Leverage: A Caper on the Heights!

Leverage - Long Way Down - Erik Heinila

TNT’s terrific bad-guys-turned-good series, Leverage [Sundays, 9/8], returns this weekend with a challenge unlike any they’ve ever had before – to pull off a caper on mountain, in a blizzard!

The Long Way Down Job opens with the last message Alan Scott [Eric Stolz] sent his wife before he died in a climbing accident on Mount Kibari in Alaska. We cut to a helicopter and shots of the base camp on the mountain, where Nate [Timothy Hutton] is being berated by Elliot [Christian Kane] for not laying low after the job they pulled off at the conclusion of last season. Meanwhile, Hardison [Aldis Hodge] is complaining about the cold and Parker [Beth Riesgraf] is being Parker. Sophie [Gina Bellman], needless to say, is the only one who has made herself at home with the rich boys in the main tent.

The reason Nate has assembled the team so early is that Alan’s wife [Haley Talbot] has put him onto a mortgage fraud scheme being run by John Drexel [Cameron Daddo] – proof of which may be found in a journal Scott kept with him. Coincidentally, a break-in in their home left their computer scrubbed clean of all his e-mails.

The pal is for Parker and Elliot to find Scott’s body and retrieve the journal while Sophie and Nate stall Drexel. Hardison will maintain communications and work on pinpointing Scott’s final resting place – while making communication with the rest of the world impossible for Drexel.

As usual, the plan goes awry; because of the unusual setting, it goes awry in slightly different ways – requiring improvisation of a more than usually heightened sort.

When last we saw Nate and Sophie, the circumstances were more than a little intimate and writers John Hortua and John Rogers use that add an underlying tension between the two throughout. The possibilities that were hinted at between Parker and Elliot – and Parker and Hardison – also take an interesting turn [and either way, you know it will be strange…].

The Long Way Down Job is one of Leverage’s more out there episodes, but that makes it even more fun than usual. Between the setting and the burgeoning relationships, we get to see sides of the show’s characters that we might not have suspected – or maybe not exactly, anyway.

Dean Devlin does a lovely job of setting things up with a cool helicopter in the mountains shot that firmly establishes that we’re not in the big city anymore. Because of the isolated setting, it seems like the fourth season premiere is moving less quickly than usual, but that’s mostly an illusion caused by scenes in which Parker and Elliot stalk through hip deep snow. Devlin plays those scenes off the ones back at base camp in a way that plays with the audiences time sense just a bit.

In terms of the actual job, both the team’s objectives and the plan are much more straightforward than usual, which allows the writers and director to play with the undercurrents of the group’s dynamics a little more than we’ve seen in the past. The result is an episode that maintains the show’s level of intelligence, charm and wit while further developing its depth. Plus, it’s just a whole lot of fun.

Final Grade: B+

Photo by Erik Heinila/courtesy TNT