Tag Archive | Leverage

Family vac[cin]ations, the cat vs. the Horrible Strangers, reactions to Black Widow, Loki, Check Please!, Leverage: Redemption

Stuff about stuff that’s been up.

Family vac[cin]ations

My parents and brother came to town, making it the first time we’ve all been in one place for almost 2 years. (Parents have been vaccinated for a while, and they visited earlier in 2021. Brother is (a) young, (b) low-risk, and (c) not in a customer-facing position, so he only skated over the “2 weeks since second dose” theshhold just in time to get here.)

We visited a bunch of the local relatives. On one side, the grandparents who flatly refused to entertain unvaccinated visitors (so everyone’s had their shots). On the other, the grandparents who got their own shots as soon as possible, but were having unmasked indoor visits with my virulently antivaxxer aunt and her kids right up until they — the grandparents — tested positive.

Grandfather, who’d only had his first shot, got pretty sick and was hospitalized, but pulled through. Grandmother, who’d had both shots, barely got the sniffles, wouldn’t even have thought of getting tested if she didn’t live in the same house as a seriously-ill person. Aunt has only doubled down on how these fraudulent vaccines don’t even do anything, you guys.

I, uh, timed my part of the visit to not encounter the antivaxxer aunt.

Banging and drilling

A few relatives came over to my apartment to do some handiwork projects. Which meant the Fluff had his space invaded by Horrible Strangers, who talked and hammered and drilled and vacuumed and generally made Horrible Noises.

This cat was not a happy camper.

Normally he hides under the daybed, crouched on top of the boxes I keep under there. This time, he managed to shove one of the boxes away from the wall, so he could squeeze himself in behind it. Note, these are the boxes with the Leif & Thorn books in them — they’re heavy.

It took a solid 2 hours after the Horrible Strangers left before the fluff poked his nose out of his hiding spot. And then he went back under. It was a few more hours, and a few more exploratory peeks, before he was walking around the place like normal again.

Poor guy. He’s had such a nice year, and now this.

Black Widow (no specific spoilers)

Family had a bunch of Potential Outings planned, but the only one we actually did was seeing Black Widow on the big screen.

The building had small groups of other patrons; our theater was flat-out empty except for us. (So if you tentatively want to catch a movie but are worried about large groups in enclosed spaces…give it a shot.)

The movie was good! Mostly takes place during the period when Natasha was on the run after Civil War, gives her a solo adventure that fleshes out her backstory — both parts we knew about, and parts that are new. Funny, heartwarming when it wanted to be, makes good use of that Disney “sure, blow up all the cars you want” money.

I’m usually more into the magic and sci-fi sides of the MCU, and this was a Cap-style action-spy-thriller, no super-science beyond what you can use for “excuses to do cooler stunts.” So it wasn’t an instant favorite the way Captain Marvel was.

But it was good at what it wanted to be. It wasn’t a perfunctory “I want to support the general idea of more female superheroes getting their own solo movies” thing. It was fun, and I liked it. Marvel did good.

Speaking of Marvel:

Loki (also no specific spoilers)

The whole 6-episode series is out now, and I…

…didn’t…like it?

Which is wild, because it has all the ingredients for a thing I should like. Magic! Sci-fi! Time travel nonsense! Alternate versions of the same character having to deal with each other! Significant chunks of action on alien planets! Major queer and/or female characters! Shapeshifters! Quippy banter! Sassy, petty villain getting dragged kicking and screaming into a redemption arc!

The first episode sure felt like it was going to deliver on all those things in a way I enjoyed. And then every subsequent cliffhanger was like “okay…there were a couple specific scenes that are fun, but…is this going anywhere? This big moment should’ve been good, but why didn’t it have buildup? That dramatic setup we did get, why hasn’t it had any payoff? This weird bit, I can think of some in-universe reasons why it was weird, so is it setting up one of those, or is it just sloppy writing?”

And the answer was always “it’s just sloppy writing.”

…to be fair, I think sometimes the answer was COVID. There were scenes where you could see “none of the actors except the 2 leads are getting within 6 feet of each other, and it’s really restricting what the narrative can do.”

But that doesn’t explain all of it.

Feels like it should’ve been a full-length season. Make it a procedural, have Loki and company facing a Time Shenanigans case-of-the-week, and have the characters/relationships develop slowly over each case. Then at the end we get a multi-episode arc where the plot is all interconnected, the developments all come to a head, the status quo gets flipped over.

