Sometimes the Only Good Guys... are the 'Bad' Ones

Monday, December 12, 2011

Perhaps I am working under a mistaken assumption but... don’t we all love the good guys in stories? To see their missions go out in an awesome blaze of splendor – even as our logical minds tell us that it is in an enclosed special effects set, nothing can take the fun out of it, because it’s cool, right!? Is there any better way for a movie to end or more gratifying? I didn’t think so. What do you do though with heroes who have built a reputation on thieving? Why, you reform them, of course! That is the working premise for TNT’s summer hit Leverage, a show that hinges on the bad guys doing the right thing.

The series brings together an “elite” band of thieves and becomes a kind of modern day Robin Hood-like story, but it doesn’t stop with just that. It doesn’t assume that just because these characters are put into situations were good deeds are right in front of them that they won’t be tempted to return to what they know – thieving, conning and hacking – it explores their conscious in the most interesting ways, to watch them walk the good path vs. the bad. In this scenario, everyday Americans seek out – or in some cases it’s the reverse – team leverage in order to acquire their assistance in handling the injustices inflicted on them by the rich and powerful.

The unusual band of thieves is headed up by Nathan Ford, an ex-insurance investigator who was familiar with each of his cohorts in his past line of work before Nate and company were launched and they joined forces. Nate is the “hero” influence of the bunch, he is the one who – according to Sophie, sees them all “ruined” for their trade. In a certain sense, Nate is also that guy with the most flaws but he becomes the person they all turn to in order to help them do good – something that gives the crew a sense of pleasure… of patriotism… of satisfaction. Leverage came together under suspicious circumstances but now the five-person crew thinks of each other as family. There is Hardison (hacker), Eliot (hitter), Sophie (grifter) and Parker (thief). Each of these characters, somehow have something about them that we can relate to, even when their lives revolve around criminal mischief – and activities we’d never dream of engaging in – above all, they are flawed, imperfect even in a show coming out of Hollywood and airing on a popular cable station. Even for normal people, it is a struggle to constantly be always “with it,” to go against the grain and stand out as being different. The fact that writers take that concept and throw all sorts of disputes in their paths makes for interesting television. Many of the topics that Leverage challenges itself with is… just… human nature – imperfections and all, the good and bad.

The first season of Leverage  had a lot of things to improve on – and it does so in its sophomore set. The cons are bigger, the characters more engaging and everything is just… cooler! Writers test the characters in a number of ways to better convince us just how noble this band of ex-thieves is turning out to be. In a first season episode the gang is pitted against a ruthless businessman who is callous enough to bring down an entire passenger plane just to be rid of two “inconveniences.” True, four of the five team members are on that plane, but they unanimously decide to save the passengers from a fiery death at the risk of their own lives. Later in the show, we begin to get a better notion of Eliot’s character and discover that he has a soft spot for abused kids. Anytime he suspects a child is being ill-treated it affects him like nothing else. Just another bit of confirmation that these reformed thieves truly believe in what Nate is trying to lead them towards.

I’ve found that I really enjoy this working theory. In my television experience, it is something new. Whatever I watch – whether it be film or TV, it is rare that I want to see a villain redeemed, that I think he even is redeemable. I realize that I am thinking more of hardcore criminals where as this cast of characters didn’t intentionally hurt people, but still when I find something that I am constantly rooting for the “bad guy” to end up on the straight and narrow, it becomes a fun change. Clients are often wary of hiring Leverage but thus far we haven’t been asked to question our favorite band of thieves. In this scenario, the bad guys are really the good ones and the outwardly do-gooders are… well… just wicked. What... fun!

Seasonal reviews of this show will be upcoming in the next month. 


  1. I enjoy heroes, but more often than not I like the villains just as much. I excuse this by saying that without them, the hero would never get a chance to be heroic, but the plain truth is -- bad guys have more fun. I'm always surprised but delighted if and when a bad guy turns to the good side (like Sylar in "Heroes"), and yeah, it is fun to see "bad guys" doing "good" things.

    Never have seen "Leverage" but have heard some good things about it.

  2. Very true, Charity.

    There are a select few "baddies" that I can... like, but I don't think I've ever "connected" with any such characters. Guy (Robin Hood) semi redeemed himself before all was said and done, and I wanted to "like" one of the villains in G.I. Joe because of his past, but alas, I never did wind up finding him someone to root for. Whenever a villain turns good, that is always preferable.

    As for bad guys having more fun... I don't know about that. ;D I think the heroes have some pretty cool abilities and/or times, too.

    Leverage starts out really "rough." It isn't brilliant by any means, but very entertaining. Nowadays it actually holds its own while investing in its characters. I am currently getting close to closing out S3 and am still loving it. =)

  3. This sound really cool :) And, yeah, I'm always drawn to the "heroes". For some odd reason, when I find out that they used to be "bad" I just like them even more! :D

  4. Oh there is something about a bad boy... ;) I really enjoy Leverage (mainly because I love Timothy Hutton! at least that is the reason I came to the show). It is such a fun show and the relationship dynamics between the team are just fabulous -- because of that it is a show with more "meat" than one would initially expect, if that makes sense.

  5. Trinka - I love this show. Before the week is out, I have S1 "scheduled" to be published, so you'll have to let me know what you think of it. =)

    This concept is cool in that way - the baddies turning good. It is something a little... different, and I like that.

    BTW: love your new profile pic., girl. So... artistic. =)

    Ruth - LOL! I know what you mean. ;D

    Over the years its been on, Leverage has improved - a lot! I am so impressed with where it is going these days and hope it continues such trends. The only thing I do feel "sorry" about is the way Nate (Timothy Hutton) is constantly blamed for things - they weren't happy when he was being reckless (his drinking), they weren't happy when he was sober, and they weren't happy when he gave up his freedom to save them! I mean, come on! Give the guy a break!! ;-D

  6. People do worry about me and my love of villains, but I think it is the Mastermind aspect of my personality surfacing, because bad guys usually are more intelligent than the good guys. They plan, they scheme, they manipulate, and the good guy generally falls right into the midst of it. Who is smarter? Lex Luthor or Clark Kent? Lex, by a mile! I admire their intelligence, but not their lack of morality. ;)

    And yes, villains have more fun. They get to blow stuff up!


  7. Hmmm... that is worrisome. *grin* I am totally sticking up for the heroes here and saying that there are some that can match wits with the villain - and they still win at the end of the day, too. =D My first introduction to the whole Superman fan base will likely come with next year's new Amy Adams version. I am excited to see Henry take on a different role and Amy is just adorable.

    I will tell you this: these "good guys" blow up things - ALL THE TIME. ;D


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