Leverage Sunday: "The Radio Job" & "The Last Dam Job": Endings

356811_2 Here’s the problem with writing a series, any kind of series: every time you end a book or a season, you create a turning point, a culmination of that story. If you keep creating turning points, eventually the reader subconsciously starts to think, “Are we there yet?” And if you create an turning point that answers all questions and leaves all the characters in a place of strength and stability, you’re done. Anything you write after that will be epilogue, the stuff that happens after the story is over. Some series manage to avoid that trap by stopping after that satisfying ending (Life on Mars was brilliant at this); some keep going and slowly run out of steam (The Mentalist ended when Jane killed the Bradley Whitford Red John; everything after that felt like milking a premise to earn money). Leverage managed to makes its epilogue season–Season Five–entertaining still, but much of that was because they evolved the team into something else. Season Four was the last act of the Leverage team in the sense that this is the season that brought them to stability, security, and happiness as a team. Hardison Radio Job “The Radio Job” starts with Nate leaving the team to break into the Patents Office Building, which works about as well as you’d expect. The team finds him before he gets in the door. What’s he going in for? To get his father out. xg6OqAttNKI_0_0 The team is less than thrilled since Jimmy Ford is kind of a bastard, but Nate needs them, so they pull off the theft and an escape from the cops and Homeland Security, only to have Jimmy take the MacGuffin and go off to meet the bad guys in an abandoned warehouse, where he’s killed in an explosion, part of the payback from Victor Dubenich, the very first Big Bad from the pilot. Dubenich One of the most effective ways to create a feeling of closure is to bookend your beginning and ending. Repeat locations, repeat situations, repeat phrases of dialogue, repeat anything that will create a call-back in the reader or viewer’s mind, the sense that this conclusion was inevitable, the seeds planted from the beginning. The ending of “The Radio Job” and the entirety of the “The Last Dam Job” are brilliant at creating this sense of closure, which is wonderful for the episode (not so great for a series that has another season to run). It’s in “The Last Dam Job” that Leverage really attains the height of its five seasons. The team is up against not only a man who knows their individual strengths since he’s the one who put four of them together in the first place, it’s fighting a man who’s been nursing a grudge for over three years, watching their every move, studying them so that he knows exactly what they’ll do next. He has them boxed in because he knows them so well, so the team brings in their doppelgängers, friends and enemies Victor doesn’t know at all, and by double-teaming him defeats him brilliantly and utterly. Doppelgangers That by itself would make “The Last Dam Job” a wonderful finale, but even more powerful is the way it nails the arc of the community. From five people who were loners, only agreeing to a one-time job, to a team that is so tight that when Nate faces down his father’s killers intending to execute them, the other four are with him, watching him, not interfering but by their very presence letting him know that he’s more than that because he’s part of them. When Nate puts down the gun and walks, he’s not walking away from the bad guys, he’s walking toward the family he belongs with and can’t let down. The team in this scene is like a great frame: their presence takes a simple adventure scene and transforms it into character crisis and epiphany. And when Nate, the team member most distant from the others, chooses to join them, the community arc is complete, too. Nothing can destroy that team now. It’s a brilliant finale, but it set up some real problems for Season Five. I think the way the Leverage writers addressed those problems was the smartest path to take, but any path was going to be tricky because the community arc is over. Now what are you going to do? Well, you can complete individual characters arcs, set up the greatest job of the team’s career, and then have them recognize where their futures lie and part company, still a family, just not a team. For those of us who loved the team, it’s a problematical season, but for those of us who loved the tricky plots and the fascinating characters, it’s still must-see TV. Next week, Parker’s arc is completed when she’s once again working alone in “The Broken Wing Job.” The week after that, the beginnings of the end as the team splits into the younger three taking on terrorism (“The Rundown Job”), and Sophie and Nate solving a mystery as a virtually-married couple ala Nick and Nora Charles (“The Frame-Up Job”). And then finally, the real series finale, “The Long Goodbye Job,” which I have serious issues with, and summing up the series, which I do not have serious issues with because it’s in my Top Five TV Series of All Time.

21 thoughts on “Leverage Sunday: "The Radio Job" & "The Last Dam Job": Endings

  1. I agree that this would have been a perfect season finale, but there’s so much I love about season five that I’m still glad they kept going. “Rundown” and Frame Up” are my second favorite episodes (“Nigerian Job” is still at the top of that list). Nate was in a really good place in season five, and it was satisfying to see that, although that’s another signal that season was epilogue.

    Archie’s return here was really good for a number of reasons, but seeing Hardison interact with him like Parker’s boyfriend meeting her father was one of my favorite things about this.

    When Nate walks away from the gun, I did see it as him choosing the team. But Nate is still the mastermind, and I also think he knew what would happen if he left that gun just sitting there for the bad guys to grab. Much more fitting for them to take each other out, anyway. It’s not clear to me if that fall was fatal; Leverage doesn’t seem like that kind of show most of the time, but after everything they put the team through, it would be nice if they were at least maimed. Just a little.

