The other night, I found myself watching Ocean’s Thirteen for, to be conservative, the 11teenth time. I love heist films. Likewise, I embraced the likes of TV’s (short-lived) Thief and even (the short-lived) Smith. But TNT’s Leverage, arriving when it did, really took the baton from Danny Ocean, offering a small-screen version of that stylized spin on modern-day Robin Hoods, burglars with a cause.
I’d be lying if I said that Leverage never ebbed in quality. In fact, this past season’s Inception-like second episode I frankly couldn’t finish, it had veered so far from the series’ original construct and slightest whiff of plausibility.
But man, did the show manage to go out with a final bang this Tuesday night, delivering one of its best, smartest riffs on the Ocean’s-like “What you think happened, didn’t — but this did” formula.
Most “simply” recounted… the caper drama’s very final hour opened with Nate, looking a bit worse for wear, being held somewhere and questioned about a bungled job, one that left several of his friends dead. As related by the mastermind, he and his team set out to breach the well-secured Highpoint Tower, to secure a trial drug that would help a patient of the pediatrician that once cared for Nate’s ill-fated son. To do so, Parker went in through the roof, only to get pinned down in an elevator shaft with Hardison (who had come in through the lobby posing as an alarm service tech). As Parker took a bullet from a cop who saw through their ruse, Hardison plummeted several stories, breaking his leg and busting up his insides. Eliot did his best to fend off other burly obstacles, but even he, on his dash for the getaway van, took a bullet straight through the back. Nate and Sophie, in the front seat, did their best to dodge a police blockade and were last seen about to leap an opening drawbridge. It was all extremely grim stuff that, as directed and presented on-screen, had you wondering if the con was very much no longer on for this band of bandits.
But as Alcatraz‘s Emerson Hauser would say, “That’s not what happened. Not at all.” Instead — as promised by Aldis Hodge back in July — we were finally made privy to the real reason Nate relocated their operation to Portland for Season 5.
The woman interviewing Nate in the “hospital” — revealed to be Interpol agent Casey (played by The Shield‘s Catherine Dent) — saw holes in his story, and gleaned that Parker in fact had entered Highpoint through a tunnel that connected to a theater where Sophie was staging/starring in MacBeth. Secondly, Parker never was after a trial drug but an Internet server room. When Casey’s investigation suggested that Parker was still cowered inside that room, waiting for their target — an incendiary file known as “The Black Book” — to pass through the pipes prime for pinching, the Interpol agent’s boss, none other than Jim Sterling (Hi, Mark Sheppard!), keyed her and a team of agents in to conduct a search. But Parker, along with Hardison and Eliot, had embedded themselves within that team, then stayed behind after Casey turned up nothing. They then grabbed the needed hard drive and exited back through the tunnel, losing themselves amid the cast of Sophie’s play. (Eliot’s “shooting,” meanwhile? All staged for the security camera, with Nate playing the “cop.”)
Nate later got led to a prison transfer vehicle, his fate seemingly sealed in the wake of the confirmed robbery and the discovery of dummy corpses he had used to fake a heist-gone-bad. But with Casey none the wiser, Sterling did his longtime frenemy a solid and wished him well, knowing that Sophie was behind the wheel. (When did Sterling get wise, though? Because Nate purposely distracted him when Parker et al sneaked into the server room.) Later, the team reconvened to celebrate their grand theft and watch as Nate proposed to… “Laura” (not Sophie’s real name). And with those two lovebirds now out of the game, the final scene gave us sleek-and-steely Parker, flanked by Eliot and Hardison, explaining to a new oppressed client how they could provide… leverage.
All told and as promised by show boss Dean Devlin, who suspected this could be (and in fact was) it, the season finale played perfectly as a series-ender, delivering a memorable combo of sleight-of-hand and misdirection, serving up a bit of romantic closure and calling in an old “friend,” but also planting a seed to show us how the con ostensibly would go on.