Mr. Harvey on INTELLIGENCE: Is It Any Better?

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The People have spoken!

Last week I looked at the first four episodes of CBS’ Intelligence, and I found it wanting. I asked you, our readers, if it was worth it to continue reviewing a show that I was very clear was pretty bad and while it was neck and neck for a while in the poll, more of you wanted to hear me tell you how awful Josh Holloway’s new show is.

Well, ask and ye shall receive.

Because it really doesn’t get any better this week.

On the other hand, I have changed my mind: Intelligence IS science fiction. It’s really the only explanation that makes sense, because only in an alternate universe could the characters in this show not be aware that they are acting out clichés on this level. From the previous episode’s former President of the United States that is missing from our list of presidents, this week’s John McCain analogue, to the shocking (ok, it didn’t really shock me) naiveté that high level government personnel display at behavior that is not only kind of expected from governments but is also freely available in American history books, it all only makes sense if all of this is happening in a universe one or two over from ours.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean it’s good science fiction, because we still have the pretty awful storytelling.

So what happens in “The Rescue”? Well, at the University of Arizona two young ladies return from a bar to be kidnapped by the men they were flirting with earlier, and the next morning, in Georgetown, the Senator from Arizona receives an email with a video showing the girls and the words “No Satellite Or They Die”.

Cut to US Cyber Com, and Marg Helgenberger’s Lillian Strand meeting with the Director of National Intelligence and her father, Leland Strand. Leland is played by Peter Coyote who, like the rest of this show’s cast, deserves better, but he brings a certain gravitas to the part of a man in government who doesn’t appear to have an actual title, yet seems to be extremely powerful and connected. They show Lillian the video, reveal that the message is from Mexico’s biggest drug kingpin Hector, and that the reason for kidnapping the girls is to blackmail the Senator into scuttling a deal to sell a new satellite to the Mexican government. The Senator hasn’t told anyone about the blackmail, but Leland reveals that he’s had the Senator under surveillance and needs Clockwork to find and rescue the girls…

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What? I had a house payment I needed to make.

What follows is just what you’d expect from such a setup, especially if you’ve seen this show before. Gabriel and Riley Neal go to investigate where the girls were snatched from, track down the villain, save first one, then the other girl, and bring them home safely while back at US Cyber Com the nasty realities of politics and espionage are revealed. It’s all very… predictable. Luckily, if that is indeed the right word, since this is Intelligence, the trip is full of escalating nonsense that at least makes the journey entertaining, if you find people doing stupid things entertaining that is.

One is tempted to make a drinking game out of the moments where someone does something no one would ever do, reacts in a way that no one would ever react, or makes a declarative statement that is either a cliché or completely ludicrous with more than a second’s thought. But since seeing the inside of an emergency room for alcohol poisoning isn’t high on my list of things to recommend it’s probably a bad idea to go that route. For example:

  • The girls come back to the dorm from the bar, and yet there is not a single person in the halls they walk through. It’s a little odd but OK, BUT, when the girls are kidnapped we get a pretty good look at the windows to the dorm room and see that there really isn’t any way for the kidnappers to take them out that way. Which means two men dragging two girls with sacks on their heads made their way out of a college dorm room and off a college campus without anyone noticing. At all.
  • The Senator and his wife find out their daughter has been kidnapped by a drug kingpin and tell no one. A Senator. Someone with something of an in with people who might have some way to help, and he says nothing.
  • Lillian, the head of US Cyber Com, is surprised when Leland tells her that they’ve been spying on the Senator. Apparently no one told her about the history of the FBI or the NSA. Lillian? There are history books and the internet. Perhaps you should consult them.
  • The satellite is apparently made of magic, since it will “cripple” the drug trade, although no one says how it will do this, since there really isn’t any way for it to do this, because its a satellite, and at best, a giant camera in the sky. Which we already have, in spades, and the drug trade continues. One more isn’t going to make a difference that will be crippling, unless it is magic, or has death rays or is made out of something more than handwavium.
  • While we’re on the subject of the satellite, one question. Why are there hearings about selling the satellite to Mexico anyway? The US and the Mexican government have been cooperating for years in fighting the drug cartels, so why not just launch the damn thing and share the intel with the Mexicans? We’re going to do that anyway.
  • Once again, the US Government sends the ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD WHO POSSESSES THE ONLY SUPER-COMPUTER BRAIN CHIP off on a mission with only one Ex-Secret Service agent for backup to a foreign country, and oddly, considering that Mexico is an ally, fails to notify anyone in the Mexican government.
  • Every computer at US Cyber Com is using Windows 8. Actually, this may explain why we only seem to see about 6 people there at any given time… the rest are all trying to get the blasted thing to run properly and clean off all the spyware.
  • Lillian and Riley both have catches in their voices when they talk about the kidnapped girls, because two young girls in danger is something that neither one of them has ever heard of before and… I don’t know, ovaries? Is it only a tad sexist that the only two women in our cast seem worked up about it when the guys are all “THE MISSION!”? Not that it isn’t a nice human touch to the characters; it is, but when it’s accompanied by Lillian saying “Let’s find those girls and show the cartel what happens when you cross our border and harm our kids” it is just… obvious.
  • Holy crap, this is only 7 minutes into the episode.
  • Gabriel asks about Riley’s new watch. This will in no way factor in later in the episode. No way at all.
  • The location card actually looks like the University of Arizona, which is nice, but the fact that Gabriel and Riley are walking through a HUGE number of students in the halls of the dorm just makes the girls being kidnapped from campus even more ridiculous.
  • Just a technical note. There is a frequent use of the camera pushing in on a Riley and Gabriel in a dramatic moment. EVERY dramatic moment. It becomes very obvious. And very annoying.
  • Somehow our heroes don’t think that going to one of the kidnappers’ (Carlos) mom’s house isn’t going to draw attention to themselves. It does, of course.
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    Don’t mind us. Totally not American agents.
  • The villain, in the time it takes to realize that Carlos has become a liability, also manages to get the phone number Riley left with the mom, kill Carlos, put him in a trunk in a car miles away from our heroes, and somehow expects them to find the car and the phone he wants to talk to them on, even though he just called them and could have told them where to go to find it. If Gabriel didn’t have the chip in his head, there really isn’t any way at all they could have found the car.
  • When they do find the car, with the trunk suspiciously open ever so slightly, Riley doesn’t want Gabriel to approach it, because it could be rigged with explosives. Smart lady. Gabriel’s solution? Throw a rock at it. From about 30 feet away.
  • Oh God, I’m only 14 minutes in…

