Once again, I have to congratulate the creative team behind Leverage for being able to breathe so much life into a character who was a recipe for a tired and predictable cliche. On a show about a team of criminals, a thief is as necessary as a hacker--which, in some weird way, may explain why Parker and Hardison make such a great couple. The problem was: how could they give the show a credible thief--one who could believably do all the things that Parker has to do from week to week--without making her a boring repetition of all the characters like her that viewers have been watching for the last 30 or 40 years?
The answer they came up with was one as rich and deliciously complex as the charming gentleman hacker and unabashed geek I wrote about in last week's entry. We don't know very much about Parker's past. In fact, we don't even know for sure whether "Parker" is her first name or her last. The little we've seen from brief flashbacks and the handful of episodes that have touched on or dealt directly with her history indicate a lot of trauma. We know that she had a brother who died tragically as a kid and that she blames herself for it. We also know that she was in foster care at some point. We discovered recently that she learned her craft from a master thief named Archie who, even while he took her under his wing and taught her everything he knew, recognized that she was "too damaged" to have ever fit in with his biological family. Even without those hints, most viewers wouldn't have trouble figuring out that Parker's had a rough life.
Fortunately, Parker doesn't seem to think that this gives her the right to indulge in an angst-fest week after week, and although she's a thief, she sure doesn't think that anyone owes her a living. She is smart, competent, funny, usually upbeat, and although she does not trust people easily or often, when she shows her vulnerable side, she does so with strength and dignity.
Unlike most female cat burglar types who trade heavily on their sex appeal, Parker walks a deft line between innocence and experience. She keeps a fluffy bunny in the middle of her bed--which is in a warehouse surrounded by a really creepy array of tools and...um...equipment. She can crack just about any safe, no matter how technologically advanced, but she had to ask Eliot what sexting was. Eliot's response?
"I am not having this conversation with you, Parker!"
Having said that, no one can dispute that Parker is attractive. In fact, she's quite beautiful when she wants to be. She simply doesn't regard sex as a standard tool of her profession. While there may be some male viewers who find this a little disappointing, it makes me respect Parker all the more.
There is some debate about just how crazy she really is. There's no question that she's...well...not quite right. Some of the things that go through her head are just strange. Other times, we don't know what is going on in there, but her behavior or expression is enough to indicate that we probably don't want to. The question remains, how much of Parker's nuttiness is real and how much is an affectation she's developed to keep people at arm's length?
One way or another, the weirdness might make her seem like the least accessible or familiar member of the crew. I'm sure that she would be happy to have us think so. It's my contention that Parker isn't hard to relate to at all.
Who hasn't felt alone in a crowd? Who hasn't--at least once--been standing in the middle of a group of friends and felt that none of them really knew us? Who hasn't been through something that had such a profound affect on us that, for a while anyway, we just wanted to hide? Parker is just a little more concrete about it. The difference between her and the majority of people is a difference of degree--or maybe she's just more confident in herself than the rest of us. Most people keep their inner weirdo safely tucked away where nobody can find it and laugh. Parker doesn't bother.
With an ensemble cast, it's sometimes hard to go deeply into every character's history. The writers can't spend every episode dropping backstory information and bringing in people like Archie or Nate's ex-wife Maggie. Also, some of Parker's charm is in the mystery of not knowing what makes her tick. Yet the more I learn about her as the series progresses, the more fascinated I become. I have no doubt that Parker will keep me guessing no matter how much the new season reveals about her. Other fans I've spoken to feel the same way.
The weird kid in school isn't exactly someone that people want to be friends with. Otherwise, he or she wouldn't be sitting at the back of the room. So, why do Leverage fans seem to care so much about Parker? Well, maybe a few of us were that kid in school, so we understand what might make Parker feel and act the way she does. More of us probably have "Parker moments," but in either case, when we see how capable and assured that Parker is, how comfortable she is in her own skin, we smile because we recognize ourselves in her and we think if she can be okay, maybe I am too.