Intelligence Review: Soft Sci-Fi Procedural That At Least Stars Josh Holloway
In case you need a constant refresher course for the complex science-fiction premise behind CBS' Intelligence, you're in luck as the series opens with a handy expositional title sequence that walks you through the series (sort-of) high-concept each and every week. With the endless stream of similar shows coming out of that particular network, you'd think their audience would pick up on the otherwise formulaic buddy cop procedural pretty quickly. It's like Fox's new sci-fi series Almost Human but without any of the fun trappings of the future.
Well, technically there is one twist that makes Intelligence stand out from the pack of acronymed investigation series (your NCISs or CSIs), Josh Holloway's Cybercom Special Agent Gabriel Vaughan has a computer chip implanted in his brain that allows him to perform some (not so advanced looking) police work in piecing together the teams would-be weekly missions as well as build the overarching case for/against his possibly duplicitous ex-wife/agent. It's not like viewers haven't seen a similar set-up before with comparisons to Chuck inevitable, however, the NBC series was a fish out of water story about some schlub getting a computer installed in his brain where the lead in Intelligence doesn't just belong in the clandestine world, he was selected for the enhancement because of his extensive military training. You know, like Bryce Larkin. But even government superheroes need protecting, especially when they're such a coveted asset.
Holloway, on the other hand, was selected because he's a film leading man that for some reason has never gotten that kind of gig. He should be the next Indiana Jones but being a network star isn't a terrible fallback, too bad the character of Special Agent Vaughan doesn't seem nearly as complex or entertaining as Sawyer on LOST, the ABC phenomenon where he made his name. Gabriel is our typical hero, he plays by his own rules and seems too reckless to be in control of such a powerful piece of technology, but to the series credit, they explain that's exactly why he was the one chosen. Instead of trying to make a computer more like a human (A.I.), the people behind Clockwork (Intelligence's Fringe Division or Section 7 or...) are trying to make a human more like a computer. No need to Asimov Three Laws of Robotics then, right? I mean, what human has ever broke bad?
Surrounding Holloway, who shines, is a supporting cast that also brings the most it can to the rather familiar characters. Meghan Ory does a nice job as Cybercom Special Agent Riley Neal, the former Secret Service agent who's assigned to protect the government's most important asset. Yep, Vaughan is even more important than the President, which Marg Helgenberger's Director Lillian Strand is quick to tell us in order to stress that the tech is that big a deal. Both seem cut from former shows, the hard-nosed female cop who has a great rapport with with aforementioned rugged and insubordinate hero. And the banter between Holloway and both works. I actually liked every member of the ensemble, all making the most of their limited screen time. John Billingsley's comic relief/father figure/poor man's John Noble less so. And everything else? It is pretty much what you'd expect from the modern procedural.
Intelligence opens with the introduction to Holloway's Gabriel (everyone calls everyone by their first names, something rare on such a procedural) and the serialized storyline because, well, every drama has to have one these days. Gabriel's wife was also an agent and supposedly perished while supposedly committing an act of terror. Long term mysteries! The opening also introduces us to the Special Agent's special abilities, showing us how he can recreate and effectively walk-through crime scenes. I couldn't help but think of the way Will Graham performs his investigations (sans computer brain) in Hannibal, especially with the red flash as his way into the virtual reality.
There's also something a little bit Terminator about the way Gabriel processes the evidence regarding the case of the week (Intelligence is still very much episodic television in the CBS style, even if a little more technologically advanced), the pilot's mystery cleverly involving the kidnapping and retrieval of one of the 'retired' members of the team (the aforementioned Billingsley as the bumbling genius), the very man who created the chip. Well, turns out the good old US of A isn't the only nation with their eye on some Human A.I. and that makes Agent Gabriel even more in need of Riley's protection. Although, I'm sure they will be protecting each other and more if/when Intelligence goes to series. Neither the idea of thwarting a different terrorist operation each episode with the will-they, won't-they duo nor the missing wife mystery arc is enough to get me turning into this very light sci-fi series. Even with Josh Holloway. But it should do fine on CBS.
Intelligence returns to its usual slot, Monday nights at 10 p.m. ET on CBS, next week. That's January, 13. Created by Michael Seitzman (and ever so loosely adapted from John Dixon's "Phoenix Island," the series stars Josh Holloway, Meghan Ory, Marg Helgenberger, Lance Reddick, Michael Rady, John Billingsley, P. J. Byrne and Peter Coyote.
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