At a time when many shows begin to fade, Leverage has mixed things up and brought us episodes outside of the show's usual comfort zone. "The Fifteen Minutes Job" continues that great trend, giving us a bad guy that's gleefully fun to hate at the center of a quirky caper to bring him down.
This week's bad guy is an evidence-planting weasel named Rockwell (played oh so well by Mad Men's Michael Gladis, though I admit that it took me a minute to shake off his heartbreaking guest appearance in the Law & Order: SVU episode "Branded" from last season). Slimy in a deadpan, almost disgruntled way, he's currently gunning for a friend of Nate's. Bad choice of target, dude. A determined Nate decides that giving Rockwell his fifteen minutes of fame (hence the episode's title) is the best way to take him out of the picture. Gladis makes one heck of a villain; he's smarmy enough for us to root for his demise, but not so evil that we can't keep watching.
Leverage's traditional offbeat humor ensues in the quest to eliminate him, as the team keeps providing opportunities for Rockwell to play the hero, but he never bites. Eliot tries to steal Parker's purse, but is instead "subdued" by an old lady with an umbrella; Hardison attempts to hold up a coffee shop while Rockwell is there, but the guy runs away at the first opportunity. Thankfully, Team Leverage has computer magic to make him look like a star instead of a coward, and two million YouTube hits later, Nate swoops in as a "media consultant" to help Rockwell with his newfound fame.
This reveals the weasel's own dark secret: as a teenager, he was the driver in a fatal car accident, and framed someone else for the crime. The scandal is the skeleton in the closet that Nate's been waiting for, and he seizes upon Rockwell's paranoia like a true master. Team Leverage stages another car accident, framing Rockwell like he did to someone else fourteen years earlier, and this time the cops are there to meet him. While being interrogated, Rockwell manages to incriminate himself for both accidents, and goes down for his crimes past and present.
At the same time, the pursuit of Rockwell holds a mirror up for Nate. As Sophie tells him, "Fame's a monster, and here you are poking at it with a stick." Nate is just a little too good at telling Rockwell what he wants to hear, and that becomes obvious to both the characters and the audience simultaneously. We're reminded that although Nate is our hero and we love him, he still has his flawed moments. The Leverage writing staff has become very good at weaving character growth and development into their narratives, instead of having to disrupt plots or tack scenes onto the ends of episodes for us to get the point.
We've seen thus far in season four that Leverage is going to dig even deeper into its characters, and present us with stories that aren't like any that we've already been treated to. If those two things continue over the remaining twelve episodes, not only will season four be a great season but it could be the show's best one yet.
One last note on the way out the door: happy birthday to Leverage's own Gina Bellman (Sophie), who turned 45 years young today!