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INTELLIGENCE: Is Patient Zero DOA?

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Inside the SciFi4Me Conference Hall:

A well dressed man with greying hair walks up to the podium. He places a small stack of papers in front of him and smiles at the audience.

TIMOTHY HARVEY
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming. Today I’ll be discussing
the 6th episode of CBS’ Intelligence, “Patient Zero”. I’ll be..

Suddenly Timothy drops to the ground.

TIMOTHY HARVEY
I… just can’t. I just… can’t go on.

DUSTIN ADAIR, of Reviews For Humans and SciFi4Me’s Walking Dead Reviews walks from off stage and throws a coat on Timothy.

DUSTIN ADAIR
Drama queen. It’s just a bad television show.
And you are so not James Brown.

Dustin walks off stage.

TIMOTHY HARVEY
Sigh. Everybody’s a critic.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s true. Intelligence is just a bad tv show. However, I do have some good news, because while “Patient Zero” is not exactly good, it is the best episode of the show so far and, if the rest of the season had been this… not exactly bad, well, I might not have been so harsh in my previous reviews.

Not to say there isn’t lots to mock here, because there is, but there is also a sense of self-mockery here, and that is what this show has lacked until now. It was so… earnest in its badness, but here its like the writers and actors know they are in a show that shouldn’t be taken all that seriously. If this is how the rest of the season will go, then there may be something to miss after its terrible ratings kill it.

The operative word is “may”.

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Gabriel, your mission this week is to find out why CBS has such blah production photos on its website.

So! What so we have here? Well, suddenly we have a show that seems to want to address its own continuity, like the origins of the Chip, its Mark II version, and the giant plot holes of the first episode. It does this by bringing back our two science nerds, Doctor Cassidey and his son Nelson, for a pretty sizable info dump, covering both the original intentions for the Chip (surveillance, data mining, cryptanalysis) and the recap of the first episode’s reveal that Cassidey & Son had, rather stupidly, recreated the Chip and made it better at home, only to have it and Dad kidnapped by the Chinese.

We also get a mind-controlled quad-copter which, like last week’s new watch, will in no way figure into the story later. The fun part about the Chip recap is Nelson’s asking for an apology from Lillian for suspecting that he had a hand in his father’s kidnapping, which results in her pointing out the aforementioned stupid “let’s make another Chip… at home!” and how it almost got Cassidey and Gabriel killed. The somewhat hypocritical nature of her response, considering she keeps sending Gabriel off on missions with only Riley for backup, doesn’t detract from the fact that the writers just pointed out that the behaviour of main characters of this show was stupid.

Unfortunately, the momentary hope that this sort of stupid is behind us is dashed moments later, when Lillian gives Gabriel his new assignment which, and I’m sure this will come as a shock, is… incredibly stupid. Kinda stellar stupid in fact.

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And why Cassidey Jr. is wearing my Red Sonya costume on his head. Eww.

You see, there is a new viral outbreak in Texas, where in just two days, over 110 people have been infected, and 47 of those have died. The CDC is frantically trying to trace the origin while investigating the disease and keep the infected alive, but they aren’t sure how its spreading, only that the first 22 people infected were at an arts festival. We learn this at the briefing in the high-tech briefing room (where I think they blew the extras budget, since we finally see more than 6 people working at US Cyber Command), from Cassidey & Son, because since they are sciencey guys, they know all branches of the sciences, just like all TV sciencey types. A critical piece of information is delivered here, when Cassidey Sr. tells us that the virus mutates with every victim, thus making synthesizing a cure impossible unless, as the younger Cassidey chimes in, they can find Patient Zero, the only one with a common antibody.

This line is kind of important, since if it is actually true, then pretty much everyone who gets the virus is dead. Viruses don’t actually mutate that fast, because if they did, you wouldn’t ever have a seasonal flu shot that works, and incubation periods of viruses are a lot longer than 24 hrs. This is pretty much Super Ebola level, Super HIV level, Black Death levels of death. Yes, yes, we find out it’s been built in a lab by bad people, like bad people do, but the basic premise here is of a species killing virus, and that, boys and girls, isn’t going to make finding Patient Zero worth anything, if your mortality rate is almost 50% in the first 24 hours.

But hey. Science, whatever. Of more importance is what does this have to do with US Cyber Command, whose job  “centralizes command of cyberspace operations, organizes existing cyber resources and synchronizes defense of U.S. military networks.” Answer? Well, in the real world, not much, because we have the CDC which is full of those medical doctor types, who spend years and years of training to become the best in their fields so when outbreaks happen, they can save as many lives as possible. But in the alternate reality of Intelligence, we have the Chip, and since finding Patient Zero is effectively a manhunt… wait, don’t we have the FBI and the NSA in this alternate reality? We do? Huh.

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Wait. Your job is to protect me? Really? And they pay you for that?

I know, I know, I’m looking at this too logically, and that way lies madness. The argument here is that Gabriel can use his Cyber Render thing to pull all the photos from the arts festival to figure out who every one of the infected came in contact with, and find Patient Zero. The fact that it took our best computers days to get that info on the Boston bombing is brought up, but apparently Gabriel’s Chip is far more powerful (once again raising the question about where the heat such a powerful Chip would generate might go, exactly) and people in this alternate universe take more photos of random people than would seem useful, except for this sort of purpose. Again, thinking too much, because he finds Patient Zero, only there is a small problem:

Patient Zero is a convicted murderer who was executed a week before the outbreak.

Dun Dun Duuuuuuunnnnnnn!!!!