Instead we got pieces of that arc without any connective tissue. You get prickly suspicious characters skipping from “tense, mistrustful opponents” to “tentative admissions of Friendship” when they’ve only known each other for, what, a few days? With no tangible reason for their feelings to change. It’s just “this is the part of the story where that happens, so it’s happened.”

Ugh. It could’ve been so good! And it just…wasn’t.

…and speaking of “things I just finished that didn’t have connective tissue”:

Check, Please!

The famous, award-winning, funding-record-making, m/m webcomic? That I didn’t read during the whole length of its run. Finally picked up the print volumes when I saw them at the library, and that’s how I got through the whole thing.

It was really thin. Cute and fluffy and disjointed. Kept setting up potential conflicts, but then skimming right over them.

I flipped back through some fail_fandomanon threads from when the updates were being released live, and it was a recurring theme for new readers to go “wait, was this just…resolved offscreen? Or did I accidentally skip a page?” (I was reading a physical book and would occasionally wonder if it skipped a page. It never did.)

…unsurprisingly, the author was in Hockey RPF fandom, and a lot of fans were bringing their interests from Hockey RPF fandom. So you would have character show up in the background, and readers would be like “aha, I can tell this is an expy of Real Player X, I enjoy him because I’m transferring my fannish feelings about Real Player X onto him.” Then they’d still be invested even if he only appeared 2-3 times and never did anything significant in-universe.

Reading it over the course of a couple afternoons — and with zero personal background in who these IRL hockey players are — was a breezy experience.

But, wow, I totally get why it was so intense and frustrating for so many people reading it in realtime. It would’ve been a constant cycle of “sets you up for something interesting, keeps you on the hook for a week or a month or several months for the next update, dashes your hopes when the setup gets deflated or sidestepped or offscreen-resolved, but hey, now there’s setup for another something interesting, maybe if I just wait for the next update in a week or a month or–“

It did work well enough for enough readers to bring the author buckets of money, though. And she delivered a complete series by the end — everyone who backed a Kickstarter to get a book, got a book — which is more than you can say for a lot of webcomickers who’ve taken people’s money. As many faults as I could pick apart in the writing: you go rake in that cash, girl.

Okay, to end this on a brighter note:

Leverage: Redemption

Sequel to the original TV series. Not a reboot, a retcon, or a reimagining — just “it’s been a decade in-universe, let’s pick back up with these characters and see how they’re doing now.”

And, wow. It’s the rare follow-up that’s so well-done, and so worth it.

The first 8 episodes are streaming free (at least in the US). The cases-of-the-week have the same “yeah, we didn’t fix the system, but we gave a complicated and satisfying comeuppance to this one exploitative scumbag” vibe of Leverage Classic. There are bits that make it clear it’s set in the 2020s — a Big Pharma creep who took CARES Act money, a reference to a politician who sounds like an AOC expy, that kind of thing — but it’s not “chasing the trending headline” in a way that’ll make it feel dated and irrelevant too fast.

They killed off Nate (his actor has sexual-assault accusations, makes sense not to employ the guy), and the other characters miss him in a way that’s present without taking over the show. Brought Sophie/Parker/Eliot back together. I assume Hardison’s actor has a job with a better-paying show, because he guest-starred briefly to establish that he’s still around, then brought in his also-genius-hacker kid-sister replacement on the team.

They also picked up a not-quite-Nate-replacement — he’s a newbie but learning the ropes fast, and he can fill the role any time they need a clean-cut business-savvy white guy.

After Elliot’s actor did a stint on the crew in The Librarians, it’s delightful to me that Flynn’s actor is the new guy on the Leverage crew. Please let the creators find an excuse to cameo Eve, Exekiel, and Cassandra in the next half of the series. That would be crossover catnip.

Erin Watches: Fringe, Continuum, Warehouse 13, Leverage, Scandal, Black Butler

Various things I’ve Netflixed or streamed over the past…oh, year or so.

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Fringe. Got all the way through to the end! Continued to mostly like it. I love that we got case-of-the-week episodes in the alt!verse, humanizing the characters and giving us a sense of what their normal life is like. The whole mytharc was really well-thought-out in the early seasons.

