You know how CBS’s ‘The Mentalist’ is such an overt knockoff of the goofy cable series ‘Psych’, but played seriously? That formula apparently worked well enough that the network has employed it again for the new sci-fi-ish spy drama ‘Intelligence’, which is basically NBC’s ‘Chuck’ without any of the laughs… or, sadly, the intelligence.
Josh Holloway from ‘Lost’ stars as Gabriel Vaughn (the type of name only a screenwriter could love), an ex-Delta Force badass who now works for a ludicrous, ultra super duper top secret government agency called U.S. Cyber Command, where he gets bossed around by Marg Helgenberger doing her best to deliver bullshit pseudoscience jargon as if she believes it means anything. Vaughn has had a microchip implanted in his head that, like ‘Chuck’, gives him access to a huge database of classified intel about any- and everything in the world that he conveniently happens to need to know about at a given moment. Periodically, he flashes – oh, excuse me, “cyber renders” – which allows him to (very slowly for such an advanced chip) process data as virtual 3D recreations that he walks through in his mind. In this show’s own twist, the chip is also Wi-Fi enabled, so he can hack all the internets to make electronic things around him do his bidding, like open locked doors and… yeah, that’s about all he does with that in the first episode.
To give him a back story that we’re supposed to care about, Vaughn obsesses about his presumed-dead wife Amelia, a deep cover spy who allegedly turned traitor. He doesn’t believe that she’s guilty of the crimes she’s accused of, or that she’s actually dead. Big shock, he’s probably right on both counts.
In the ‘Pilot’ episode, a Chinese spy named Jin Cong (who the writers take great pains to clarify has gone rogue and is disavowed by the Chinese government, so as not to offend Chinese investors in CBS parent company Viacom) kidnaps the brilliant but eccentric scientist (aren’t they all brilliant but eccentric?) that invented Vaughn’s chip. Jin Cong demands that he implant a second, more advanced chip in a female agent he’s selected. The scientist, Dr. Cassidy (John Billingsley from ‘Star Trek: Voyager’), does what he’s told, but the girl is left in a coma. It’s unclear whether the chip failed or is just taking a very long time to boot up. Jin Cong then kidnaps Vaughn and orders Cassidy to remove his chip and put it in the girl.
Naturally, Vaughn outwits his captors and escapes. This culminates in a climactic shootout in a paintball arena. Jin Cong is captured, but quickly traded back to the Chinese government in exchange for information about Vaughn’s wife which confirms that she is indeed still alive.
During the course of this, we’re led to suspect that Dr. Cassidy’s own son was a mole working with the bad guys. No surprise, that’s just a red herring. The real mole is Cyber Command’s quirky tech nerd Amos. He sneaks away in the end. The episode closes with the Chinese girl who’d had the new chip installed waking up from her coma. Ooohhh, cliffhanger…
Throughout the episode, Vaughn trades what is supposed to be flirtatious banter with his newbie handler Riley (Meghan Ory from ‘Once Upon a Time’), a former Secret Service agent and that most tired of TV clichés – a 90 lb woman with pencil-thin arms who can kick ass and beat up brawny men two to three times her size. I swear to god, she pulls a Vulcan Death Grip on one of the Chinese henchmen. Later, she’s shot in the arm and recovers full use of it within moments as soon as she puts a bandage on it.
As you’ve probably gathered from the tone of this recap, I didn’t think much of the show’s premiere episode. It’s entirely ridiculous, but not the good kind of ridiculous that ‘Chuck’ had so much fun with. The show takes its silly concept much too seriously, and that’s a big problem when the writers clearly don’t know anything at all about science, biology, how computers work or what they do. The plotting is formulaic and the pace extremely slack. The action scenes feel contrived and rote. (At the beginning of the episode, Vaughn parkours through an enemy base, jumping over obstacles for no reason when he could easily veer around them.)
Holloway plays the character not too far removed from Sawyer on ‘Lost’. He’s meant to be a charming smartass, but unfortunately mostly comes across here as a smug jerk.
I’m not impressed and probably won’t watch again.