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    1. I think, though, that by the time the bad guys went over the edge of the dam, they were largely irrelevant. I felt, watching it, that I wasn’t interested in whether they lived or died or got jailed. I had a sense of cosmic justice having been visited by the Leverage team and their own actions, and I didn’t much care about the details – I just wanted to know what happened with our team. Getting sidetracked into following what happened to the bad guys next would have detracted from the main story for me.

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  2. I also love Hardison’s moment with Kaos: “I finally get it. This is how Eliot feels, all the time. I just want to hit something.” It was a lovely moment of connection, and recognition of how far Hardison has come.
    And I loved that Sophie’s doppelganger isn’t a grifter, but Nate’s ex-wife.
    And that Archie finally claims Parker as his daughter. She’s secure in her own family, she doesn’t need the acknowledgement, she’s fought for her own self-growth rather than waiting around for anyone else to give it to her, and she deserves the icing on the cake of an obviously proud Archie introducing her to his other daughter and tasering Kaos for her.

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  3. I love this episode for so many reasons! It was fabulous the way it worked and it all worked! I also love how every character that came on the show was always played by the actor that started the character.

    This truly was the series finale with season 5 being an epilogue or almost a spinoff. Even so, I’m still sad there aren’t more episodes to watch.

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  4. I want to say thank you again for giving me the gift of Leverage. I loved it – and I loved watching it for the writing. Because of these posts, I paid attention in a different way than I have in the past. I really wish there were more episodes!

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  5. Hello Jenny! I’ve got a few questions for you that cover a couple of different topics. I apologize if they have already been answered in some form. 1) Can you make a book on all of your Leverage analyses? I’ve absolutely adored reading your critiques of the story, and more than anything it’s helped me as a writer. Even if the book is you just putting all the blog posts together, each as a chapter, I’d buy it! I can’t express enough HOW MUCH I love what you’ve written about the series. As soon as I get the ability, I plan to go back and watch the show with new eyes. 2) Do you have an update on your works in progress? I know you are working on the revision of the Lavender Blue series, and perhaps the writing guide. Is that all? You always drop bits of really intriguing stories here, and then they fade into the background. I did read your post on focus (g), but I was just curious how all your work in progress looks laid out side by side. 3) Not too long ago you were posting pics of your house/crafts/updated things you had done. I know you still have your projects, do you just not post pictures anymore?

    I just want to extend my support and gratitude for your work, in all of it’s forms. I’ve really enjoyed reading your work over the years, and even if you change genres (all for it, if that’s what you are inspired to write!), I will definitely follow you as a reader. I love your blog, and how you take apart writing. Props for being an awesome author and writer!!

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    1. Do you read reinventingfabulous.com? It’s Krissie’s (Anne Stuart) blog but Jenny is there sharing house & craft projects plus other good stuff.

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    2. 1) I’m putting together a post right now with links to all the Leverage posts, mainly because I went back to look at them and realized there was no way to read them in order. So give me a week, and that’ll be up. I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed the series; I love it even more now that I’ve analyzed it.

      2) Works in progress: You and Mollie and Jen and Jodi would all like to know.
      You Again: Krissie and Lani both like that one the best, but I’m just not connecting with it still.
      The Fairy Tale Lies stories: I am thinking seriously about writing those as graphic novels. I have them planned out and they’re all very, very visual, and I’ve been wanting to learn that story-telling language, so I’ve been talking to Alisa Kwitney about it, and she’s promised to help me (which is huge; she used to be a Vertigo editor).
      I’m working out the plot for Cold Hearts, a lot of it inspired by Leverage, but as I explained it to Krissie today over lunch, it became clear it’s massively complicated. So I have to rethink.
      And then there Stealing Nadine and Haunting Alice as companion books. Love those, but they’re still in the ruminating stage.
      And then there’s Ghost of a Chance which is a novella about Southie from Maybe This Time.
      The Liz books. Those are the ones most likely to get finished first.

      3) Cottage Saturday over on ReFab. I’ve got a lot of stuff almost done, so by the end of the summer there should be a lot of finished pix. (There’s stuff from Lani’s house on there, too.)

      And thank you so much for all the compliments!

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      1. I’ll look forward to the linky love post, as I’m behind on Leverage viewing. I just watched The Big Bang Job, which was fabulous in itself, but that stunt bit with Elliot shooting his way out of the warehouse was AWESOME. And I do not throw that word around lightly.

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  6. Whoops, and 4) What do you do with all of your collages? Have you thought about redoing a collage as a way to jumpstart a book? 5) Have you seen Firefly/Serenity, and will you do an analysis of it?? 6) What is your top 5 TV shows list?

    Thanks again!

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    1. Pam Regis has all the collages at McDaniel College, except for the ones I’m doing now. She’ll get those, too. Damn things are huge.

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      1. Which means that Pam has the coolest office, hands down, at McDaniel. People walk in who have never seen my office, and say, “Whoa! What are these?” I answer, “Drafts.” I point to the Bet Me collage and say, “This is the draft, or, at least, one of them” then I pick up a copy of the novel and say, “Here is the final version.”

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  7. Oh, I’d love to know what Jenny does with her collages, too! I enjoy the heck out of mine, and they really are so helpful. And so, so, SO much fun to make.

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