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Leverage: Redemption looks even better than the original Leverage

  • "The original Leverage was a welcome remix of the crime procedural formula: a show that followed a similar problem-of-the-week structure, but had zero respect for cops or authority figures," says Gavia Baker-Whitelaw of the IMDb TV revival. "Starring a team of con artists, each episode involved an Ocean’s Eleven-style caper tackling some kind of systemic injustice: corrupt politicians, predatory corporations, etc. Running from 2008 to 2012, its lighthearted tone and lovable cast earned a dedicated following. Those fans will be glad to hear that the revival, Leverage: Redemption, is better than ever. Simple and goofy, yes. But perfectly formed."


    • Leverage: Redemption is a clunky shell of its former self: "For one thing, the production values are extremely low," says Amy Amatangelo. "Many backgrounds are so obviously fake. Then there’s the dialogue, which feels the need to keep reminding viewers about the overall premise of the show...And, unfortunately, the acting is subpar. We are just coming out of a pandemic so I’m not in the mood to be mean, but suffice to say the performances are not great even from those who you would expect to be on point. The charm of the original was the easy rapport among the leads; that’s missing in this go round. (It doesn’t help that Aldis Hodge, the strongest of the ensemble, is listed as a 'special guest star and departs the series after the second episode. He’s replaced by Aleyse Shannon, who joins the series as Alec’s foster sister Breanna, who—wouldn’t you know it—is also very good at technology.) Thankfully the series does improve with each passing episode. The pilot is the most awkward. You can almost feel the nervous energy. Maybe everyone was just adjusting to being back together."
    • Leverage: Redemption thankfully feels familiar, except it's more female-driven than the original: "It's not easy to explain just what made the drama Leverage so charming and addictive during its original run," says Liz Shannon Miller. "While the series, which ran originally on TNT from 2008 to 2012, was always grown-up enough to be enjoyed by adults, it was also family-friendly in the best ways, and in its first season quickly landed on a tone and ethos which created some deeply enjoyable viewing. Rather than strive for the heights of prestige TV, the series instead delivered sharp fast-paced stories about a crew of extremely talented criminals with unique specialties, who come together to use said special skills to take down injustices on a large and small scale. A writer should always know their intended audience when they sit down to write. So in the case of this review, know that I am writing about Leverage: Redemption very specifically for people like myself, who very much enjoyed the show in its original run but (thanks to a very healthy fear of change for which I definitely don't need therapy) might be wary of what this new iteration might offer, especially given the big cast changes being made. The good news here is that after some necessary table-setting occurs to explain what happened in the eightish years since the original series created by John Rogers and Chris Downey ended, composer Joseph LoDuca's familiar score kicks in, and the con is on."
    • Leverage: Redemption isn’t afraid to acknowledge time: "We aren’t picking up right where we left off," says Naomi Elias. "(Beth Riesgraf's) Parker has matured (she’s in therapy) but not much (she’s seeing a child psychologist because she likes the puppets), Hardison leads his own company (Leverage International), and Eliot knows he’s more than a hitter. This natural maturation and reworked group structure are one of a few things that have changed on a show that largely sticks to what it’s good at in its second act. Other changes include moving the base of operations from Boston to New Orleans and adopting two new crew members."
    • Redemption is revenge fantasy with a social justice strain to make it feel contemporary: "Overall, Leverage is Gen Z’s parents’ version of the Equalizer or Mission: Impossible-type series that babysat earlier generations," says Bob Strauss. "Though Redemption strives to reference news-cycling issues and the latest technological advances, it’ll probably play best with the people who found the original show an engaging time-waster. The sequel’s subtitle, by the way, informs the series’ best stab at a deeper theme. It mainly applies to Wyle’s character Harry Wilson, a guilt-ridden corporate lawyer who joins the gang to make amends for all he’s done to aid the evil rich. But if you pay attention and do some squinting, you’ll see how every member of the organization wants to absolve past mistakes. Conscience rarely dents Redemption’s slick superficiality, but reflecting the schemes the show is built around, it lends a layer of credibility to all the amusing trickery."
    • Gina Bellman and Christian Kane say they seamlessly got back into character for the revival: "I knew it was going to be fun, and I knew that we had that great chemistry that everybody connected with…,” says Bellman. “But you never really know, after all this time, how much your rhythms might have changed. But it was like we slotted right into each other, and it was fun to connect in that way again.” Kane adds: "We were a little bit worried. We’d all gone off and done some other stuff, playing with different flavors and different temperatures in the way we were acting, so to come back was like, ‘How’s this going to work?’ But I’m telling you, man, five minutes into it we all just high-fived each other and never looked back. It really felt like a true family coming back together.” Wyle says of joining the show: "That was the challenge. That was the exercise. Where do I fit? How do I lend my voice and harmonize with the rest of these guys? We’re all working for Dean Devlin, and we’ve all worked for Dean for so long. I feel like it starts with Dean. He has a vision, he has a sensibility, and he has a sense of humor. And then, John Rogers, who’s also been a partner on The Librarian and on the Leverage franchise, also has a singular voice. And because we were all marinated in John Rogers and Dean Devlin soup on our shows, it seemed like we fit very well together. There wasn’t a lot of transition difficulty. It was really fun, and we could tell that it was going to be fun, right from the first table read, which is so indicative of how an experience can go. Usually, it’s a microcosm snapshot. We were all isolated in different rooms, not even at one table, and yet, as soon as those characters started talking to each other again, you could just see how much they love each other and how much this was going to be a pleasurable experience."
    • Bellman says the Leverage cast members stayed in touch, while Noah Wyle had to figure out how he fit in: "It wasn’t scary because we’re all friends," says Bellman. "We’ve all stayed in touch and we’ve all checked in with each other. We’ve all discussed this wonderful trajectory of the fan base really pushing for a new imagining of the show. And so, it wasn’t like we were coming together after a long hiatus and seeing each other, like a deer in headlights. The joy of picking up on those rhythms that you’re talking about and picking up on each other’s quirks as performance is really fun. I just laughed. I remember laughing a lot in the first couple of episodes, seeing Christian scowling and seeing Beth’s inquisitive face, and then getting to meet these two new, great characters who came to join us. It was really great to be able to rediscover our own characters through their eyes. It was incredibly helpful for us, as actors, but I think it’s also a really great dramatic device for the show."
    • Noah Wyle on his Leverage: Redemption character: “There’s an adage when you start acting school, that you don’t play the bad guy as if he thinks he’s a bad guy,” he says. “Well, this is a bad guy that really didn’t know he was a bad guy. He was so focused on his own expertise that he didn’t really understand what his skills were emboldening these other people to go on and do, and suddenly he has this epiphany and realizes that his success has been responsible for all these atrocities taking place.” 
    • How Leverage: Redemption wrote off Timothy Hutton's character

    TOPICS: Leverage: Redemption, Leverage, Christian Kane, Dean Devlin, Gina Bellman, Noah Wyle, IMDb TV

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