The last few years have proven that the era of blue sky TV isn’t completely over—Psych’s been revived (as a series of TV movies) while Monk hosted a reunion of sorts. And the resurgence isn’t limited to USA Network shows, as HBO Max’s The Flight Attendant charted similar sunny-with-a-chance-of-tragedy territory. Now comes the IMDb TV revival of Leverage, John Rogers and Chris Downey’s crime drama that followed a team of reformed criminals with distinct, but complementary sets of skills.
Though it held court on TNT for its five-season run, Leverage was the spiritual companion of shows like Psych and Burn Notice, with its lighthearted tone, stable of great guest stars, and episodic format that occasionally served a larger narrative. Leverage: Redemption retains the zippiness of the original series, even with a revised cast and a truncated season, while leaning into its procedural element. The new version of the show is quite modular, as the team is assembled and reassembled, and heists are expeditiously planned and executed. After watching the first two episodes, which introduce new members Harry Wilson (Noah Wyle) and Breanna Hardison (Aleyse Shannon), you can practically choose your own retribution adventure: to take down a shitty building developer, select episode four, “The Tower Job.” Want to see a Martin Shkreli-like “vulture capitalist” lose everything, all while playing a Magic: The Gathering knockoff created by French Stewart? Enjoy “The Card Game Job.”
The outcomes on Leverage: Redemption are even less in doubt than on the original series, which can make the season, especially in the back half, feel a bit rote. But the real questions and thrills have always been in the meticulous planning, which is once more revealed via Ocean’s 11-like flashbacks, and in watching this cast play off of each other. The team looks quite different at times, as Breanna takes over as hacker for her brother Alec (Aldis Hodge, whose shooting schedule limited his participation in the revival). Nate Ford (Timothy Hutton, the only regular cast member who did not return) is no longer the Mastermind, though his name is frequently invoked. Instead, Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman) steps up as Leverage leader, and it’s yet another role that the Grifter fits into seamlessly. But Parker (Beth Riesgraf) the Thief is as sneaky as ever—even as she wrestles with her legendary status—and Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane) remains a soulful Hitter who wants to be seen as more than just the muscle.
There are some notable changes beyond the makeup of the group: The action’s been moved to New Orleans, a city that’s seen more than its share of tribulations, which offers all manner of opportunities for these morally compromised avengers. This is where we first meet Harry, a lawyer and former fixer who fails in his initial attempt to take down a bad guy. Harry’s previous line of work would’ve made him a target for Team Leverage, or at least collateral damage. But when they see how committed he is to making amends, they quickly welcome him into the fold. You don’t spend decades covering up the sins of others without committing some wrongs of your own, a reality that creates sporadic tension throughout the season. Harry may have some trouble fitting in, but Wyle looks right at home in the cast, picking up the rhythm of the banter and showing the same willingness to cut loose when the situation calls for it (as it frequently does). The writers wisely create a unique spot on the team for Harry—he’s more of a wild card than a substitute for Nate. And Wyle has a lot of fun playing someone making the most of his shot at redemption. Halfway through the season, he’s given a chance to do his best Richard Burton in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? opposite Bellman’s riff on Elizabeth Taylor, which is a spectacular (and intentional) failure.
Hodge’s absence is felt, but Shannon provides a different kind of sparring partner for Riesgraf’s Parker. Breanna struggles to prove herself early on, and Parker somewhat grudgingly plays mentor. Eventually, the Thief realizes there’s a lot she can learn from her mentee, in one of the sweetest developments of the season. The gaps in the cast are surprisingly easy to clear: When Eliot and Harry go on their own side mission, it just gives Sophie, Parker, and Breanna a chance to solidify their bond. No Nate means Sophie gets to lead the team, and Bellman is more than up to the task of holding these rabble rousers together. Each configuration, whether it’s the full lineup or an all-female escapade, has its own appeal, which means IMDb TV could easily get another season out of the revival.
Leverage: Redemption drills down on the familiar, while setting its sights on ever bigger targets—the new episodes include plots on tech overreach and surveillance states. Once again, everyone has a role to play, from Harry, to Sophie, to Eliot (who gets to charm a deposed leader’s ex-wife). Each disguise, exaggerated accent, and gadget serves a purpose. It’s undoubtedly a formula, but one that continues to work, thanks in great part to a spirited cast that acts like a found family, on and offscreen. It’s not the most necessary or exciting revival; then again, where else can you watch a New Orleans-set Halloween episode in the middle of the summer?