Leverage was, while it was on, one of those shows I never looked forward to. I was always happy to watch it, and it never failed to entertain, but it never sunk its hooks into me the way other shows have. It was an hour of pleasantly diverting TV that came and went from my consciousness without putting up too much of a ruckus. But since it came to an end (at the right time, I should add — the cons were not quite as fresh as they had once been), I’ve found myself turning to it as comfort TV. I queue up an episode on Netflix, and bam, instant good mood.
The show is a Robin Hood fantasy for the modern age. Four super-criminals are led by a brilliant and honest man to bring down rich and powerful wrongdoers the law will never touch. And they do it with style. It’s Ocean’s Eleven every week with the same crew, and while the reversals might not bear up to close scrutiny, it’s entertaining enough for it not to matter. The best part of the show’s mission statement is giving each of its team a role and then allowing them to shine. Though there’s a certain amount of bleed-through on all of them, the iconic nature of the Hitter, Hacker, Grifter, Thief, and Mastermind means that the show is the simple pleasure of watching awesome people do awesome things awesomely.
I have trouble letting go of something I love, but I’m not suggesting that we bring back the same crew. That’d be too easy. What I’m suggesting is that we make a new crew out of other great characters. A new Leverage team filled up with badass ringers.
The most cathartic point of any episode is when Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane) gets to punch some of the bad guys. This is because Eliot is a master of the kind of freeform mayhem you don’t see outside of Arkham City. Eliot’s primary job on the con is to keep everyone safe, and his prescription for this is always fists. In this role, you need someone comfortable with a wide variety of weapons, and if they can help out on a con, so much the better. In short, you need Chuck’s Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski), the former CIA assassin turned bodyguard for everyone’s favorite nerd. She kicks a comparable amount of ass, and she’ll have a similar effect on the opposite sex.
Why this isn’t Buffy: Her romantic track record of falling in love with soulless monsters would inevitably lead to her falling for the mark.
It’s hard to replace Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge), because, let’s face it, the guy’s a wizard. Hardison was a combination of Q, the bad guy in Die Hard 4, and a non-evil Sauron. While the others went in, Hardison directed the action, unlocked doors, and cut camera feeds. He built false identities, planted fake websites, hacked banks and government installations. There were times when the team was pretty much Hardison and his Amazing Friends. Hardison is impossible to replace, but you know who comes close? Job from Banshee. He probably can’t con for shit, what with him refusing to talk like anything but a Southern preacher in drag. But he can hack, oh boy howdy can he hack. And even better, he’s a criminal in the Banshee universe, which means he’s also an unstoppable kicking machine.
Why this isn’t Mac: She was more of a troublemaker than a super criminal.
Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman) is the kind of elegant master criminal who puts the “artist” in “con artist.” She’s European, she steals priceless works of art, she plays a variety of upper-crust characters, she’s been involved in famous thefts that are so cunningly done, they’re not even recognized to be thefts until she’s long gone. While there’s no one quite like that around, there is a man who spent a lot of his time conning people into destroying themselves: Burn Notice’s Michael Westen. Sure, he’s a little more working class, but he once convinced a mark he was the Devil himself. Almost anyone from that show would be a good choice here, but you might as well go for the team leader. Especially because Michael’s skills are still fresh and if push comes to shove, he can always call the band back together.
Why this isn’t someone on Scandal or Gossip Girl: I don’t watch those.
Aren’t they all thieves? Well, yes, but there’s one member of the team whose job it is to do thief-type stuff. You know, the kinds of things that are class abilities for rogues in D&D. Someone to climb, slink through air ducts, pick locks. The physical part of thievery. Parker (Beth Reisgraf) did this with a ridiculously bendy body and nimble hands, but always faltered in the social aspect, due to falling somewhere on the spectrum. White Collar’s Neal Caffrey loses a bit on the physical side, but what he picks up on the social, to say nothing of his skills as a forger, says he’s a good addition. The only problem would be if Sophie ever met him. That would have to be love at first sight.
Why this isn’t Hannibal Lecter: Yeah, he plants evidence in the FBI and can move through the air like a ghost. He’s also super duper evil. Can’t have him on the team.
You need someone with conscience, but not so much that they’re not comfortable playing a ruthless full-contact chess game with the kinds of sociopaths that make up the insanely rich. That’s why Nate Ford (Timothy Hutton) was the perfect choice. A former insurance investigator whose son died when his insurance refused to cover an expensive treatment (yes, number Leverage among those shows that could only exist in America), Nate assembled the four greatest criminals in the world and gave them a purpose. There’s only one other character with this kind of experience: Ellen Parsons of Damages. She went up against Patty Hewes, a perfect picture of a powerful sociopath, and won, only walking away because she didn’t like what it did to her. Here, she’d be able to fight the good fight without compromising herself.
Why this isn’t Coach: Didn’t you watch Friday Night Lights? His team always got wrecked in the first half. If you’re going to do a con, you need to scout the opposition a little, which Coach apparently never did.
And there you have it, Sarah Walker, Job, Michael Westen, Neal Caffery, and Ellen Parsons: your new Leverage team.