Leverage Sunday: The Frame-Up Job and The Run-Down Job: Evolving Community

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As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’ve figured out why the last season of Leverage is my least favorite even though it has wonderful episodes: Each story moved the team closer to splitting up. As a writer, I applaud this. After four years, the team members are not just masters at what they do but tightly bonded in a family that nothing can destroy. Which means there’s no place else to go unless they find a way to destroy that invincible family.

Thankfully, they didn’t do that, but they did change the community, moving toward Nate and Sophie’s marriage and retirement from the con and the new Leverage International headed by, of all people, Parker, ably supported by Eliot and Hardison. It was absolutely the right thing to do narratively and creatively, but it took away the thing I loved best about Leverage: that family of five working together. I’m not complaining, I don’t see any other way they could have gone in a fifth season, and I would have said, “Hell, yes,” to a sixth season, but still . . . Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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Leverage Sunday: The Juror # 6 Job, Integrating a Single Character Subplot

"The Juror #6 Job" 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

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Managing Plot and Subplot

I watched three TV episodes this week about teams of good guys battling a mastermind who communicated with minions using ear coms. Two of them aired in the past week, the other is several years old, but the basic plot was the same: bring down the mastermind. The difference was in the way the stories used their subplots, and it was a big difference.

(Important Note: This is NOT a writing technique, it’s a critical approach. Don’t do this for your own stories, it’ll make you insane.) Continue reading

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Leverage Sunday: The Nigerian Job by John Rogers & Chris Downey: Creating a Community

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

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