Needed more Astrid-centric episodes, and the later seasons should’ve developed Olivia’s powers rather than forgetting about them. The last season was kind of a mess (the ending, in particular, expected you to just not notice that one of the characters ended up in entirely the wrong universe). I’m glad it was short, so the storyline was contained. And when they did do callbacks to earlier continuity (the various fringe events, everything about the opening), it was great.

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Continuum. Early episodes were so promising. A cop from the corporate-fascist-controlled future gets accidentally flung back to our present, where she meets the teenage version of the genius who developed her tech, and they team up to track down time-traveling terrorists. Our heroine starts out thinking her corporate fascist overlords are great, so while you sympathize with her whole “keep the terrorists from blowing anything up” mission, you’re waiting to see her start to rethink her whole worldview.

Well-done time travel is my catnip, and there’s a lot of it here. The twist at the end of the first season seems to foreshadow a whole lot more of it.

And then the show stops engaging with the worldview dilemmas, and then a couple of characters jump into an alternate timestream, ripping up everything they had been building up about the rules of time travel. They try to pull a whole “which is the Good Double and which is the Evil Double” dilemma…on two copies of a character who have identical experiences except for the past week.

Fringe managed to keep my investment through a pan-multiverse retcon. Continuum, not so much. It’s been renewed for one more season, and maybe it’ll get great reviews, but for now it’s off my to-watch list.

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Warehouse 13. Early episodes were not promising. This one was on the verge of losing me early on, but I asked FFA for advice (particularly “I hear the characters named Myka and HG Wells are super gay together, when does that start?”), and ended up skipping forward to watch all of s2 and s3.

Some of it was good. The Escher Room was fantastic. The team dynamics got more tolerable. Claudia was neat. A lot of it, though, fell oddly flat, and I can’t put my finger on why Fringe grabbed me and this didn’t.

I do have enough backstory now to read HG/Myka fic when it gets recced, so that’s something.

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Leverage. Funny, smart, and if you have any kind of competence kink, this will blow you out of the water. Seriously, this has spoiled me for all lesser shows with heists, cons, schemes, and/or secret plans, because the setups have so much forethought and detail. If there are plot holes, they’re not on the “but, but, code does not work that way” level — not obvious enough to throw me out of the story.

I’m into the canon ships, and the fandom’s favorite OT3. The romance arcs work; they don’t bog down the substance of the story.

And it’s such a feel-good show. The villains are IRL no-goodniks, usually corporate operatives screwing people over to make money. Our heroes have their missteps and their uncertain moments, but they always win; the pleasure is in seeing how they win, not being afraid for their safety. And they’re always fundamentally the good guys. You never have to worry about them approaching the Evil Line for the sake of drama. Unlike in, say….

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Scandal. Another one that started off looking amazing. The premise is Leverage meets West Wing: a group of freelance do-gooder lawyers hanging out in Washington DC. Everyone talks a mile a minute. The lead is an incredible, hyper-competent black woman who holds the admiration and loyalty of everyone on her team. Bad guys hate her. Good guys whose philosophies clash with hers will still grudgingly admit that she’s amazing.

And over the course of a few seasons, the show slowly destroys the likability of every single character. It’s kind of impressive how thorough it is. (There are team members who literally torture each other!)

Not going to watch the current season, and not even going to start How To Get Away With Murder, because from what I can tell it has exactly the same problem.

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Black Butler. I don’t understand why nobody made me watch this show ten years ago. Or at any time during the span when I was squarely in the target audience, and actively flailing about Hellsing.

As with Leverage, every character is hyper-competent, in a way that is incredibly satisfying to watch. And they cut trim figures in nice suits while doing it. And there’s a supernaturally-reinforced master/servant contract, heaped with loyalty and obedience. Ciel in the English dub even sounds like Integra.

I’m going to look up the manga in the local library system. I liked the series so much I would consider outright buying it — but it’s 20 volumes and counting, and I don’t have $200 to drop on reading material these days. (I haven’t even bought the Madoka manga, or the Kodansha Sailor Moon release.)

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Also, some things I tried but ended up dropping after a few episodes: White Collar, The 100, The 4400, Eureka, Life Unexpected, Farscape, Bob’s Burgers, Parks & Recreation. (If any of these is your fave, feel free to try to sell me on it again using any spoilers you want, and/or by saying “start at episodeĀ n, that’s when it gets good.”)