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.
This is a diagram of the main con plot (red) and character subplot (pink).
The first minute of the plot sets up the reason for the con (a man died taking pills the manufacturer knew weren’t safe); the second minute of the plot sets up the character problem: Parker still isn’t a team player. She’s taking risks and endangering the rest of the team and she won’t listen when they tell her she’s hurting the work they do. Then she opens her mail and finds out that one of her aliases has jury duty, and Nate says she has to go. If she has to work with eleven other people, maybe she’ll learn something.
From then on, the plot and subplot merge because of course Parker finds out somebody’s rigging the jury and brings the team in on it. Now Parker has to connect to people in order to fulfill her part of the con. There are three places at roughly the turning points in the plot where Parker’s subplot gets its own scenes: when Sophie tries to train her to convince people to do things, at the midpoint when one of the jurors tells her she’s the nicest one there, and at the crisis point when she says “I can’t do this.” The rest of the plot focused on the twists and turns of the con, keeping the story moving. At the end, there’s two minutes of resolution, one minute for the con in general with some father/son bonding between Nate and Hardison, and one minute for Parker who has an invitation to lunch from “Alice’s friend.” Parker has made a small but significant leap in her character arc, and no main plots were harmed in the process. (Hardison also has a very small character arc in this as Nate has to throw him into the deep end to fake being the widow’s lawyer. He’s having a hard time, but when he apologizes to the widow, she tells him he’s the best lawyer she’s ever had, and then at the end Nate tells him he can do anything. Which Hardison of course snarks about, but still, small growth arc there for Hardison.)
And now the community. After nine episodes, the team is still evolving into family, but by now it’s a family that recognizes each other’s personality problems and is willing to point them out, in this episode, Parker’s selfish addiction to risk which happens in part because she doesn’t connect to the other people enough to see what she’s doing to them. Her detachment from people is shown in the way she speaks of Alice in the third person and continually has to be told by the others on the team that she’s Alice. But this is a family that also helps, so they all come together to coach Parker on how to be human, with Sophie taking the lead in the Mom role.
Parker’s success is shown when a person Parker meets on the jury sends her a note asking her to have coffee. Parker says, “Alice made a friend,” only to be told for the umpteenth time, “You’re Alice, you’ve made a friend,” and it finally sinks in: Parker has a friend. She’s still crazy, but if you look at who she is in this episode compared to who she was in the pilot, the change is clear, and it was done without Parker saying, “Hey, I feel different,” or the writers stopping the main plot for a Very Special Parker Moment: she made her friend and moved her character arc not just while she was working the team con, but because she was working the team con, as part of the team con.
Fun fact: The production hired Apollo Robbins to come in and train Beth Riesgraf to do lifts. She became so good at it that Robbins said she could probably do it as a living. Almost every lift Parker does in the series was really done by the actress.
Equally Fun Fact: Robbins plays Parker’s doppelgänger in “The 2 Live Crew Job,” so his character’s lifts are real, too.
10 thoughts on “Leverage Sunday: The Juror # 6 Job, Integrating a Single Character Subplot”
I am loving this series on community and even though I had just finished watching the last 2 seasons of Leverage this summer, really enjoying the re-watch with your notes. Seeing this show in a whole new light. I think the community aspect of the show is why I have enjoyed it so much, and has illuminated a thread of what I enjoy in entertainment. The idea of community. Which I have always thought you have done an excellent job in your books. Loved the community of women Nell had around her in Fast Women that grew to include Gabe and Riley, the community of Bet Me – especially the rehearsal dinner scene- was awesome, and the other that seems to stay with me is the Goodnights with extras (Andrew, Jeff, and Ethan) from Faking It. Speaking of Faking It, could totally see Davy in the Leverage world.
I think community is a great aspect of writing romance because it can foster a romance or attack it, depending on how the romance affects the community. (And thank you for the compliment.)