Questions are raised about the accuracy of the Cyber Render, etc. etc. But Gabriel knows what to do of course: He has to go to Texas. When this is pointed out as being a Really Dumb Thing To Do, since he could get the virus and die, leaving the world without THE ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD WHO POSSESSES THE ONLY SUPER-COMPUTER BRAIN CHIP, Lillian, who knows that there are no actual other law enforcement or investigative organizations in the world aside from US Cyber Command, sends him and Riley anyway. Because… reasons. I guess.

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Backup? What’s that?

Of course they discover things, like the execution was faked and a secret military plan to create a biological super weapon and Riley gets infected and then Gabriel gets infected and Nelson bonds with a sick young boy and has emotions and the mind-controlled quad-copter saves the day (not really) and things happen and they get Patient Zero and the day is saved and the bad military men are defeated and the end.

It’s all a bunch of nonsense, and things are telegraphed way ahead and no one behaves in a remotely rational manner and I had a great time watching it. Honest, I did. Because again, the show simply isn’t taking itself seriously here, even in the midst of this fairly heavy and kinda dark storyline. Of course it starts before the Lillian/Cassidey Jr. bit with Riley’s arrival at Gabriel’s place to take him to work (which, by the way, also makes no sense, because seeing as Gabriel is THE ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD WHO POSSESSES THE ONLY SUPER-COMPUTER BRAIN CHIP, and essentially Government property, why does he even have an apartment so far away from Cyber Comm, and still no security aside from Riley, who actually lives far enough away that they can be “late to the briefing”?), where we have sexual innuendos, coffee and paper stealing, and showing once again that Riley is pretty terrible at her job, but looks fantastic doing it.

Best of all though, is the witty repartee during the later firefight between Gabriel, Riley, and the renegade military types. Leaving aside the Really Dumb Thing To Do’s that happen here (No backup, military assaults in suburbia that attract no local law enforcement. etc.), Riley takes time, while the two of them are being shot at, to tease Gabriel while she protects him in her usual terrible way:

Gabriel: Do you know how emasculating it is when you tackle me like that?
Riley: Are you saying you feel like a girl?
Gabriel: That’s not what I’m saying!
Riley: ‘Cause you look pretty today.
 

(Of course, one should point out that they have just kicked in a door, which the bad guys who are right around the corner don’t react to at all, making more noise as they move into the house, which the bad guys who are right around the corner don’t react to at all, until one of the bad guys actually sees them, at which point they just start shooting, which is par for the course for bad guys, except these are US military, so since they don’t know whom they’re shooting at really, are apparently willing to just shoot citizens, which is always nice.)

God, but Riley is just awful at the whole protection thing. Sure she tackles Gabriel out of the line of fire, but she then leaves him to go after one of the bad guys, and minutes before wasn’t able to convince him to put on gloves that might limit the exposure to the horrible killer virus. Gabriel doesn’t help at all by being the worst person in the world to protect, since he’s insistent on putting himself in positions that are statistically fatal, ignoring his bodyguard all the time and being the worst soldier in the world because, don’t you know, orders are for other people. But again, we’re not looking for logic here, now are we?

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Another successful mission that will have no bearing on future episodes in any way.

It really is like Chuck, only different. We have the THE ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD WHO POSSESSES THE ONLY SUPER-COMPUTER BRAIN CHIP (Chuck), crossed with the Macho Military Man (Casey), protected by the Assigned Agent (Sarah), working for the Government Official (The General), based out of a High-tech Base (Castle). We have the ridiculous missions, although in fairness, Chuck‘s were less ridiculous, and we even have those who want to get their hands on the New Technology (The Ring). And now we have the humor that this show was missing before, and it’s a LOT like the humor from Chuck. Not as good perhaps, since the teasing of Casey’s macho act was funny because he was the epitome of macho, and combining Chuck and Casey into Gabriel takes the poking of the ludicrous out for the most part. That bit above? It kinda was funny, mostly because of Meghan Ory’s performance, but it loses the real punch, because we’ve established that Gabriel has a sensitive side, that he doesn’t hide, so the “girl/pretty” thing is just silly ultimately.

And then we have the final scene, with Riley and Gabriel flirting and bonding in a scene that could have been actually taken from an episode of Chuck (during one of Chuck and Sarah’s off periods), and you just realize how much you miss Zach Levi, Yvonne Strahovski and Adam Baldwin playing these parts.

Sigh.

Not to say there weren’t a few little gems in here.  This was a continuity-heavy episode to be sure, with call outs to the Pilot and Gabriel’s wife and her death, and the most important piece of continuity was the history of Clockwork. Gabriel wasn’t the first person they tried to put the Chip in, it turns out, and in a really well written bit, precisely because it was so short and offhand, we learn that three other men had the Chip implanted, to disastrous results. Two of them died, and the third was paralyzed for life. It was a moment that I wished the whole show had been like, hell, the whole show from the beginning, because it actually dealt with consequences, and this show really doesn’t do that. OK, OK, we’re just six episodes in, but just imagine what this show would be like if it actually dealt with what it says it’s about?

But it isn’t. It doesn’t know what it is, at least not yet. If it’s going to be a Chuck variant going forward, at least that would be more fun to watch, but when only one episode is going for that kind of humor so far, so we can’t really say this is the direction the show will be taking, now can we? And with only seven more episodes before it likely leaves the air, well, it’s probably too little too late.

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Timothy Harvey

Timothy Harvey is a Kansas City based writer, director, actor and editor, with something of a passion for film noir movies. He was the art director for the horror films American Maniacs, Blood of Me, and the pilot for the science fiction series Paradox City. His own short films include the Noir Trilogy, 9 1/2 Years, The Statement of Randolph Carter - adapted for the screen by Jason Hunt - and the music video for IAMEVE’s Temptress. He’s a former President and board member for the Independent Filmmakers Coalition of Kansas City, and has served on the board of Film Society KC.

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