We loved it. The show was fast, clever, and yes it was a modern fairy tale and we knew it but it was damnably FUN. And we grew to know and have a sincere affection for ALL of the misfit quintet who carried the show - but, in our case, we singled out Parker-the-thief and Elliot-the-hitter for our particularseal of approval because both of them were characters of real depth and the actors portraying them did so really well - both damaged, in their own separate and specific ways, and both struggling to come to terms with that damage and come out of it in more or less one piece. A lot of Elliot's dialogue was unexpectedly porignant and deep, with real insight into what made him into the thing that we were watching on our screens, a tough guy with nerves of steel, an ability to kill if necessary, a violent man at ease in a violent world, but also one with an unexpected soft spot for children in trouble and one with a conscience.
We watched the finale the other night, and it was all it should have been, all we expected from a "Leverage" episode - full of twists, full of tangles, an impossible quest solved by improbable but hugely entertaining means - all of it.
But there was one other thing.
In all of the shows to date, *we have never seen the characters really hurt*. Not really. Yes, at the end of a season Nate had been shot (but he was surrounded by people who could have whisked him off and made sure he was okay and the rest of the crew had escaped in good shape). Yes, Elliot Spencer was occasionally roughed up and shown with scrapes and bruises - but he was a hitter, and that was part of the job description, and, well, the salient statement always remained, "but you should have seen the OTHER guy". Yes, Sophie was shown holding a freaking BOMB in her arms - but in the aftermath of that she was remarkably unscathed, even as a "body" in a "coffin" and particularly given that she herself was walking at Nate's side at her own "funeral". The point is, in all the weird and bizarre things that this crew got up to, we rarely, if ever, saw them hurt, We rarely saw them bleed.
(i am a bout to spoiler so if you haven't seen it and desperately don't want to know, skip the next bit...)
There was no indication, however, in this final episode - at least initially - that we were watching one of the cons-within-a-con. We were presented with a caper, as usual, and they went about accomplishing that. And then - bam - it all goes wrong in a way that things rarely go wrong for this crew. They get surprised. cut off, chased down.
We see Parker and Hardison escaping down a lift shaft - but then we see Hardison *lose his grip and fall*. We see an agent shooting a gun down the lift shaft where Parker is hanging like the proverbial sitting duck, and we *see Parker getting shot*. We see the two of them at the bottom of the lift shaft, blood coaking Parker's shirt, her reporting in a trembling voice that Hardison's leg is broken and that he is "all smashed up inside". You see them crawling their way out of there, and making the van, broken, bloodied, wounded (and BADLY wounded). And then, even more shockingly, we see Elliot coming out of the building behind them - doing his thing and disarming the guard at the door - and then turning his back as the guard pulls a second gun out of an ankle holster. We see Elliot get shot in the back, and fall forward into the van. We see the three characters in the back of the van reaching out for one another's hands, blind with pain, and we, the viewers, know a number of uncomfortable truths. These people cannot AFFORD to get this badly hurt, because these kinds of woumds require serious medical attention and yeah, sure, you can see someone like that in an extended hospitalt stay, can't you? It would be the end of everything. So they can't go to a hospital. They can't go to a doctor. And they die. THRY DIE. Before your eyes.
And because the show has done such a good job you, the viewer, are left with emotional whiplash - because you have been made to care for them, and the fact that they are hurt - that they are remotely mortal - that they bleed - that they FAILED - matters. Oh, it matters enormously. You are emotionally invested in these characters to an almost unprecedented degree.
When it all plays out you find yourself realising that you have just been on a nicely played rollercoaster ride. They had you exactly where they wanted you. It paid off handsomely. TV shows come and they go, but only some of them carry characters who are remotely immortal, and "leverage" did that - with Elliot Spencer, with Parker, with Hardison. They have become almost the archetypes of their kind, and they will be remembered.
*You hated to see them hurt*. But in one sense showing us their mortality brought them even closer to us than they had ever been before. And now, as it all fades to black, you feel as though you are bidding farewell to good friends.
Goodbye, "Leverage". We really WILL miss you guys.