Happy Wednesday

Tonight belongs to TNT. Two excellent episodes of two of my favorite youngling shows tonight – the half-season finale of Leverage and this week’s installment of Dark Blue. Where these shows are concerned, I’m pretty easily pleased, but tonight was definitely a good night.

First off, “The Lost Heir Job.”

Not the most mindblowingly exciting Leverage episode ever, unfortunately. Part of the problem was that there was too much story for a forty minute episode. There was barely time to tie all of the con elements together, nevermind punctuate them with this show’s trademark tongue-in-cheek hilarity. A five minute check-in with Sophie at the vey beginning didn’t help. Most of the hour suffered from a distinct lack of hijinks. Sure, there was a little hair flipping from Eliot and some key tapping from Hardison and Nathan’s citrus fruit suit was definitely worth some chuckles, but for every moment of passable humor was a complementary bit that fell short, like Parker’s moment of failing to act like a methhead – not awkwardly hilarious, just boring. By the end of the episode I was SO ready for one of the blue-and-white revelation flashbacks to swoop in and redeem everything. No luck. Alas.

The good news? Jeri Ryan. My god I love that woman. And not just because she was Seven of Nine and I have an unfortunate addiction to Star Trek Voyager. I don’t really watch legal dramas, so it’s been awhile since I’ve seen her on television – she’s been on Law & Order: SVU, Shark, and Boston Legal in the past few years, so she’s got the lawyer schtick down at this point. And that’s why I didn’t blink twice when she showed up to guest star on Leverage as a lawyer, sweetly and awkwardly giving this off-kilter episode a bright spot. And then it got even better. I am not good at anticipating plot twists, even (possibly especially) the obvious ones. I probably shouldn’t have been quite as suprised as I was that Jeri Ryan is going to be sticking around as Tara, a grifter friend of Sophie’s, for at least a few more episodes. But I am absolutely delighted.

If the last couple of episodes haven’t been warning enough, I think it is definitely time to start worrying about Gina Bellman (Sophie)’s future on Leverage. There have been some whispers circulating the interweb about her failure to absolutely delight in comparison to the other characters since the beginning of the series. She doesn’t make me laugh quite as much as everyone else, maybe, but I am a fan of the character. Despite what other folks have been saying about Bellman’s acting abilities (just swoop around the Leverage page on SideReel and you should see what I mean) I think she is just as talented as the rest of the cast and she has a much more difficult role – the grifter spends so much time in character for the con that the character for the show has incredibly limited opportunity to forge a personality. So, while I think that the future is looking a bit grim for this character, especially since I’m sure Jeri Ryan will in no way disappoint, I am hoping that we’ll see Sophie back before long.

Now, “Betsy.”

It was, as advertised, the OMG-DELVE-INTO-JAIMIE’S-PAST-AND-EMOTIONAL-BAGGAGE episode. Bring on the angst. The police action definitely took a backseat to character drama this episode. The trailers that have been running all week and half a brain were more than sufficient to piece together most of what happened this episode: Jaimie has to encounter her past for the bust to work. Issues are brought to life. Angry words are exchanged. A revelation takes place at the end. Ta-da.

All that would have been a standard character drama episode on its own. But, Dark Blue plays for keeps. So instead of leaving the episode with just a fuller understanding of the emotionally charged past and somewhat overemphasized angst of the sole female character, a lot of things have changed over the course of an episode. First of all, no more Scott. Sure, we don’t see the inevitable break-up. But it’s going to happen. Of course it is. She said “I love you” and then she lied and everything went to shit. Scott is through. I’m thrilled, personally. On his own, Scott represented a lame side-plot about Jaimie trying to lead a normal life and having issues. Put that together with the believable but manufactured sexual tension between Dean and Jaimie, and what you get is one sorry love triangle that I am happy to be done with. The second major development: Carter and Jaimie are having Issues with capital I. Not shocking, perhaps, but definitely intriguing. And also hilarious considering they had to pull off one of the most awkward embraces of all time while undercover.

The best part about this episode was that it gave full attention to the emotional/dramatic angle without falling short on other elements. The smuggling bust was constructed just as neatly as busts from other episodes, less developed though it was. There was a lot of excellent guest work from Channon Roe (Billy), who has more talent than his spotty and one-dimensional resume suggest. And that twist at the end where ‘Sanchez,’ the guy they’re after from the beginning is actually dead and his right-hand man is the real brains? Brilliant. And if a fantastic undercover plotline AND in-depth Jaimie drama weren’t enough, there were also hints of things to come. Ty doesn’t want kids? Jaimie thought she was pregnant five years ago? Dean is doing his awkward emotional thing? These are good signs of better things to come.

There’s no more Leverage until January, and next week is also the half-season (but hopefully not permanent) end for Dark Blue.  If the network fall season wasn’t starting, I’d have to be distraught. But, there are good things on the way. Starting with said-same finale of Dark Blue, which of course features the long-awaited topic of Carter’s Dark And Mysterious Past. Last week I might have scoffed, but with the brilliant handling of this week’s episode in mind, I’m definitely looking forward to see how it goes.

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