July 17, 2011

Episode Review: LEVERAGE, "The Van Gogh Job"

You got to give Leverage some credit; they are really trying out new things during Season 4. A few weeks back they had an episode that took place during a murder mystery which had little to do with an actual con, and this week's "The Van Gogh Job" was a character driven episode that focused more on the client than on the Crew pulling off an elaborate grift to take down some Baddie of the Week.

One of Nate's old co-workers came to him about a tip about a Van Gogh masterpiece that went missing during World War II. At first, Nate wasn't convinced that they should be in the art recovering game until it was implied that the person who was suspected of having the Van Gogh may be in trouble.

The Crew headed to Oregon to talk to Charlie Lawson, an African-American WWII vet, about what he knew about the missing Van Gogh. Initially, he was hesitant about talking to Nate, but after he realized that Parker and Hardison had a special relationship, he decided that he'd only talk to Parker since their bond reminded him of one he had with the girl that he loved.

Once Charlie started talking about his life, the episode became something new and wonderful. The majority of the story was told in flashbacks with Parker replacing people from Charlie's past with her current teammates, and of course she and Hardison stood in place of the star-crossed lovers.

While Parker listened to Charlie's story, the rest of the Crew had to scramble to find the lost Van Gogh before a gang of treasure hunters, retrieval specialists, and bad men got to it first. Luckily, Nate was able to piece together all of the details about Charlie's love, Dorothy, just in time to find the painting. This is Leverage though, so a twist was in order, and we found out that his old colleague used the Crew to find the art work for him, and he was going to cash in since he was fired by their old insurance firm, but he was handled easily enough.

"The Van Gogh Job" was as far from your typical episode of Leverage as you could get. Most of the elements that make up this show were not present: we didn't have a traditional mark, there wasn't a complicated scam to take down an evil corporation, and even the tone was different. "Van Gogh" was more of a character study on Parker. Even though we're watching Charlie's story the entire time, it's being told through Parker's eyes, so we get a glimpse about her as a person and how she feels about Hardison.

The role-reversal, and getting the chance to see the characters put on different personas within a different context, as characters in a story versus conning a mark, was a welcomed change of pace. The gimmick could have come off as overly sappy, but the episode didn't lay it on too thick. "The Van Gogh" job also gave us the opportunity to see Aldis Hodge and Beth Riesgraf show off their acting chops, and it was a great display of their talents.

While the different storytelling style had its benefits, "The Van Gogh Job" also had some minor hiccups. First off, I can understand why a viewer who watches this show for its procedure would have not liked this episode. A show shifting gears now and again is a good thing, but this episode was so different that it could have been off-putting for some viewers. I for one mostly enjoyed this episode, although it did not have as many laughs as I would've preferred, but I'll take effective story telling over jokes nine times out of ten.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • How great was Danny Glover? Leverage really knows how to get some good guest stars.
  • Eliot playing with the computer was worth a few chuckles.
  • The Father/Daughter bond between Nate and Parker is developing nicely.
  • It was nice seeing a glimpse of Eliot's life as a retrieval specialist.
  • Aldis Hodge speaking French was kinda hot, and that's coming from a straight dude.
  • Great episode, but not too many memorable quotes this time around.
Season 4 of Leverage has been shaping up to be one of the show's best because the writers and show runners are not handcuffing themselves to the same old formula. While shake-ups like "The Van Gogh Job" and "The 10 Lil'l Grifters Job" will not become the new norm, I'm all for these temporary breaks from the same old episodes.


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