News broke this week that the season finale of Leverage could double as the series finale in the absence of a sixth season renewal. Though I’m not sure the crew behind the Leverage crew would actually try to pull the wool over the eyes of their loyal fanbase, the cynical part of me suspects that the December 25th episode was always meant to be the series finale, and Leverage is attempting one last con – on us.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the people involved – cast and crew – would go on if there was a sixth season. Executive producer John Rogers loves to point out that real life always inspires new cons. But from the very beginning of this season, I’ve felt that the writers have been ramping up to say goodbye. Nate has been testing everyone, forcing his team mates to confront their areas of weakness – as if he’s prepping them for a time when he won’t be there to pull their strings. He’s also jumped whole-heartedly into a relationship with Sophie and appears to have found some zen-like balance within himself.
Which is where the dilemma comes in. I’ve written before about TV shows that have gone on far longer than necessary, and procedurals do it more than most. Leverage is an exceptional procedural, but it is still a ‘con-of-the-week’ show. Now, some ‘[blank]-of-the-week’ shows go on indefinitely because the characters don’t change. That can get frustrating for the viewer. Leverage has never been that show. The Nate, Sophie, Hardison, Parker, and Eliot of the pilot are not the same Nate, Sophie, Hardison, Parker, and Eliot in season 5. It’s been a beautiful journey of growth, watching their family come together, and seeing how having that family has allowed each of them to mature.
And we’re happy for them. But that growth has its consequences – namely, that they don’t need Nate to control them anymore, and he doesn’t need to control them either. Nothing made this more clear than the parallel summer finale episodes where Nate and Sophie had an adventure with Sterling while Hardison, Parker, and Eliot stopped a terrorist attack. The kids are all grown up.
So it’s probably time to let them go. As a fan, I don’t want to. I love this show, and have since the day the pilot premiered. But I don’t want the characters to get stagnant. Some shows know when it’s time to end, whether we like it or not. Five seasons is a good run, with 70+ episodes of heisty goodness with one of the best teams on television. That has always been the show’s strength; there isn’t a single weak link in the cast, both in character and in performance.
If this is the end I’ll be sad. I’ll wonder what will fill that grifter-shaped hole in my heart, and I’ll rewatch my DVDs obsessively, and I’ll probably look for fan fiction to ease the pain, but ultimately I’m going to be satisfied that the people involved got to do what they wanted to do, and did it brilliantly.