Before I watched all of these in order, I would drop into an episode on TNT occasionally, so I didn’t notice until I watched it all just how well they arced Parker. I’m trying to remember, and I think there are three or four more episodes over the series that focus on her. “Inside” is back story, right? But “Boost” was definitely another step in arcing her. “Girls’ Night Out” brought back Peggy and showed how Parker handled friendship at that stage, and then there was “Broken Wing.”
Parker is crazy, but they established immediately that she was damaged for a reason, and it’s always nice to see the team help her with the consequences of that. Sophie does it the most (she’s Mom), but I also really love it when Eliot gives her advice. He’s so reluctant, and usually starts by telling her he doesn’t want to hear about whatever it is, but he always listens to her. And then there’s Nate. Aside from the beginning of this episode, I don’t remember him ever arguing with/yelling at Parker, even when something she does puts the others at risk. Parker has serious problems, and she’s the baby. He makes sure she understands it was a bad decision, but he’s nice about it with her to a degree he might not be with the others (most evident in “Boost”). They’re all protective of Parker’s emotional state. Hardison is usually the one we see that in, because of their romantic subplot, but it’s there in everyone else, too.
I love the very last scene in the series. It’s Parker, Hardison, and Eliot doing the Leverage speech to clients, but Parker’s in Nate’s place, telling the clients that they understand their pain, and that they’re there to provide leverage. She’s moved from Insane Baby to Spokeswoman. It’s lovely. It’s also the reason I picked her arc to follow. They all arc, but Parker’s arc is the biggest. Also, I just love Parker.
Thanks for the fun facts. I knew neither before reading your post.
I can’t bring myself to skip ahead so I’ve been watching it order and haven’t gotten to this particular episode yet. I just watched The Stork Job, though, and Parker about broke my heart with “They might turn out like me.” Interestingly, in the episode before, The Bank Shot, she grumbles about people ribbing a ban with no exit strategy, then in TSJ, she gets chastised for the same thing. Then there’s the exchange with Hardison where she says, “I know, we’re a team.” Then later, “We’re more than a team.” Because they had her back, even though she’d gone rogue.
They do a nice reversal on that. In the first one, she says, “I know we’re a team,” and Hardison says, “We’re more than a team.” In the second one, Hardison says “We’re a team,” and she says, “We’re more than a team.” It’s lovely. She really has an amazing character arc in this, as does Nate. The other three definitely arc, but it’s not like Nate’s (drunk, tortured, and angry to sober, at peace, and happy) or Parker’s (damaged and out of control to secure, sane, and in charge).
Woot, you’re doing Leverage! (I’m a few weeks behind… Life. Oi.) I actually started it from the beginning again a few weeks ago because my future SIL had only seen sporadic episodes from S3 on. Until last night, I actually hasn’t seen anything past S4’s The Van Gogh Job (when it was on live tv I had a newborn and, yeah) so it’s fun to see all the “new to me” episodes.
Parker’s been my favorite since Nate said in the pilot, “You got Parker? Parker’s crazy.” GENUIS set up and and they totally followed through. This is such a great episode for her, too, although there’s a great sequence in The Bank Shot Job where she’s in the night deposit box waiting for the dad to get her the money and she’s impatient but his plea about his wife gets through to her and she softens and handles it beautifully.
I think you nailed it when you said above that the show does a really good job of keeping the con front and center and then weaving little bits of character stuff in and out as they go. And the DVDs are worth the price of admission for the commentary feature alone. Such a great mix of anecdotes and fun facts and technical stuff and when Jonathan Frakes directs, those are some of the best commentaries. ;p
And now I have to buy the DVDs. Damn.
I just started listening to the commentaries. They are amazing. They always have a writer in the room, to talk about inspiration and character. And they always have a director who talks about interesting filming stuff (most of the time). And then they share the cool stuff about Apollo and how some of the tech is real. I feel like I’m learning and being amused at the same time.
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