Enough of that. I’ll be here all night, ’cause it just keeps going. Hector reveals his plan to the total strangers on the phone, explains how he’s rigged the non-Senator’s daughter with a grenade and they now get to watch her die, but of course, Gabriel has the chip so they are able to rescue her in the nick of time. They also learn that someone named Obregon is involved, who turns out to the President of Mexico in the 1920’s, and the nickname Hector has for Lillian’s father. Hector is, of course, on the payroll of the US, and feels that the satellite is violating the deal they have, and he’s right actually. Lillian is of course shocked, shocked I tell you, that the US has made a deal with such a criminal, once again ignoring the history of this country and how the real world works.

Threats are made to the Senator, the non-Senator’s daughter is questioned, Lillian’s and Gabriel’s childhood is discussed, and Riley makes her opinion of country music known. These would be our character moments. Luckily, the non-Senator’s daughter has a perfect memory and can describe where she was held in incredible detail. Leland makes obscure threats to Hector, and promises to give Hector the codes to the satellite if he gives up the girl, but Hector is smart enough to realize that all the US has to do is change the codes once the daughter is back. A deal is set up and it all goes wrong, because our heroes’ tradecraft is terrible and they don’t call for backup, because of course not, and Riley is captured.

Luckily, the video Hector sends to taunt our heroes gives Gabriel enough data to do the cyber render virtual crime-scene thing. Of course he gets out of his car and walks into the open for dramatic purposes, even though tactically it’s the stupidest thing he could do, but he notices that Riley has stopped her watch at 23 minutes past the hour, which is a CLUE. Ignore the intelligent question from back at base about a stopped watch making sense in a static cyber-render, Gabriel is certain that it’s telling them how long it took the bad guys to get them there, and the second hands are set to 12:15, so that’s the direction and voila! Gabriel is off to the rescue.

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Hmmm. Should I wait for backup or go in alone? Questions, questions.

Of course he goes in alone, because of course he does, while back at US Cyber Command, even Leland thinks this is a dumb idea. There’s running and shooting and sexy banter and Riley and the girl are saved, and the complete and utter lack of lag time in the video feed saves our heroes in a completely unbelievable way. Gabriel ends up with Hector in his sights, but Leland and the Director of National Intelligence won’t let him take the shot, even though it’s the only sensible thing to do, and the argument that he’s one of “our monsters” is a pretty flimsy one under the circumstances, especially since the magic satellite will now go ahead, so killing him actually makes sense, but no, Gabriel doesn’t do the right thing and lets him go.

It’s… stupid. What are they going to do to Gabriel if he kills Hector, which is something he has been trained to do, and one of the reasons he was chosen to have the chip in the first place? He’s the ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD WHO POSSESSES THE ONLY SUPER-COMPUTER BRAIN CHIP after all, and they need him. Well, in this alternate reality they need him. Everyone makes disgusted faces.

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Well, everyone but these guys. Because they’re awful people.

The Senator’s daughter is brought back to her parents by Gabriel and Riley in Georgetown, because apparently no one told them that their daughter had been saved and that meeting her in Arizona might be a good idea and there are no other government people who might transport the girl except for our dynamic duo. The satellite deal goes through and Lillian is still shocked about having to deal with the bad people of the world, while Gabriel takes Riley home and there is much flirting and innuendo which, again, is not how Riley should be doing the whole protecting-the-asset thing.

And then, Lillian shows that everything that she’s saying this episode about how things should be is just a load of crap by having Hector assassinated. You know, because it was wrong to have the soldier trained to do this sort of thing kill him, but not wrong to have him killed by an assassin.

Gahhhhh.

Enough. Tomorrow night is “Patient Zero”, which surely will see the return of the father and son Cassideys, who will likely display medical knowledge that would be better served coming from actual medical doctors or something, and something bad will happen that needs someone other than Gabriel to save them, but US Cyber Command will get the call anyway.

Sigh.

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Timothy Harvey

Timothy Harvey is a Kansas City based writer, director, actor and editor, with a passion for film noir movies. He was the art director for the horror film "American Maniacs", and serves on the board of directors for the Independent Filmmakers Coalition of Kansas City and the Kansas City Film Commission.

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