Season Two of Leverage is interesting. Having established the team in Season One, the writers test the community in Two: Nate’s sober and mean, Sophie leaves two-thirds of the way through to find herself, and then Nate starts drinking again and comes undone, leaving the kids to band together to survive. Sophie’s departure was not a production decision: Gina Bellman was gone for six episodes on pregnancy leave, so they did the smartest thing possible and kept her in touch with team through phone calls and Skype, but her loss is felt keenly. It’s an oddly disjointed season, which made analyzing it for community growth a challenge.
Still, I think that testing is important for the growth of any community, just as it is in any relationship. “The Bottle Job” is the episode in which Nate starts drinking again, which means it’s a good one to look at for a community that’s breaking from within, so I’m switching to that for Sunday. I’m also dropping and adding shows to the schedule to give better topics on aspects of community. Apologies for the changes.
The New Schedule: Continue reading
Before we get to Leverage, let’s talk about foils and doppelgängers.
A foil, in literary terms, is a character who stands in comparison to another character, and by contrast, illuminates the second character. It takes its name from the jeweler’s practice of backing their diamond cases with foil to make the gems shine brighter, but in fiction it’s done to deepen the reader or viewer’s understanding of character. Take Macbeth and Banquo, for example (because their my favorite example). Continue reading
The first episode of the second season nails down what the first season built toward: Sophie, Eliot, Hardison, and Parker are a team; Nate still think he’s better than they are. “I am not a thief,” he tells them when they try to get the gang together again, but there’s somebody in trouble and Nate’s a sucker for saving people. Continue reading
Note: The blog broke last night so I didn’t get to revise this and clean it up, but it’s Sunday and it’s getting late so this is going up as is. Apologies for the sloppy work.
“The First and Second David Jobs” are just good storytelling, period, but they’re also great community building because “The First David Job” destroys the community and “The Second David Job” restores it, stronger than before. And all of that happens because the team meets Nate’s nemesis and doppelgänger, James Sterling, aka “The Guy Who Never Loses.” Continue reading
And here’s “The Juror #6 Plot” Breakdown.
An underlying motif in this plot is the game of chess, a motif that Leverage references throughout its five-season run. This episode is more blatant than most of the other stories (but not all; Sterling plays their game in “The Queen’s Gambit Job”) because the mark plays chess while she tries to steal the verdict. The plot moves are chess moves, with each side taking a piece from the board until the end Nate shows Earnshaw, the mark, that he’s taken her king, the crystal chess piece from the board in her command center. Lovely use of motif.
Leverage has five members in its community which is a problem if you want to arc your characters by showing how the events of their stories change them and make them grow. One solution is to skip the character arcs and just do action stories, but that leaves a story with characters who become boring because they always react the same way, always do the same thing, Trying to arc each team member in every episode is just as bad; it results in truncated, chaotic plots and not much growth. A third option, giving an episode over to a single team member, would be almost as bad because it would kill the focus on community that makes this show so strong. The Leverage writers went with a different solution: giving characters their own subplots at different times in the series, making sure those subplots are integrated completely into the main plot so the character growth stuff never stops the main con plot in its tracks. “The Juror #6 Job” is a great example of this use of subplot. Continue reading
Since this series of TV Sundays is about building a community, here’s a synopsis of the community building done over the first season of Leverage in the eight episodes that come between “The Nigerian Job” and “The Juror #6 Job” which is the episode for next Sunday Continue reading
Setting up a community isn’t easy; getting that many people on the page or screen and keeping them all individualized while combining them into a unit normally takes some time, a slow build so that the reader or viewer can get to know each member as the team gradually bonds. Some series–Person of Interest and Arrow, for example–do this over many episodes, adding one member at a time. And then there’s Leverage, a show that dropped five loners into the first episode, fused them into a unit, and never stopped running. The pilot for the series is a great tutorial on how to create a team very quickly while individualizing all its members. Continue reading
NOTE: The original of this post collated “community” and “team” as the same thing. They’re not. A team may be a community, but a community is not always a team. Go here for a discussion of what makes a story team. Stay here for the discussion of community in story.
Lately, I am fascinated by community in stories. I’ve always known it was important, but writing the Zo stories, I realized that they had a community as their protagonist; that is, it’s a group of stories that taken together, show how this community was formed. The individual stories have individual protagonists, but the book is about this group of people who through the struggles in their various plots are thrown together and bond. And that meant I needed to know a lot more about how to build and use communities (teams, families, workplaces, etc.) in fiction, which led me to the Leverage Binge Watch. Continue reading