 – The Jailhouse Job (Dean Devlin, John Rogers, Aldis Hodge)
2 – The Reunion Job (Jonathan Frakes, Aldis Hodge, Michael Colton, John Aboud, Chris Downey, John Rogers)
3 – The Inside Job (Geoffrey Thorne, John Rogers, Beth Riesgraf, Chris Downey)
4 – The Scheherazade Job (John Rogers, Aldis Hodge, Chris Downey)
5 – The Double-Blind Job (John Rogers, Melissa Glenn, Chris Downey, Jessica Rider, Marc Roskin)
6 – The Studio Job (Jonathan Frakes, John Rogers, Chris Downey, Scott Veach)
7 – The Gone-Fishin’ Job (John Rogers, John Harrison, Rebecca Kiesch, Aldis Hodge, Chris Downey)
8 – The Boost Job (Marc Roskin, John Rogers, Aldis Hodge, Chris Downey)
9 – The Three-Card Monte Job (Dean Devlin, John Rogers, Christine Boylan)
10 – The Underground Job (Marc Roskin, John Rogers, Chris Downey)
11 – The Rashomon Job (Arvin Brown, John Rogers, Chris Downey)
12 – The King George Job (John Rogers, Christine Boylan)
13 – The Morning After Job (Jonathan Frakes, John Rogers, Chris Downey)
14 – The Ho, Ho, Ho Job (Marc Roskin, John Rogers, Michael Colton, John Aboud, Chris Downey)
15 – The Big Bang Job (Geoffrey Thorne, Marc Roskin, John Rogers, Christian Kane, Aldis Hodge, Chris Downey)
16 – The San Lorenzo Job (Marc Roskin, John Rogers, Scott Veach, Aldis Hodge, Christian Kane, Chris Downey)
The programs are framed at the widescreen television aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and are anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. Images sport a very warm, appealing look in all of the interior scenes, and sharpness is generally excellent throughout. Color saturation levels are quite deep for standard definition transfers, and flesh tones are agreeably rendered. Black levels are excellent, too. There are the usual problems with moiré patterns and aliasing in tight line structures found in the Boston flyovers which are placed between scenes, and there’s slight pixilation to be seen occasionally and some minor edge enhancement from time to time. There are also some veiled filters on some shots lessening their sharpness in the latter half of the season. Each episode has been divided into 5 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track features excellently recorded dialogue which has been placed in the center channel. The music provides the transfers with their most consistent element of surround envelopment, but occasionally one will hear selected ambient sounds placed in the rears or panned through the soundstage though as with many television programs, these happen only on rare occasions. The LFE channel gets to show its stuff on those reasonably frequent times when terrific explosions rock the audio track.
There are audio commentaries provided for every episode of the season. Generally, the participants include the episode’s director and (usually but not always) the writer(s) who explain the genesis for their ideas and how well they feel the finished product reflected those aims. Co-creator/executive producer John Rogers is present on every track, and he’s a great cheerleader for the show and its creative staff. Occasionally, however, the episodes are crowded with too many participants who talk over one another and laugh too heartily at one another’s jokes and drown out what others are saying.
There are four deleted scenes scattered across three of the discs. They’re presented in anamorphic widescreen but none run longer than 45 seconds.
The season’s gag reel is in anamorphic widescreen and runs 5 ¾ minutes.
“On the Set with Michael Colton & John Aboud: The New Writers of Leverage” is a for-fun “interview” with the two new staff writers for the show who in the featurette are basically chased out of the soundstage and off the lot as they try to talk about their work. It runs 2 ¼ minutes in anamorphic widescreen.
“What Does a Producer Do?” is a montage of four series producers who explain in their own words what they contribute to the series. This runs 2 ½ minutes in anamorphic widescreen.
“Inside the Leverage Writers’ Room” in quickly edited segments shows us a concept from initial idea to outline and script form (in various drafts and rewrites). This runs 2 ½ minutes in anamorphic widescreen.
In the lengthiest of the included featurettes, director Marc Roskin and special effects coordinator Mal Franco discuss two sequences which required special effects: the swimming pool rescue and the warehouse shootout, both from “The Big Bang Job.” This anamorphic widescreen featurette showing behind the scenes footage of the making of the episode runs 7 ¾ minutes.
3.5/5 (not an average)
Leverage is an above average caper series which, while formulaic in structure, still manages to present a fair share of thrills and surprises in each episode. The DVD release of its sixteen third season episodes features very good video and audio quality for standard definition which will keep fans entertained until new episodes begin airing on June 26, 2011 on TNT.