"Age of the geek, baby! We run the world!"
It goes without saying that I am a geek. Hello? I'm writing a fandom blog. I won't claim to understand all of Hardison's technobabble. I know a fair share about computers, but I'm really more of a book and movie lover. That said, I still understand Hardison. I am the person whose friends and acquaintances are constantly staring at her as if she has grown a third head. (Most of my friends are two headed aliens from the planet Weird.) I have a talent for collecting bizarre and useless information, and when asked to explain something, I frequently take the scenic route, going off on tangents and making references that my audience has no context for whatsoever.
Like Nate, the average guy who becomes a tragic hero, Hardison's character type is not new. There is usually a geek or a nerd somewhere in an ensemble cast. On action-oriented shows, it tends to be a computer geek simply by virtue of the fact that the team needs a "tech person." What makes Hardison stand out is his humanity.
There's no question that he provides comic relief. His banter with Eliot, quips, and running monologues over the team's comsets are hilarious. Viewers with less nerd-like tendencies will probably find his references to Star Wars, Dr. Who, comic books, etc, to be funny for reasons completely different than mine.
However, he could very easily have been a caricature or a cardboard cut-out geek who filled the slot nicely, did all the predictable things that the tech guy is supposed to do on these shows, and occasionally got an episode in the vein of "Hardison gets to do something non-nerdy for a change." I'm sure it would have worked fine, but I'm very glad that the creative team on Leverage didn't take that road with him.
Hardison is funny, charming, self-assured, and he can be something of a bad-ass when he has to be. He doesn't like public speaking, but when called upon to impersonate a lawyer in Season 1, he came through beautifully. He has a love-interest who isn't a geek, and although he can be sweetly shy around her, he doesn't fumble. (Well. Unless they're pretending to kiss or she's naked.) Bottom line? He's a real person.
As a card-carrying geek, I'm happy to see a character who is so much like me on a television show. (Okay. Maybe Hardison is more charming than I am. A little.) I love watching Hardison impersonate an FBI agent or verbally spar with Eliot. I love that he's smooth and sophisticated when he wants to be, and yet he never ceases to be a geek. It gives me hope that the old cliche may, in fact, be destined for retirement. Even if not, as long as we have Hardison, the geeks of the world can vicariously stick out our tongues at everybody who gives us those strange looks.
I'm excited about where season three is taking him so far. I can't wait to see how things develop, and I'm especially glad about the pacing and development between him and Parker. There are a few things about the season that are making me nervous, but I have no doubt that Hardison will help bring the crew out on top--because yes, baby, geeks do run the world.