Most network TV series don’t have a Christmas episode during their first season, probably because it’s difficult for the production team to know whether the show will last that long. That’s not a problem for cab/sat programs, however, as they’re almost invariably bought in full seasons or half-seasons. Thus this week’s episode of Leverage, TNT‘s excellent new drama series, had a Christan focus appropriate to the season and was clearly intended as a Christmas episode even though it didn’t deal directly with the holiday itself.
The show follows the exploits of a team of thieves and confidence tricksters who do wrong to do right, tricking evildoers to foil their schemes and put things right for the downtrodden whom the law cannot or will not help. As noted in my earlier article on the show, Leverage combines elements of two classic American crime genres—the caper story and vigilante fiction—to provide entertaining tales that make strong moral and social points.
In Tuesday’s episode, "The Miracle Job," the team, led by Nathan Ford (Timothy Hutton), pitches in to help an old friend of Ford, a priest played by D. B. Sweeney. That means attempting to save an urban Catholic church from demolition, which a real estate developer has set in motion through violence, subterfuge, and intimidation in order to make way for a building he wants to put up. The team creates a relatively simple scam in order to thwart his plan, but has to adapt it a couple of times in order to outwit the wily real estate developer, who is himself a fairly accomplished con artist in addition to being a remorseless extortionist and assassin-by-proxy.
Thus the story leads to the faking of a religious miracle (as in this year’s Christmas episode of Monk), when tears are found to be streaming from the eyes of a statue of St. Nicholas (aka Santa Claus and the patron saint of repentant thieves, as the episode mentions, among many other groups for whom he serves that function). Nathan and his team are all reformed thieves, which makes the allusion particularly apt.
The location of much of the action, a Catholic church, naturally brings religion to the fore, and the episode is quite clear about making redemption its main subject matter in scenes where Ford and the priest talk about Ford’s situation in life and how he’s dealing with the tragedy of his young son’s death by cancer.
In one of these conversations, the story makes a very important revelation: that Ford is a Roman Catholic who studied for the priesthood before quitting and eventually becoming an insurance investigator and then a vigilante gentleman-rogue. He found his faith weakening when his son died, but never lost it and is in fact coming very strongly back to it, takes it quite seriously, and appears likely to begin attending church regularly again.
The team’s technology expert, Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge), is also quite explicitly Christian, and none of the other members of the group shows any skepticism toward the two openly Christian men’s beliefs, which is quite refreshing.
It’s an episode well worth watching, and will be repeated regularly in the coming days. It will also be made available on TNT’s Leverage episode videos page in due course.
Leverage: The Miracle Job: Recommended
—S. T. Karnick